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Source Criticism and Intentional Narrative

(Whew, life has been busy these days, and posts have been few. I formally apologize to both of my readers for keeping you waiting. =)

The Gospel writers were intentional in writing everything they did. They were narrators, not copyists.

I think the source criticism movement has forgotten about the ending of the Gospel of John: "Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." Sadly, the picture that many have of the (synoptic) Gospel writers is that they were limited to source documents they basically copied from, of course with some stylistic adjustment here and there. 

Such is certainly not the case.

The Gospel writers were intentional in recording every event they did, as well as they way they did it, and the order they did it in, and the words they used to do so--all to help us better understand the meaning of the events they recorded. They had, according to John, and endless supply of "sources", i.e. eyewitness testimony (cf. Luke 1:2-3), and they chose the events they did purposefully, intentionally. 

We must regain a sense of their intentionality. The fact that Matthew, Mark and Luke all recorded the same general shape of Jesus' ministry, and they picked out the same events should strike us, rather than lead us to accuse them of plagiarism. There are interesting implications if we think of then as doing this intentionally.  

Far from diminishing the importance of these events (i.e. "they are repeated just because Mark wrote them down..."), this fact great increases the significance of all these events. These events are fundamental to understanding Jesus' ministry. Of all that could be chosen from, these were recorded and repeated, because these events are the ones of greatest significance. 

What emerges, then, is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke appear more to be something of a catechetical nature (okay, maybe I thought of this because I've been reading Grounded in the Gospel lately, but it does appear reasonable!), the standard way to introduce people to the person and work of Jesus, the most necessary things to know about who he is and what he came to do.

I think this changes the way we read the Gospels--intentionally, because they were written intentionally.


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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)

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