Appreciating the Gospels


As we enter into the weekend celebrating the most significant event for all humanity, but especially to Christianity, the weekend celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I thought would be a good idea to share a little bit of my appreciation for the literary aspects of the Gospels.

First off is the genre. What is genre anyway? According to the American Heritage Dictionary (1994), it is “an established class or category of artistic composition, as in literature or film.”[1] In other words, it is a collection of different works of unifying themes, structure, style, plot, etc. So where exactly do the Gospels fit in as a genre? Are they a biography? A narrative? Something else entirely? Perhaps the best answer is, “Yes.” The Gospels are actually a mixed genre. Part biography and part narrative, I think the best was to describe them is a narrative biography, or as I like to call them, biographical narratives (or bio narrative for short). The point is, when the first gospel was written, the Gospel of Mark (around 65-70 AD), there was no other piece of literary work similar to it. So it could be said that the Gospel of Mark pioneered an entirely new genre.

When you learn to approach the gospels from an understanding that they were not chronological re-tellings of Christ but rather carefully constructed literary works with a specific purpose, not only will the gospels themselves spring to life but I all of scripture will take on a large meaning and significance. Furthermore, it will become even more apparent that you and I are apart of that same story. As J.R.R. Tolkien points out in his book The Two Towers, “Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?… No, they never end as tales… But the people in them come, and go when their part’s ended. Our part will end later – or sooner.”[2]

Christ’s part (i.e. his earthly ministry) and the disciples part in the story has ended, but the story itself continues, and no role in this story is too small.

[1] American Heritage Dictionary, s.v. “Genre.”

[2] J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, (Great Britain: Harper Collins Publishers; 1991; New York: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1994), 696-697.


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