What is a “Gospel” Anyway? A Few Thoughts on Gospel Genre and Why it Matters

The Aquila Report | 2/14/2018 | Staff
So, here’s the big pay off. To read the Gospels as covenant documents keeps the larger redemptive-historical narrative of the Bible front and center, allows us to see how the whole of Scripture is unified around the person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, and reminds us what makes the canonical gospels distinctive from the other “gospels” in the ancient world.

When it comes to reading (and interpreting ) the Gospels, one of the fundamental questions pertains to the kind of document we are reading. What exactly is a “Gospel”? And did the earliest readers of these books know what they were reading?

Questions - Reader - Interpretation - Things - Genre

Such questions may seem pedantic to the average reader, but they matter more than we think. Right interpretation is built on (among other things) correctly assessing the literary genre. We don’t read parables like historical narrative, nor do we read poetry (Psalms) like apocalyptic literature.

An example of confusion over “genre” in our modern world (though in a different medium) pertains to the growing practice of making internet ads look like internet content. In other words, some companies are positioning their ads to look like a news story.

Reason - People - Ads - News - People

This is quite controversial for an obvious reason: people read and interpret ads differently than news. People expect one thing from ads, and expect something very different from news. One is viewed as propaganda, the other is viewed as fact (though that distinction itself is subject to dispute today).

So, then, what is a Gospel? Suggestions have ranged all over the map, including the Gospels as oral folk literature, as a summary of the early Christian kerygma, as accounts of a “divine man” (or aretalogy), and beyond.

Today - View - Gospels - Form - Greco-Roman

But, most popular today is the view that our gospels are a form of Greco-Roman biography, or “lives” (bioi), similar to...
(Excerpt) Read more at: The Aquila Report
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