We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Gospels

Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the primary genres of Christian literature were letters and collections of Jesus' sayings and miracles. Early in the next decade, however, an unknown author composed a narrative about the life of Jesus that would forever transform Christian images of Jesus. Whether as a response to the Jewish war (66–70 C.E.), or to the deaths of the earliest followers of Jesus, or to the need for a definitive version of Jesus' life, or to objectionable theological trends, the author of the Gospel of Mark recast traditional materials into a dramatic narrative climaxing in Jesus' death. It is not clear precisely what kind of book the author set out to compose, insofar as no document written prior to Mark exactly conforms with its literary properties. Its themes of travel, conflict with supernatural foes, suffering, and secrecy resonate with Homer's Odyssey and Greek romantic novels. Its focus on the character, identity, and death of a single individual reminds one of ancient biographies. Its dialogues, tragic outcome, and peculiar ending call to mind Greek drama. Some have suggested that the author created a new, mixed genre for narrating the life and death of Jesus.

Be that as it may, Mark's story exerted enormous influence on subsequent Christian literature and theology. One of the first debtors to Mark was the author of the Gospel of Matthew, writing from Greek-speaking Syria late in the first century, who augmented Mark with content derived from oral tradition and written collections of sayings, most notably Q. Later, two Jewish gospels in turn modeled themselves after Matthew. The Gospel of the Nazoreans expanded Matthew (probably in Aramaic or Syriac), and The Gospel of the Ebionites borrowed extensively from Matthew, adding readings from Luke and perhaps Mark. Only a few citations from these gospels now survive. Of all the gospels, Matthew's was the most frequently quoted by early Christians.

The next most popular gospel was John's. The Fourth Gospel is the product of several stages of rewriting, or redaction. At some point John was influenced by one or more of the Synoptic Gospels (or by the written sources used by them). For the most part, however, the Gospel of John goes its own way. It seems to have come from an isolated community of Jewish-Christians who expressed their faith in Jesus with concepts more otherworldly than those in the Synoptics.

Sometime between 90 and 125 C.E. a Christian intellectual wrote a two-volume work, now known as the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Its unknown author announced his intention of providing an “orderly narrative” from the birth of Jesus to the last few months of Paul's life (Luke 1.1–4, Acts 1.1–5 ). Luke-Acts, then, is the first history of the church, but it is not a history in the modern sense. Ancient histories exhibit an astonishing freedom with traditions and sources. Historical accuracy mattered less than entertainment, plausibility, and persuasiveness. These histories typically promoted particular religious, political, or philosophical objectives. The author of Luke-Acts apparently sought to refashion the literature and traditions of the church into a triumphant narrative capable of providing the church with a heritage and an identity compatible with life in cities of the Roman Empire.

During the second century, several other authors compiled materials from earlier gospels and created new ones, such as The Gospel of the Ebionites mentioned above, which used Matthew and Luke, and The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which expanded the childhood stories in Luke with folkloric themes. A four-page papyrus from the second century (Papyrus Egerton 2) shares episodes with Mark and John. Some scholars insist that this gospel was not a later combination of passages from Mark and John but a source known to both biblical authors. The Gospel of the Hebrews survives only in fragments, but they display unmistakable parallels with topics found also in other gospels, such as the birth of Jesus to Mary, his baptism, perhaps his temptation, dialogues with disciples, and a resurrection appearance (to James), followed by the Lord's Supper. The Protevangelium of James, dating probably to the middle of the second century, narrates the birth of Jesus, combining information from the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke with motifs drawn from the Greek Bible. The book insists that even after birthing Jesus, Mary remained a virgin. Around the middle of the second century, a Syrian named Tatian wrote his Diatessaron, a gospel composed of readings taken from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which by that time seem to have circulated together as a four-gospel collection.

Buried with the body of an eighth-century monk was a book containing a fragmentary narrative concerning Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection as told by the apostle Peter. Here Herod, not Pilate, takes responsibility for Jesus' execution. These pages almost certainly preserve a section of The Gospel of Peter, which enjoyed status as scripture for Christians in parts of western Syria at the end of the second century. Two small Greek papyrus fragments also preserve readings from this gospel. Several scholars have suggested that behind The Gospel of Peter lies a primitive Christian document available to the authors of the Gospels in the New Testament. These proposals have won few adherents. As the text now stands, it seems to be a melding together of readings from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John into an original portrayal of the crucifixion and empty tomb. In addition, however, the author skillfully incorporated allusions to the Greek Old Testament, thereby strengthening the impression that Jesus' death conformed to divine purposes.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2020. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice