restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Coloring Outside the Lines

 David Alan Black  

Recently I landed at an airport in the South and was greeted by these words:

Welcome to Atlanta, where the time is approximately 7:30 am. For your safety and the safety of those around you, please remain seated until the captain has turned off the seat belt sign.... We know you have a choice of airlines, and we hope you will think of us again when your plans call for air travel.

You know the lines as well as I do. You might think the FAA requires the script.

It doesn't.

When I lived in Southern California I used to fly to the Bay Area to teach a class at Golden Gate Seminary. I often flew on Southwest Airlines. Taxing to the gate was anything but boring on this carrier. A flight attendant once told me they are given a "Funny Book" during training that has a section on jokes, games, songs, etc. And they use it. "At Southwest," he told me, "everyone is expected to color outside the lines."

By a serendipity of circumstances, I have been blessed to know a handful of scholars who dared to color outside the lines. Few impacted me more than my Greek teacher and erstwhile colleague at Biola University, Dr. Harry Sturz, who had the audacity to defend the usefulness of the Byzantine Text-type. Or take my friend William Farmer, whose defense of Matthean priority got me rethinking the order of the Gospels. Neither of these scholars encouraged their students to replace their natural curiosity with a boiler-plate mentality. I think we need more teachers like them.

Last year Kregel let my little book Why Four Gospels? go out of print. At this news, I broke down and wept. Well, no, I didn't, but it's fair to say I was less than pleased. It just goes to show: writers need to be resilient. Thankfully a second edition of the book is now scheduled for publication next month. Until someone thinks to organize all the facts about the Gospels and makes them available at, I suppose authors will continue to publish books on the subject and people will continue to read them. Mine is not a book about hypothetical documents (such as Q) and mysterious subplots. I have learned a great deal from Markan priorists, but perhaps I have learned even more from men like William Farmer and the flight attendants at Southwest, who showed me how to color outside the lines.

I hope you will enjoy the second edition of Why Four Gospels? Perhaps it will help you, as it did me, to inch forward and upward over the bump until you are happily careening down the other side.

September 27, 2010

David Alan Black is the editor of

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