Whether it is a movie or a book, you take the time to find out what exactly it is you will be reading or watching. One of the most frequent questions we ask beforehand is, “what is it about?” In doing this we are basically asking for the genre. In this brief article, scholars have investigated what exactly a gospel is and what the four canonical Gospels aim to achieve in their own literary style. The many theories can be summed up into two categories, analogical (the gospels were written following the style of other documents of the time), and derivational (the gospels are a totally new and distinct literary style). With this in mind, I invite you to read this article and come up with your own opinion based on the research shared by Judith A. Diehl.   

2 thoughts on “Gospel”

  1. Thanks Noe, for a great summary of an article on a very important topic. At first reading, the many different flavors within the two broad categories can seem overly technical and irrelevant to ordinary believers. However, as you suggest, the genre employed by the human author has a huge impact on how to interpret content. If one selects a particular analogical genre (ex. “laudatory biography” from page 179), the genre can include the supposition that content is exaggerated. If one leans derivational, you risk ignoring the cultural influence upon the authors. If I had to choose, Diehl’s explanation of “newer analogical approaches” is most appealing, as a blend of historical narrative and literary adaptation. This would allow for Hellenistic and Jewish influence, while allowing sufficient freedom that does not constrain expression of the Word of God.

  2. Upon reading this article, I did not know that the genre of the gospel accounts was debated, if unresolved. It is encouraging to see that scholarship is invested into this topic, because knowing the genre of the gospel accounts (and the genre within the various texts) is essential for a proper understanding of the message the authors wanted to present.

    That being said, as much as I am in favor of gospel scholarship, it seems from the article that the scholars were dissecting the gospels to the detriment of the message (i.e.: the person of Jesus). In their quest to determine whether or not the gospels are like any other type of literature, they forgot the most important genre of the gospel: the genre of faith. This is why I found the image of the gospel as a stained glass window (mentioned in the article) so fitting. If the context and audience of the message is not taken into consideration, the genre cannot be completely understood.

    On a final note, I do not believe either approach is completely satisfactory. I see resemblances of other ancient genres in the gospels, yet none completely match it (how can any genre come close to being like the genre depicting salvation?). Could it be another case of “both/and”?

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