Orville Jenkins Articles Menu
Orville Jenkins Home
Orville Jenkins Book Reviews Menu


A Phenomenology of Jesus
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Royce Gordon Gruenler
New Approaches to Jesus and the Gospels:  A Phenomenological and Exegetical Study of Synoptic Christianity (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1982.  251p.)

See all my reviews on Amazon.com
See menu of all book reviews on this site

This was fascinating and rewarding as a very technical study of the Gospels in detail, from the philosophical perspective of Phenomenology of Person, which involves psychology as well as linguistics and literary form criticism.  This book bridges the academic gap between psychology, history and Bible scholarship.

Phenomenology of Person
The perspective of this work is the premise that there is a firm empirical basis for the psychology of a person in the events he is involved in, and the way he handles them.  This is the Phenomenological Approach.

This is the way he analyzes the recorded events in the Three Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament.  He is fully aware of the problems of the 2000-year gap in concepts, worldview, styles of writing and views of history from that time to ours.  He also draws on the Fourth Gospel as a comparative reference point for perspectives on the different views of Jesus in the first century.

He explains how the different assumptions are dealt with in his method. He takes into account the expectations of "objective" scientific concepts of history, as well as the difference in purpose of the Gospels as evangelistic testimonial more than an intended objective historical record.  He determines a strong basis for evoking a psychology of person in the personality of Jesus that emerges after the rigorous critical analysis to make the interpretation from the 1st century writings into the 20th century expectations of history.

Critical Logical Analysis
This was an extremely tight, sound logical presentation of this phenomenologist's analysis of the person of Jesus from his statements about himself in the gospels.  Though this work was written in 1984, it does not seem to have enjoyed the circulation it deserves as a strong scholarly study.

He defends the integrity of the gospel record as a starting point for the study, dealing with concepts of community and culture that would have been confirming and correcting influences if anyone had tried to just make up stuff that Jesus said.  

He applies the Historical-Critical tools and procedures fiercely and comes up with strong defenses against the radicals who would discount much of Jesus' self-concept as Messiah and Saviour.  He bridges the gap between the somewhat misguided idealism of the "search for the historical Jesus" and the academic agnosticism that determines we cannot really bridge enough of the differences in worldview to really learn about the real Jesus behind the Christ-figure of the Gospel testimony.

Avoiding Simple Reductionisms
Gruenler's arguments are so deep and so incisive it might pass over the heads of readers expecting a facile confirmation of their fundamentalist reductionism of a God-man that is currently so popular in unreflective popular evangelical devotion.  He also enables us to avoid the despair of the radical reductionism of 20th-century scepticism that reverts back to a mystical religious figure that can be appended to any popular cultural syncretism now available in the New Age.

Intellectual Devotional
Gruenler's book was a stimulating devotional study as well as a rewarding intellectual exercise!  He provides a new look at the old material.  The phenomenological approach brings out the thoughts of Jesus and his own self-image, as implied by the events we see recorded by the Evangelists.   

You will have to stay on your toes to keep up with Gruenler.  He leaves no stone unturned, and makes you think about a lot of overlooked detail in the text of the Gospels.  He does not let us get away with passing easily over them with a Sunday-School glossy version of a conglomerate smattering of nice simplified stories.  He makes you think about what is there and what it really means.

Science and Devotion
I would say this is the best of modern critical science critically combined with the best of humble committed devotion.  With this approach, Gruenler's work yields a complex portrait that does not reduce the Divine mystery to a mystical illogical contradiction nor to an ignorant and arrogant rejection of a serious challenge to our thinking.  Who was Jesus? More precisely, Who did Jesus think he was?

Get Your Feet Wet
Gruenler leads us through the complex labyrinth of factors that are there right before us, which we to often miss by skipping across the water from stone to stone, refusing to get our feet wet in the intellectual challenges the Gospels really offer the Modern Human.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[TXT] Gospel Time Travel

See this book on Amazon.com. See all my reviews on Amazon.com
See menu of all formal book reviews on this site
See my reading lists
Many other books have review notes with the reading list entry


First notes written 2003
This review written and posted on Thoughts and Resources 27 December 2006
Reviewed on Amazon 2 March 2009
Last edited 23 December 2008

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
Orville Jenkins Articles Menu
Orville Jenkins Home
Orville Jenkins Book Reviews Menu

filename:  gruenlerphenomenologyofjessu.html