Dec 23, 2008

What Characterizes a Gospel?

What characterizes a Gospel? Mark Strauss has helpfully identified three characteristics of a gospel.[1] First, the Gospels are historical literature, that is, “they have a history of composition,” “they are set in a specific historical context,” and “they are meant to convey accurate historical information.” Second, the Gospels are narrative literature and “not merely collections of reports or sayings of the historical Jesus.” Third, the Gospels are theological literature, that is, “theological documents written to instruct and encourage believers and to convince unbelievers of the truth of their message. One further note concerning genre can be made. There is a developing consensus that the Gospels bear close similarities in form to Greco-Roman biographies.[2]

[1] The substance of this paragraph is summarized from Mark L. Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 27–9.

[2] See Richard A. Burridge, What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Greco-Roman Bibliography, ed. Astrid Beck and David Noel Freedman, 2d ed., Biblical Resource Series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).

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