Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness
Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness  -     By: Richard B. Hays
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Baylor University Press / 2016 / Paperback
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Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness

Baylor University Press / 2016 / Paperback

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Stock No: WW302332


Product Information

Title: Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness
By: Richard B. Hays
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 177
Vendor: Baylor University Press
Publication Date: 2016
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
Weight: 8 ounces
ISBN: 1481302337
ISBN-13: 9781481302333
Stock No: WW302332

Publisher's Description

In Reading Backwards Richard B. Hays maps the shocking ways the four Gospel writers interpreted Israel's Scripture to craft their literary witnesses to the Church's one Christ. The Gospels' scriptural imagination discovered inside the long tradition of a resilient Jewish monotheism a novel and revolutionary Christology.

Modernity's incredulity toward the Christian faith partly rests upon the characterization of early Christian preaching as a tendentious misreading of the Hebrew Scriptures. Christianity, modernity claims, twisted the Bible they inherited to fit its message about a mythological divine Savior. The Gospels, for many modern critics, are thus more about Christian doctrine in the second and third century than they are about Jesus in the first.

Such Christian "misreadings" are not late or politically motivated developments within Christian thought. As Hays demonstrates, the claim that the events of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection took place "according to the Scriptures" stands at the very heart of the New Testament's earliest message. All four canonical Gospels declare that the Torah and the Prophets and the Psalms mysteriously prefigure Jesus. The author of the Fourth Gospel puts the claim succinctly: "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me" (John 5:46).

Hays thus traces the reading strategies the Gospel writers employ to "read backwards" and to discover how the Old Testament figuratively discloses the astonishing paradoxical truth about Jesus' identity. Attention to Jewish and Old Testament roots of the Gospel narratives reveals that each of the four Evangelists, in their diverse portrayals, identify Jesus as the embodiment of the God of Israel. Hays also explores the hermeneutical challenges posed by attempting to follow the Evangelists as readers of Israel's Scripture—can the Evangelists teach us to read backwards along with them and to discern the same mystery they discovered in Israel's story?

In Reading Backwards Hays demonstrates that it was Israel's Scripture itself that taught the Gospel writers how to understand Jesus as the embodied presence of God, that this conversion of imagination occurred early in the development of Christian theology, and that the Gospel writers' revisionary figural readings of their Bible stand at the very center of Christianity.

Author Bio

Richard B. Hays (Ph.D., Emory University) is George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School. His publications include Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (2016), Reading the Bible Intertextually (edited with Stefan Alkier and Leroy A. Huizenga, 2009) and Revelation and the Politics of Apocalyptic Interpretation (edited with Stefan Alkier, 2012).

Editorial Reviews

A beautiful book.


Reading Backwards successfully demonstrates that Jesus is indeed Israel’s Lord incarnate. The genius of this short volume lies in Hays’ deft appropriation of Old Testament texts in the Gospels. He pays attention to often overlooked details in specific Old Testament texts, teasing out some of the nooks and crannies, and then weaves these insights into the Gospels. The book not only demonstrates how the Evangelists read the Old Testament, it also serves as a model for us to do the same.


The readings of each of the four Gospels that are presented in Reading Backwards provide a rich and concise survey in which each gospel distinctively uses scripture to paint its picture of Jesus.


The insightful manner in which Hays analyses and summarizes the distinct ways in which the four gospel writers read the OT figuratively is a major strength of this highly recommended book.


Overall, Hays’s exegetical work confirms 'what the church’s dogmatic tradition has classically affirmed about the identity of Jesus.' And it does so in an unlikely way, by pointing the reader to the narrative reflexes of Israel’s monotheism.


…Hays is to be commended for a lucid and rich study which does a great service to both the Church and the academy.


Compact, provocative, and beautifully composed


A masterpiece.


This is a rich, rewarding, and challenging work. The main substance of Hays’ argument is not only convincing but nourishing to Christian faith: many of Hays’ readings undermine those of more skeptical scholars and align precisely with the instincts of faithful though not learned Christians.


Richard B. Hays has always maintained a distinctive theological voice, even within his most specialized New Testament work. A remarkably lucid expositor of scripture and a salient (if somewhat controversial) voice on New Testament theology and ethics, Hays has always been important for theologians to read.


This is an encouraging, intriguing, and stimulating book. Readers who are interested in interpretation and in learning lessons from the Bible itself about the nature of interpretation will find this a valuable companion for their reflections.


A remarkably insightful piece of work.


Hays opens up possibilities of reading and re-reading the Gospels, each time capturing additional layers of truth and beauty in already-familiar stories. Hays also paints a more appealing vision of Bible study, in which we need not be limited to mechanistic or simplistic methods of analysis but can bring in poetic sensibilities to our readings of the Gospels. Following Hays's lead, readers can then savor the outcome of this way of reading the Gospels: a renewed wonder regarding God's variegated, overarching plans for this world, centered on the humility and glory of Jesus Christ, Son of Man and Son of God.


Hays’s argument for the necessity of reading the Gospels in light of their Old Testament roots provides a helpful corrective to historical critical approaches that would insist on understanding Old Testament texts solely within their own cultural milieu. Instead, Hays argues clearly and coherently for understanding a connection between the Testaments by which the figure of Jesus is understood most fully only when set alongside of the Old Testament texts that the Gospel writers use to present him.


This book is such a gem that it may prove more widely influential than anything Hays has done yet.


…Hays offers a way in which the contemporary Christian community may participate in a genuinely Christian reading of the OT.


The strengths of Reading Backwards are obvious, and it will prove fruitful for anyone interested in Gospel studies, but also for studies in biblical theology and Christology more generally, as well as modern debates over what stratum of the Christian tradition first recognized Jesus’ divinity.


This is an exceptionally rich study, illustrating how early Christianity and, in particular, the four evangelists "read backwards" in their portrayal of Jesus’ divine identity.


Reading Backwards is an enormously enriching examination of the Christology of the four gospels.


Professor Hays is to be congratulated upon offering in this brief book a great deal more substantive scholarship than is provided in most books many times the length.


Hays has made an excellent study of this subject. His insights are rich and interpretations are clear. His style of writing is appealing and the illustrations he gives are truly convincing. Yes, the Old Testament teaches us how to read the Gospels and likewise the Gospels teach us how to read the Old Testament.


Reading Backwards is a wonderful book, offering the reader a succinct but potent experience with a contemporary and refined hermeneutical approach to Scripture that holds in tension critical and pre-critical sensibilities.


[Hays] is engaging, and he is nontechnical in handling this complex topic.

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