McKnight Explains Gospel

Answering a series of questions posed by another Christian professor of theology, Scot McKnight explains how in church history “gospel” became a mere message of “personal salvation.” He says the Catholic-Orthodox trajectory made gospel = sacraments. The Protestant trajectory made gospel = decision. The first step was reframing the creeds into confessions (going back to Augustine’s Enchiridion, but especially in Luther and Calvin) and then the revival movements of the 19th and 20th centuries which downgraded the gospel further into five steps to salvation. My copy of The King Jesus Gospel is in a UPS truck somewhere en route to Snellville, Georgia. I am thrilled to see evangelical Christian voices recognizing some key points about the “gospel”:

(1) The “gospel” (the good tidings) is the story of Yeshua (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).

(2) Paul defines what he means by gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 (the story of Yeshua).

(3) Justification by faith is not the gospel.

Here is the link to the interview with Scot.

And hopefully, all of this will mean more people reading the gospels. Next week: I will make available a CD and printed outline from a presentation I am giving with Boaz Michael of First Fruits of Zion at our “Studying the Jewish Gospels” seminar here in Atlanta. My presentation is “20 Ways to Read Yeshua’s Life.”

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16 Responses to McKnight Explains Gospel

  1. Received my copy yesterday and reading it right now! I like that he writes for normal people – those of us without a Theology degree.
    Thanks for the recommendation,

  2. Julie says:

    I have been reading my copy this morning. I found myself nodding in agreement and using plenty of book darts to mark quotations. Except, then I came upon this, “God chose one person, Abraham, and then through him one people, Israel, and then later the Church, to be God’s priest and rulers in this world on God’s behalf.” Subtle, but replacement theology wiggles its way into the McKnight’s message. And, I put the book down. I will finish reading this because, I have often complained about easy-believe-ism or the thought that you can escape hell by saying the sinners prayer, answering an alter call or even submitting to baptism. Fire insurance for those who have been “properly” initiated. I am glad this book addresses what I see as a big problem in modern evangelism, but…

  3. This looks interesting. I don’t really know much about Dr. McKnight but I had assumed that as an NICNT contributor he was closer to the theology of Bruce, Fee, et al. I wonder what the response from the larger conservative/Evangelical community will be.

  4. Andrew T. says:

    The Church has gutted the Good News into a one-off “God-spell” of “believe these things about Jesus, pray the sinner’s prayer, get baptized, and then you will have a very pleasant afterlife”. Fundamentalism deals in strict binaries; there can be no regenerate person with doubts and reservations, nor any unbaptized person who is near to God. Or, to the Chareidi mind, the pious Conservative Jew is as much a heretic as the Jewish shrimp connoisseur. Of course, a theologically monotone, halfway Biblical, archaeologically/scientifically/culturally out-of-touch religious system cannot hope to retain many smart people unless it ghettoizes. When you look at the very high “backsliding” rates among Evangelicals today, it speaks volumes.

  5. James says:

    Subtle, but replacement theology wiggles its way into the McKnight’s message.

    It’s comments like Julie’s that remind me of why I current shy away from purchasing books written by Christian scholars. I’m currently reading Abraham Heschel’s “God in Search of Man”. Considering The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature as my next purchase. At least in these books, I don’t have to be concerned that the authors will try to replace the Jews with the church.

  6. Yeah…I felt the same way when I read that sentence but trying to finish the book the get his complete picture. God in Search of Man is the next sample on my Kindle – can’t buy it until I am sure it won’t be way over my head! His book on the Sabbath was not one to read in one sitting!

  7. James says:

    I highly recommend Rabbi Heschel’s book Dorla, but no, I’m not reading it in one sitting.

  8. Jeannie says:

    “(3) Justification by faith is not the gospel.”

    It’s not the entire gospel but it is true…and I would definitely say it’s good news! If justification came by keeping the law I think we’d all be in trouble…

    Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:16, Galatians 3:24, James 2:24.

  9. Andrew T. says:


    I can hardly stomach Christian replacement theology myself, but I cannot pretend that Judaism is any less in error regarding Yeshua. To staunchly orthodox Jews, he was Yesh”u the heretic, his miracles were but sorcery, and not one good thing can be said of him. To more liberal Jews, he was just a really nice Jewish boy fighting hypocrisy, you see, not Messiah or a prophet or anything.

    In defense of Judaism, the Jesus that they have been presented by the Church is an Torah-less god-man and only marginally Jewish. I truly believe that this has more to do with the Jewish people’s rejection of him than Yeshua’s (prophesied) failure to be the political King David II the Judeans were looking for.

  10. Andrew T. says:


    Yes, it certainly is true, and Paul taught justification by faith repeatedly. Though they stopped short of teaching justification by faith, the Sages of the Talmud even admitted that one can keep Torah flawlessly and still be abominable on the inside. Or, in Yeshua’s words, polishing the outside of the cup while the inside is filthy.

    However, James 2:24, which you cited, states in no uncertain terms that works are part of the equation. The fruit of good faith is good deeds. And good deeds plant a seed of faith. There is no other way. Thank God! Of all the NT epistles, that of James (or Ya’aqov ha-Tzadiq, as the brothers would have called him) is most adamant that faith and works are inseparable. This epistle has thrown many theologians for a loop. Few know that Martin Luther called it the “straw epistle” and even preferred its exclusion from the canon.

  11. James says:

    In defense of Judaism, the Jesus that they have been presented by the Church is an Torah-less god-man and only marginally Jewish. I truly believe that this has more to do with the Jewish people’s rejection of him than Yeshua’s (prophesied) failure to be the political King David II the Judeans were looking for.

    That would be my take as well. It would be unrealistic to expect the Jewish people to adopt the “Goyshe Greek god” as the Jewish Messiah.

  12. JD says:

    If anybody understands spanish an excellent view of Yeshua and the gospels from a Jewish scholar is the works of Dr. Mario Saban a scholar of jewish roots of christianity. His book El judaismo de Jesus (the judaism of Jesus) seems very interesting, probably going to buy it. It’s one of those few times when there is a great book that is not available in english!
    He says that Yeshua ought to be brought back into Jewish study as one of the great rabbis of judaism (he stops short of saying he is messiah or anything like that) he defends the teachings of Yeshua as being totally compatible with judaism, and in another book ‘el judaismo de san pablo’ (the judaism of saint paul) he defends Pauline theology as also being consistent with 1st century judaism.

  13. Derek Leman says:

    When I took Early Rabbinic Hebrew, our grammar book was by a Spanish scholar (can’t remember his name and the book is at the synagogue library, so I don’t have it handy). Of course, the standard Dead Sea Scrolls translation in English is by a Spanish scholar (who teaches in the Netherlands), Florentino Garcia Martinez. There is a lively study of rabbinics in the universities of Spain. And it would be good for some Americans who know Spanish to gather, read, and comment upon this body of scholarship.

  14. JD says:

    I think you would like this author Derek since alot of his studies are in 1st century judaism and early christianity. There is a couple of his talks on youtube I don’t know if there are some with subtitles or not, it would be worth checking.
    by the way your post about the Hebrew Gospels has convinced me I should get me a copy of the DHE. 🙂

  15. Glenn says:

    “Yes, I think Israel has a future (and a past and a present). That was not discussed in the book, and it could have been done, but that would have meant one or more chapters, and that might mean even more. I’m not in total agreement, but I like much of what I see in Kendall Soulen on this.” – Scot Mcknight (quoted in an interview)

  16. Derek Leman says:

    Glenn, very nice. Thank you for getting that clarification from Scot. I would love to know the link if that interview is online. Blessings and peace.

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