Defining the Gospel Genre

What is a Gospel?

The gospels don’t fit any mold and are in many ways unique. The origin of the gospel genera is partly Jewish and partly Greek. “The Gospel” is the heralding of the good news, something momentous and life changing. Most commonly used to announce the birth of a son to the emperor. The essence of a Gospel with a capital “G” is the proclamation of the subsequent “gospel” messages that the “kingdom has come” – thus the gospel is always about Jesus because Jesus is the bringer of the kingdom so the “gospel” in a nut shell is that “Jesus Rules”.

What the Gospels are not.

Philosophical or systematic treatises, but they are written for common people. Also they are not divine man legends. And they are not biographies (contra some scholars, Burrage). Historical not Mythical and they differ from bio’s in that they are written for different purposes. Meredith Kline argued that they are covenant documents – but that is an observation of their content not their genre.

The Gospels are expanded sermons. (They were orally communicated but not hearsay.) It is historical, theological and art in its character. These three correspond to Poythress’s multi-perspective 3 perspectives to everything. The divine view point of what Jesus said and did!
19th cent focused on the historical and downplayed the theology. Then in the early 20th cent the ‘theology’ sense came to the fore (James Dunn “flight from history”). Later 20th cent weighed the artistic as the true sense of the Gospels.

They all share a basic plot or narrative structure:

  1. setting of the plot
  2. pre-announcement and call to repentance
  3. arrival of Jesus teaching the arrival of the kingdom
  4. gathering and naming of the disciples (12)
  5. a recognition of Jesus as the messiah
  6. travel narrative (to Jerusalem)
  7. teaching in Jerusalem that clashes with Religious Leaders
  8. theologically important meal before the passion
  9. The arrest and trial of Jesus
  10. the crucifixion
  11. reference to the resurrection

Act 2, 3, and 10 have gospel telling accounts that follow the same pattern as above. So the gospel is a ‘story’ that saves! The ordering of events is not necessarily chronological.


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