It must be regognised that when Matthew, Mark, Luke and John first appeared in writing, they were not labelled as gospels. That title was later added after they had all been collected together and each was seen as a commentary of a message of Jesus but told according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (Wenham and Waltor, 2001) It is important to fit the gospels into an appropriate genre in order to understand them. Hurtado says that a literary genre is a category or type of literature for example a bibliography or novel. He says that literary genres are not universal or static categories but they have developed and changed over time.
In order to determine a writing’s genre we must look at the genres and literary conventions relevant to the era of the writings. Therefore, the question of the genres of the gospels must be addressed by examining their characteristics in comparison with the types of literature current in the Greco Roman setting. Hurtado continues to say that the literary genre of the gospels involves two basic issues, the first being the literary nature of the canonical gospels as continuous prose narrative of Jesus’ ministry and their relationship to other early Christian writings.
The second issue to consider is the relationship of the gospels to their Greco Roman literary setting. There are two practical purposes served in this discussion, firstly a better understanding of the place of the gospels in the literary history of early Christianity and the Greco Roman world and secondly, a more intelligent interpretation of the gospels as their features are highlighted by comparison with their literary background. (Hurtado, 1992)
In Darko Suvin’s “Metamorphoses of Science Fiction,” Suvin argues that science fiction should be considered its own literary genre. The reason he believes science fiction is distinct from other literary genres is because of its transforming aspects. Suvin describes science fiction as the literature of “cognitive estrangement,” which includes a “novum”. It is his belief that both cognition and ...
Although the four gospels tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth they are not straightforward accounts of his life. They are the result of complex reflection on and interpretation of his significance, by people who believed he was Israel’s Messiah and the risen Lord. (Boxall, 2007) This indicates that although the gospels are accounts of Jesus’ life they were written by people who saw him in a very favorable light therefor their writings are likely to be all positive rather than negative so is this a true reflection of Jesus’ life?
Why were the gospels written? Wenham and Walton provide four reasons as to why the gospels were written. The first reason is a historical reason, the period the gospels were written in was a time when the original eyewitnesses were dying. There was an urgency at the time to preserve personal knowledge of Jesus’ ministry for future generations and a written account would be the most permanent. Secondly, there was an evangelistic reason, specifically to share the gospel message to those who were not yet believers.
In the letters provided in the New Testament they only provide brief summaries of the evangelistic messages to non believers where as the written gospels provided a more in depth and extended narrative summaries of the contents of the Christian declaration. The third reason for the gospels being written is there was a teaching reason in order to teach those who followed Jesus more about their faith and to help them grow within it. Finally, the fourth reason is there was a geographical reason, to spread the eye witness accounts further afield.
Written account were much easier to pass around than oral accounts as written accounts were easier to copy and carry and meant they were less likely to change from person to person. (Wenham and Walton, 2001) These are the four main reasons why the gospels were written, historical, evengelistic, teaching and geographical. It was important at the time to be able to keep and preserve the stories of Jesus’ life. After the gospels were written down they were passed on much easier to others who were already followers of Jesus or to people who wanted to become followers of Jesus and to learn about his life.
To Believe or Not to Believe The short narrative "Salvation" portrays the life of Langston Hughes at an early age confronted with the decision to "come forward" and be saved. His aunt's church," held a special meeting for children, 'to bring the young lambs to the fold'" (Hughes, 197). Throughout the story, he sits in his seat, his aunt Reed sobbing the whole time, congregation pressuring him to " ...
The material incorporated in the gospels probably came from small independent units and much of it probably came orally rather than in written form and over several decades. This would have allowed for the material to be reshaped and changed as it was applied to new circumstances and to be interpreted differently in different geographical and cultural contexts. It is possible that much of the chronological sequence in the gospels is down to the evangelists’ own arrangement, rather than actual memory of where where the events actually took place. (Boxall, 2007)
Another reason the gospels were written was that the writing down of accounts or letters came into being as an instrument for guiding a community in the Judaistic crisis. The gospel literature came into being out of the need to reorientate the communities after the Jewish war. (Theissen, 2003) Where did the gospels come from? The gospels were not written immediately after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, it is likely they were written thirty to sixty years later. The gospels that appear in the New Testament come from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
They would have been eyewitnesses of Jesus, his life and his teaching. The reason in the delay of the writing of the gospels after the death of Jesus could be because the worship of Jesus as the Son of God was only established in the cross and Easter. Before this it would have been considered blasphemy to refer to Jesus as God or the Son of God. (Theissen, 2003) There are similarities of wording within Matthew, Mark and Luke, this had lead some scholars to believe that some sharing of stories may have been happening or maybe one author copying another author.
John has a different style and contains information that is not found in the other three gospels. (Wenham and Walton, 2001) The first three gospels are known as the Synoptics, a term which translates to “seeing together”. (This is because of their similarity of context).
Both historians and people connected to the subject by religious beliefs have been trying for ages to find out more about the life of Jesus. Did he really exist? Is it true what has been written in the Bible? Was he really able to cure people just by a simple touch? Was he the true ?Son of God?? All those questions would remain open without a confirmed and certain answer. If he was a real person ...
Conclusion To conclude, we are able to see that a gospel is a teaching of story about Jesus’ life. The word gospel is literally translated to ‘good news’. The four gospels we are most familiar with are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and these are found in the New Testament.
The gospels were written in order to preserve the life of Jesus in writing and in order to teach others the stories of his life. All four Gospels are important as they show us different aspects of Jesus’ life and when brought together help to bring a great amount of knowledge about Jesus. References Boxall, I (2007).
The Books of the New Testament. London: SCM Press. 94-129. Hurtado, L (1992).
“Gospel (Genre)” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Leicester: Inter Varsity Press. 276-283. Walton, S and Wenham, D (2001).
Exploring the New Testament. The Gospels and Acts. London: AD Publishing Services. 47-80.