The term “gospel” (euaggelion) was not originally a term designating a literary genre that treated the life of a hero such as Jesus. It first occurs in Homer (Odyssey 14.152, 166) meaning “a reward for bearing good tidings.” By the fifth century B.C.E. the plural, euaggelia, was used to refer to sacrifices offered upon hearing good news (Xenophon, Hellenica 1.6.37; 4.3.14) and in the same century Aristophanes used the cognate verb euaggelizesthai to mean “to bring good news” (Knights 643, 647, 656; Wealth 765). In the Hellenistic period euaggelion is particularly connected with the news of military victories (e.g., Plutarch, Demetrius 17.5–6).

The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (LXX) employed the nouns euaggelion (neuter) and euaggelia (feminine) only twice, while the cognate verbs euaggelizein and euaggelizesthai appear more frequently. These terms render the noun bĕśōrâ, “message” and the verb baśśēr, “to bring news.” In the books of 1–2 Samuel and 1 Kings the news involved usually has to do with military successes or defeats as it does in Hellenistic Greek. In Psalms, Deutero-Isaiah, Trito-Isaiah, Joel, Nahum, and the Psalms of Solomon, however, the words came to connote the news of God's saving deeds on behalf of Israel. For example, Psalm 95:2 (in the LXX; 96:2 in Hebrew): “Sing to the LORD, bless his name; announce (euaggelizesthe) his salvation from day to day” (author's translation) and Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who announces (euaggelizomenou) the news of peace, who announces (euaggelizomenos) good news, for I will make known your salvation, saying, ‘Zion, your God will reign’ ” (author's translation).

The use of baśśēr in the writings of the Second Temple period shows the strong influence of the Psalms and Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah. A first-century B.C.E. document from the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4Q521, describes God's marvelous deeds expected at the coming of the Messiah. Adapting the words of Isaiah 61:2, it announces: “The Lord will perform marvelous acts such have not existed, just as he said, for he will heal the badly wounded, and will make the dead live, and will proclaim good news (ybśr) to the poor, give lavishly [to the needy], lead the exiled and enrich the hungry” (trans. García Martínez, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated, Leiden: Brill, 1994, p. 394). The “good news” in question relates to God's definitive saving intervention in Israel's history, which will restore Israel to an idyllic state.

Luke describes Jesus reading and commenting on the same Isaian text in his first public appearance in the synagogue at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news (euaggelizesthai) to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor” (Luke 4:18–19; NRSV).

In the sayings source used by Matthew and Luke usually called “Q” (for Quelle, “source” in German) Jesus directs the messengers of John the Baptist to report what they see and hear, using a pastiche of Isaian texts, including Isaiah 61:2: “Go report to John

Gospels

The Four Evangelists.

These four ivory plaques of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have been placed on the cover of a Gospel—either in the corners or around a central plaque to form a cross. Mid-eleventh century. Size of each plaque: 1 × 0.9 inches (2.5 × 2.3 centimeters).

© VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, LONDON

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what you hear and see: The blind regain their sight and the lame walk around, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, and the poor are given good news (euaggelizesthai)” (Q 7:22; cf. Matt 11:6 ‖ Luke 7:22; author's translation).

Paul is also indebted to the Deutero-Isaian use of the verb euaggelizesthai. In his letter to the Romans Paul adapts Isaiah 52:7 in Romans 10:15, applying it to his own mission of bringing the gospel to the gentiles. As the contexts of these uses of Isaiah make clear, the verb euaggelizesthai routinely refers to the announcing of God's saving actions.

The noun euaggelion first appears in the literature of the Jesus movement in 1 Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:5; 2:2, 4, 8, 9; 3:2) and then frequently thereafter in Pauline and deuteropauline writings, always designating an announcement of God's salvation. Used in this sense the “gospel” is a message, but hardly a literary genre.

The use of euaggelion and euaggelizesthai by the Hebrew Scriptures was not the only factor that inclined the early Jesus movement to adopt the term euaggelion for its own message of salvation. In Greek the verb euaggelizesthai is often connected with substantives such as eutychia (“good fortune,” e.g., Lycurgos, Speech against Leocrates 18) and forms of sōzein/sōtēria (“to save, salvation”), as is the case of Cassius Dio's story of Agrippina, Nero's mother, sending the good news of her being safe (hoti sōzoito euēggelizeto, Cassius Dio 61.13.4). Philo of Alexandria, a famous Jewish philosopher and biblical interpreter from the first century C.E., recalls that the Jews of Alexandria were the first to announce the “good news” (euaggelizesthai) of Gaius Caligula's assumption of the role of emperor in 37 C.E. (Legatio ad Gaium 231).

By the late first century B.C.E., the noun euaggelion had acquired a strong political connotation in the context of Roman imperial propaganda. The “good news” in this case was the announcement of the benefits to humanity conferred by divine providence through a savior, the Emperor Augustus. In an inscription dated 9 B.C.E enacting reform of the calendar by the introduction of the Julian calendar, the citizen assembly of the city of Priene in Asia Minor decided:

"Whereas providence that orders all our lives has in her display of concern and generosity in our behalf adorned our lives with the highest good: Augustus, whom she has filled with virtue for the benefit of humanity, whom she has in her beneficence granted us and those who will come after us a savior who has made war cease and who shall put everything in peaceful order; and whereas Caesar, through his appearance (epiphanein), transcended the expectations of all who had anticipated the good news (euaggelia), surpassing not only the benefactors who came before him, but also leaving no expectation that anyone in the future would surpass him, with the result that the birthday of our god signalled the beginning of good news (euaggelion) for the world…, it has been resolved that the New Year begin for all the cities on September 23, which is the birthday of Augustus…. (Inscriptions from Priene 105, published in Wilhelm Dittenberger, ed., Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae. Supplementum Sylloge Inscriptionum Graecarum, Leipzig: Hirzel, 1903–1905, no. 458, author's translation)."

This account of Augustus's activities describes them in the highest terms possible: his advent is an “epiphany” (epiphanein), a term used in connection with the appearances of the gods; and the inscription calls him both “savior” (sōtēr) and “god.” The “good news” here, like the “good news” of Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah, connotes a definitive and unsurpassable transformation of the state of human affairs. So momentous in fact were the accomplishments of Augustus believed to be that the people of Priene introduced a system of time-reckoning oriented to Augustus's birthday. As Christians would themselves do in the sixth century C.E., introducing a calendrical system oriented to the birth of Jesus, so the people of Priene treated Augustus's birth as the turn of an era and the beginning of a golden age. This is the context in which the first-century hearer would understand the word euaggelion.

Thus euaggelion is not thus simply good news, but rather the announcement of a definitive transformation of the human situation due to the working of providence (or God) and, in the case of Augustus, though a divinely sent savior. It is not surprising then that the Jesus movement, influenced by the Hebrew Scriptures and living in the midst of imperial propaganda, should proclaim their euaggelion—one of the coming of God's reign (basileia tou theou), no less a political concept than the language of Augustus's propaganda. The use of the terms basileia tou theou and euaggelion provides us with a partial index of the way the claims of the early Jesus movement were not merely “religious,” divorced from social and political potency, but included claims and beliefs about the ordering and reordering of the world.

Euaggelion as a Literary Designation.

It is not entirely clear when or why the term euaggelion (“gospel”) came to designate specific writings of the early Jesus movement. One of the earliest indications of the application of euaggelion to a document is found in Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist and philosopher who lived in the mid-second century. Justin Martyr refers to the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke), which he normally called “the memoirs (apomnēmoneumata) of the apostles,” as “the so-called gospels” (ta legomena euaggelia). This suggests that the term euaggelion in relation to literary texts required some explanation (First Apology 66.3). In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin has Trypho, an imaginary Jewish opponent, use a similar phrase: “Your teachings in the so-called ‘gospel’ ” (10.2). In fact, Justin's ordinary term for the gospels is apomnēmoneumata; he uses euaggelia only three times (First Apology 66.3; Dialog with Trypho 10.2; 100.1). Half a century earlier, Clement of Rome (Letter to the Corinthians 47.2) still used euaggelion to refer to Paul's preaching (rather than literary documents) and the same is true of the Letter of Barnabas (5.9; 8.3) and the authentic letters of Ignatius of Antioch (To the Philadelphians 5.1, 2; 8.2; 9.2; To the Smyrneans 5.2; 7.2). Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor, writing in about 125 C.E., described the content of Mark's gospel as chreiai (“anecdotes”) about Jesus formulated by Peter, which Mark had “remembered” (apomnēmoneusen). Thus Mark's gospel for Papias, as for Justin, was a series of “memoirs” (apomnēmoneumata), although Papias judged that these were not given in an “orderly” arrangement. Papias seems to have regarded Matthew more highly, but nonetheless treats it as a series of “oracles” (logia) “arranged” (synetaxeto) by Matthew and not an euaggelion (Papias, cited in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.14–16).

Only in the Didache or Teachings of the Twelve Apostles (8.2; 11.3; 15.3, 4), the Second Letter of Clement (8.5) and the letter of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, To the Philippians (4.1), all composed or edited around the middle of the second century, does euaggelion come to refer to written documents. By the end of the second century the designation euaggelion became common and is found in the colophon (the space after the conclusion of a text) of the copy of Luke and in the superscription of the gospel of John in P. Bodmer XIV-XV ( = P75), copied in the late second century C.E. Although Martin Hengel asserts that each of the four intracanonical gospels was designated as “the euaggelion according to NN” from the very beginning (2000, pp. 50–58), this view is very unlikely: not only is the term euaggelion unattested in relation to biographies of Jesus in the first and early second centuries, but the phrase “the gospel according to NN” makes sense only as a way to distinguish one particular gospel from other similar documents once it is widely known that other such documents exist. This is unlikely to have occurred at the time of initial composition. Even Luke, whose introductory statement demonstrates his knowledge of earlier efforts to write an account of Jesus’ life, does not use the term euaggelion but refers to these other efforts as diēgeseis, “narrative accounts” (Luke 1:1–4).

The Diversity of Gospels.

Several kinds of documents came to be designated as “gospels” in the second century C.E. In most cases we do not know the original designation of these documents; the title euaggelion is in most instances an editorial ascription. This is quite clear in the case of the Gospel of Thomas, whose Coptic version was discovered in 1945 among the codices found at the Upper Egyptian hamlet of Nag Hammadi. Thomas's opening line (the incipit) reads, “These are the hidden sayings (Greek: logoi) which the living Jesus spoke, and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.” The designation “the euaggelion according to Thomas” appears only in the colophon, probably the addition of an editor or the compiler of Codex II. It is also likely in the case of the gospels of Matthew, whose incipit designates the writing as biblos geneseōs Iēsou Christou (“book of the beginning [wrought by] Jesus Christ”: Davies and Allison 1988–1997, 1:153), and Luke, who refers to his work as a diēgesis (“narrative account”). When multiple written accounts of the Jesus tradition were known, it became necessary to distinguish one from the other and for this purpose euaggelion was used, qualified by “according to NN.” Hence, later copyists added “the gospel according to…” in the colophon of the manuscript, or as a superscription. Although euaggelion appears to be a designation of the genre of the document being copied, it should be kept in mind that the basic meaning of euaggelion has to do with a proclamation of transformative news, whether orally or in writing. Hence, Irenaeus, an important anti-heretical writer about 180 C.E., says of Luke, whom he claims as a follower of Paul, that he “set down the euaggelion preached by him [Paul] in a book (en bibliō)” (Against the Heresies 3.1).

The term euaggelion was applied in antiquity to several distinct types of writing.

Narrative Gospels.

Most obviously, it was attached in the manuscript tradition and in Christian writings after 180 C.E. to the narrative lives of Jesus represented by the four canonical gospels, each of which offers the appearance of a continuous narrative account of Jesus’ activities at least from the time of John the Baptist until Jesus’ execution and resurrection. Three other fragmentary documents, usually called the Jewish Christian Gospels, are also designated as euangelia. In the second century C.E. the Gospel of the Nazarenes, known only through fragments preserved by Jerome and Eusebius, appears to have been a narrative gospel closely related to Matthew and likely a retro-translation from the Greek version of Matthew into Hebrew (Schneemelcher 1990, pp. 154–165; Elliott 1993, pp. 10–14). The Gospel of the Ebionites from the same period and known only through the citations of Epiphanius, a fourth-century writer, seems also to have been a narrative gospel which conflated elements of Matthew and Luke (Schneemelcher, pp. 166–171; Elliott, pp, 14–16). According to Epiphanius (Panarion 30.13.2) it was called “the Hebrew [gospel]” (to Hebraikon) or “[the gospel] according to Matthew” (kata Matthaion). Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, and Eusebius preserve quotations of the Gospel according to the Hebrews (Schneemelcher, pp. 172–178; Elliott, pp. 9–10). Although it contained short narratives, it is not clear that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was a continuous narrative gospel. The extant fragments concern Jesus’ baptism, a visionary(?) trip to Mount Tabor, and a resurrection appearance to James.

Passion Gospels.

Also of a narrative type are two gospels which focus, at least in their extant fragments, on the arrest and execution of Jesus. The Coptic Gospel of Judas is largely a dialogue with some narrative framing, recounting conversations between Jesus and his disciples (including Judas), and ending in Judas receiving money to hand Jesus over. It is designated as a “secret account” in the incipit but as an euaggelion in the colophon. It was also named as a “gospel” by Irenaeus (Against the Heresies 1.31.1), Theodoret (A Compendium of the fables of the heretics 1.15 [Patrologia Graeca 83:368B]) and Epiphanius (Panarion 38.1.5). The Gospel of Peter is listed as a “gospel” by the fourth-century writer Eusebius of Caesarea (Ecclesiastical History 3.3.2; 3.25.6) and is likely identical with the overlapping fragmentary parchment (Papyrus Cairo 10759) and papyrus (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus XLI 2949) accounts of the condemnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, which conclude with a first-person statement of Peter (Gospel of Peter, 60). A further papyrus, Papyrus Oxyrhynchus LX 4009, which includes a conversation between Peter and Jesus where Peter speaks in the first person, may also be a fragment of the Gospel of Peter. In this case the full gospel may have covered more than the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus and would thus belong to Narrative Gospels (see above).

Sayings Gospels.

One extant “gospel” consists mainly of sayings attributed to Jesus: the Gospel of Thomas. The gospel, preserved in three late second-century Greek fragments and in a full fourth-century Coptic version, is designated in its incipit as logoi, “sayings” (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus IV 654.1–5): “These are the hidden sayings (logoi) which the living Jesus spoke, and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.” The colophon (preserved only in Coptic), however, designates the writing as the euaggelion pkata Thomas, “the Gospel according to Thomas.” It consists of one hundred fourteen sayings, some with the beginning of a dialogical format. Thomas lacks a narrative framework, has no miracle stories, and does not contain a passion or resurrection account. The church writer Hippolytus at the beginning of the third century referred to “a gospel (euaggelion) according to Thomas” and since he also quotes a garbled form of the Gospel of Thomas 4 (Refutation of all heresies 5.7.20), it is relatively certain that the gospel that Hippolytus quoted was in fact the gospel we now know as the Gospel of Thomas. In the mid-third century, the great Alexandrian theologian Origen (Homilies on Luke 1.4–5) and Eusebius of Caesarea (Ecclesiastical History. 3.25.6) both referred to Thomas as a gospel. It is also possible that the Egyptian Gospel, cited by Clement of Alexandria in the late second or early third century and mentioned by Origen (Homilies on Luke 1.4–5), Hippolytus (Refutation of all heresies 5.7.9), and Epiphanius (Panarion 62.2), was a sayings gospel, since all that is preserved by Clement are sayings of Jesus or his disciples.

Post-Resurrection Dialogues.

The Gospel of Mary is preserved in a fifth-century Coptic version (Papyrus Berolinensis 8502) found in Akhmim in Egypt, and in a third-century Greek papyrus fragment (Papyrus Rylands III 463), and in a third-century papyrus from Oxyrhynchus (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus L 3525). The Rylands fragment preserves the title in the colophon, to euaggelion kata Mariam, “the Gospel according to Mary.” This gospel consists of a post-resurrection dialogue between Jesus and his disciples, and then Mary Magdalene's account of special revelations she received.

Theological Tractates.

If it were only for the text of the Gospel of Truth preserved in Nag Hammadi Codex I, we might be inclined to conclude that the phrase “gospel of truth,” found in the incipit, is used in the sense of a “saving message” rather than as a pseudo-generic designation. Irenaeus, however, refers to a “Gospel of Truth” employed by some second-century Gnostic believers called Valentinians (Against the Heresies 3.11.9). Since the content of the Gospel of Truth is Valentinian in character, this may in fact be the “gospel” mentioned by Irenaeus. It is not a narrative account of Jesus’ life at all, nor a collection of sayings, nor yet a dialogue, but is instead a theological exposition alternating with moral exhortation.

Other Gospels.

The Gospel of Philip, found in Codex II from Nag Hammadi (W. Isenberg in Robinson 1988, pp. 139–160) is designated as an euaggelion in its colophon and was named by Epiphanius as a gospel (Panarion 26.13.2–3). This “gospel,” however, lacks any narrative thread or dialogical structure. Instead, it contains some sayings of Jesus and few stories about Jesus, but these are interspersed with biblical exegesis and theological propositions, arranged in a manner that defies clear analysis. Although some scholars have treated it as a sayings gospel (3.3 above), it is more appropriate to regard it as a florilegium, that is, an anthology or string of excerpts from other writings (Schneemelcher, p. 183).

At the fringes of early Christian “gospels” is the Egyptian Gospel found in Nag Hammadi Codices III and IV (Böhlig, Wisse, and Labib 1975). It is unrelated to the gospel by the same name, listed above under sayings gospels (3.3). This gospel is a mythological account of the origins of Adam's son Seth, whom the document regards as the father of the Gnostic race. Insofar as it provides an account of definitive saving knowledge, it might merit the title euaggelion, which appears in the colophon. The incipit, however, calls it “The holy book of the Egyptians” and a second part of the colophon designates it as “The holy book (biblos) of the Great invisible Spirit.” This gospel has nothing to do with Jesus or the Jesus tradition.

Several other texts from antiquity are designated as “gospels” but since their content is not well known it is impossible to characterize them further: the Gospel of Bartholomew (Jerome, Commentary on Matthew PL 26:17–18); the Gospel of Eve (Epiphanius, Panarion 26.2.6); the Gospel of the Twelve (Origen, Homilies on Luke 5.2–4); and the Gospel of Mathias (Origen, Homilies on Luke 1.4–5; Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.25.6).

Gospels by Analogy.

The diversity of gospel types has encouraged scholars to designate certain texts as “gospels” even though the term euaggelion does not appear in the extant fragments. In most cases this designation is simply a scholarly convention and in some cases we have no indication of how the document in question was originally designated, since the incipit and the colophon is missing.

Narrative Gospels.

Two short papyri fragments, Papyrus Egerton 2 and Papyrus Köln 255, appear to come from a narrative gospel with affinities both to the Synoptics and to John. This text has been variously called “an Unknown Gospel” or the “Egerton Gospel.” More substantially, a hypothetical source of the Fourth Gospel is sometimes called “The Gospel of Signs,” reflecting the fact that John refers to Jesus’ miracles as “signs” (sēmeia). According to Robert Fortna, the Gospel of Signs consisted of the introduction of John the Baptist and the call of the disciples, seven miracle stories, and the skeleton of John's passion narrative and appearance stories. Although Fortna's reconstruction does not contain the term euaggelion, he argues that the similarities in structure and content between the hypothetical Gospel of Signs and Mark's Gospel qualify it as a “gospel” (Fortna 1988). Other reconstructions of John's sources, however, identify a “signs source” containing the introduction of John the Baptist and the disciples along with seven miracle stories but not a passion narrative. For these scholars, the source is not a “gospel” but simply “the signs source.”

Passion and Infancy Gospels.

The Gospel of Gamaliel (Schneemelcher, p. 558) relates the events of the crucifixion and resurrection. It was called a “gospel” by its modern editor, but is associated with the “Lament of Mary” in the most complete Ethiopic manuscript. It original title is unknown.

Three accounts of the childhood of Jesus are commonly referred to as “gospels” as a scholarly convenience: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas contains fabulous tales of Jesus’ childhood, but is designated in the text as paidika tou kyriou hēmōn Iēsou Christou (“childhood events of our Lord, Jesus Christ”) (Hock 1995). The Protoevangelium of James is the name commonly used to designate a narrative account of Mary's parents, the birth of Mary, the birth of Jesus and his parent's flight into Egypt, and the murder of John the Baptist's father, Zechariah. This title appears only in a 1552 Latin translation; the Greek colophon of the text calls it the genesis Marias, apokalypsis Iakob (“the origin of Mary, the revelation of James”). Finally, the title the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew is sometimes applied to a Latin text entitled Liber de Infantia (“the Book of the Infancy [of Mary and Jesus]”) or the Historia de Nativitate Mariae et de Infantia Salvatoris (“The story of the nativity of Mary and the Infancy of the Saviour”). It is not obvious that the term “gospel” should be applied to any of these texts.

Sayings Gospels.

It is now common to refer to the source of sayings used by Matthew and Luke in constructing their gospels as the “Sayings Gospel Q” or the “Q Gospel.” Since both the incipit and the ending of Q were likely removed or reworded when it was incorporated into Matthew and Luke, we have no indication of the original designation. Earlier scholars commonly referred to Q as the “logia” or “the logia source,” borrowing the term that Papias had used to designate the contents of Matthew. This terminology has now largely fallen out of favor. Although many scholars still prefer to call Q “the Synoptic sayings source,” there is one good reason for avoiding “source” as a title. On the dominant view of Synoptic relations, Mark is the source of Matthew and Luke; but no one would seriously refer to Mark as “the Markan source.” That would be to designate Mark not on its own terms, but only in its relationship to later documents which used Mark. Nor do we refer to 1–2 Samuel and 1–2 Kings as “the Chronicles source.” There are three positive reasons why Q might legitimately be called a “gospel.” First, Q refers to the message of Jesus that it preserves with the verb euaggelizesthai, “to announce good news” (Q 7:22 = Matt 11:5 ‖ Luke 7:22), which creates a linguistic connection between the contexts of Q and the texts that would later come to be called “gospels.” Second, Q, no less than the Synoptic Gospels, encodes a coherent message of salvation and of a definitive transformation of human affairs. And third, there are narrativizing features of Q which already point to a literary trajectory which leads to the gospels of Matthew and Luke: Q begins with an introduction of John the Baptist, John's prediction of a “Coming One,” later identified as Jesus, introduces Jesus with the temptation story, and has a few transitional phrases which suggest the beginning of a narrative conception (Kloppenborg 2000, pp. 398–408). In other words, Q is not simply a sayings collection like Proverbs 10–26 but includes features that place it on a biographical trajectory that leads in the direction of the more fully narrative “gospels” of Matthew and Luke. The designation of Q as a gospel has of course sparked much opposition. Some observe that to call Q a gospel reifies what is, after all, the reconstruction of a hypothetical document. Other scholars insist that “gospel” should be reserved to fully narrative presentations of the life of Jesus that include the passion and resurrection accounts. It must be pointed out, however, that the copyists of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip and Gospel of Mary seemed not to have any difficulty in designating texts which lacked passion and resurrection accounts as “gospels.”

Dialogue/Discourse Gospels.

The Gospel of the Savior (Papyrus Berolinensis 22220), preserved in Coptic, contains discourses, dialogical elements and possibly narrative elements. Although euaggelion does not appear in the extant fragments, the editors argue that the designation “gospel” is appropriate to its contents and that it might be a gospel comparable to the Gospel of John (Hedrick and Mirecki 1999, p. 17).

Almost as soon as euaggelion appeared as a designation for documents which treated various aspects of the sayings, deeds, and significance of Jesus, attempts were made to limit the applicability of the term. It is clear that by the end of the second century a large number of gospels and gospel-types were in circulation, each using the title euaggelion. In this context, Irenaeus sought to construct an argument that would logically exclude all but the four gospels that were eventually to become canonical. To this end, he argued that just as there are four zones of the world, four winds, four faces on the Cherubim, four symbolic animals in the Apocalypse of John and four covenants between God and humans, it is not possible that there could be either more or fewer than four gospels (Irenaeus Against the Heresies 3.11). It is worth observing that his argument does not identify specific features as essential for gospels—for example, a passion narrative, birth stories, or a particular combination of sayings and narratives. Instead, his argument is simply an after-the-fact rationalization of the four gospels that were accepted as authoritative in the community that he represented. The fact that the term continued to be applied to documents apart from the four intracanonical gospels suggests that not everyone accepted either his rationalization or his attempt to limit gospels in this fashion.

The Literary Character of Gospels.

Given the diverse contents of the types of documents that are designated as “gospels,” it is impossible to identify specific characteristics that are common to all.

Narrative Gospels.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was common to argue that gospels—meaning the four intracanonical gospels—represented a special subliterary form of literature called Kleinliteratur or Urliteratur. Proponents of this thesis argued that early Christian literature, including the canonical gospels, was the sedimentation or crystallization of oral tradition effected without the assistance of models from the sophisticated literary genres of antiquity and devoid of a strong literary intention of an author. The gospels in effect were surrogates for oral tradition, the spontaneous emanations of early Christian liturgical activities. Kleinliteratur is “not the product of an individual author, but a folk book, not biography, but a cult legend” (Schmidt 1923, p. 76). The composition of the Gospels “involves nothing new in principle, but only completes what was begun in the oral phrase” (Bultmann 1968, p. 321). Accordingly, the evangelists could not be regarded as authors in a strong sense; they were at best compilers of preexisting oral traditions.

This view began from the recognition that when compared to the products of high literary culture such as Plutarch's Lives, the intracanonical gospels seemed deficient. To regard the gospels as Kleinliteratur was also convenient to the program of form criticism, which sought to recover the individual units of early Christian tradition as they functioned in their original oral settings. And it was congenial to the theological posture of dialectical theology, current in the early decades of the twentieth century, which viewed Christianity as something radically new in the world's cultures, distinct and unique. Hence, Bultmann urged, “[t]hus [the Gospels] are a unique phenomenon in the history of literature and at the same time symbolic of the distinctive nature of the Christian religion as a whole” (Bultmann 1969, p. 89). The uniqueness of the Gospels was a literary corollary to the theological and historical uniqueness of Christianity: just as Christianity should not be seen as a religion among the world's religion but as the definitive intervention of God in history, the gospels should not be regarded as continuous with the literary culture of antiquity, but are the unparalleled emanations of earliest Christian experience and ritual. In retrospect such a view of the intracanonical gospels runs the risk of confusing theological with historical and literary analysis.

Several developments in the latter part of the twentieth century undermined this view. First, the development of redaction criticism following World War II stressed the role of the editor (or “redactor”) in framing and editing preexisting gospel tradition, and at its apogee redaction criticism in effect posited the evangelist as a genuine author, manipulating and transforming his sources in ways that were comparable to literary activities of other Greco-Roman authors. Second, one of the key assumptions of form criticism—that the earliest Jesus-followers, expecting the end of the world, “had neither the capacity nor the inclination for the production of books” (Dibelius 1935, p. 18)—was attacked on the grounds that other apocalypticists (for example, the scribes who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran) were deeply engaged in literary activity and at the same time embraced strong apocalyptic beliefs. Finally, modern studies of oral cultures have demonstrated the interrelationship between orality and textuality in a manuscript culture: literary models often provided the vehicles or models for the literary encoding of oral materials. Moreover the chirographic or written medium offered to composers possibilities that were not available to performers of oral stories (Kelber 2008). Individual stories and sayings could be linked in complex ways through literary devices such as cross-reference, prolepsis, and analepsis, and a written text can embody multiple voices (for example, the voices of the characters of the narrative, a narrator, and a commentator). In short, whereas form critics minimized the significance of the written medium and the writer in their quest for original oral tradition, more recent scholarship has underscored the importance of the literary medium, literary genres, and authors.

Reexamination of the issue of the genre of narrative gospels beginning in the 1970s strongly favored their classification as bioi (“lives”) or biographies (Talbert 1977; Shuler 1982; Dihle 1983; Berger 1984; Burridge 1992). This shift was due in part to the development of nuanced taxonomies of Greek biography and in part to the results of redaction criticism, which had recognized to a much greater degree than form criticism the contributions made by the evangelists as genuine authors.

Key to the assessment of the intracanonical gospels as bioi was the recognition that the Greek bios never achieved a fixed form with a standard set of features but on the contrary exhibited a striking range in content and style. In general a bios was a narrative which employed an individual's life as its framework. The subject matter of the bios typically featured one of several ideal types: the ruler, the politician, the general, the poet, the rhetorician, and the philosopher, the sage, and the holy man. The latter were especially popular subject for biography in the common era, with extant biographies of many philosophers including, Diogenes Laertius's bioi of Plato, Aristotle, Antisthenes, Zeno, Diogenes of Sinope, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Epicurus, and Lucian's Demonax, the bioi of sages such as the Life of Aesop and the Sayings of Ahikar, and bioi of holy men such as Iamblichus's Life of Pythagoras, Philo's Life of Moses, and Philostratus's Apollonius of Tyana. The bios genre also included Lucian's satirical biographies of Alexander the False Prophet and Perigrinus, a charlatan. Bioi range in their function from satirical to apologetic and encomiastic (though most bioi have an encomiastic aspect) and from didactic and hortatory to pure entertainment.

Bioi also exhibit a range of forms. At one extreme, a bios might simply include a series of chreiai (anecdotes), gnōmai (aphorisms), or apomnēmoneumata (memoirs) loosely strung together, usually with a brief narrative introduction and a conclusion (e.g., The Sentences of Secundus the Silent Philosopher; Lucian, Demonax). Some bioi are quite episodic and disjointed; others supply a continuous narrative with elaborate periodic style (e.g., Plutarch's Lives). Aune elaborated four axes for the analysis of extant bioi: (1) from episodic to continuous narrative; (2) from topical to chronological organization; (3) from popular to elevated diction; and (4) from paratactic to periodic style (Aune 1987, p. 35).

Given the flexibility and wide range of the Greek biographical genre, it is relatively easy to place at least Mark, Matthew, and John within the spectrum of the bios genre. These gospels clearly belong to the group of those which feature the life of a holy man and which combine encomiastic, didactic, and apologetic functions. Mark is a highly episodic bios, with partly topical and partly chronological organization, and with an obviously paratactic style. Incidents are often only vaguely connected with one another, and the internal organization of Mark's stories shows a predilection to string together materials of similar kind. Thus Mark 1:21–45 offers a list of wonders stories; Mark 2:1—3:6 is a set of controversies; Mark 4:1–34 is a string of parables and parabolic sayings; and another set of controversy stories appears in Mark 11–12. The consistent emphasis on Jesus’ awareness of his approaching execution and the negative characterization of the intentions of Jesus’ opponents lend the bios an apologetic cast: it underscores the fortitude of Jesus in approaching death, and traces Jesus’ death to the hostility of his priestly and scribal opponents. The story of course also embodies encomiastic and didactic elements.

Matthew shows a much stronger inclination to create a continuous and coherent narrative, which includes, unlike Mark, accounts of Jesus’ birth and resurrection appearances. Individual incidents are better connected with the foregoing stories than they are in Mark; Matthew employs transitional phrases such as “after Jesus had finished these sayings…” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1) and “from that time on” (4:17; 16:21; 26:16), and care is taken to maintain a consistent depiction of Jesus, his disciples and his opponents. Matthew employs topical organization, arranging related beatitudes, parables, aphorisms, and admonitions into five or six long speeches, and collects miracle stories (chs. 8–9) and controversy stories (chs. 11–12) into long blocks. The style is somewhat more elevated than Mark's style: Matthew avoids paratactic constructions, introduces better grammatical subordination of clauses, and eliminates redundancies but also adds cross references to the Hebrew Bible. The creation of coherent didactic speeches combined with Matthew's attention to show Jesus was exemplifying what he teaches, especially in the passion narrative, exemplify Matthew's didactic interests. Praise and apologetics are of course also present in the fabric of the gospel.

John also is much less episodic than Mark and inclines to the creation of long units, incorporating both miracle stories and dialogue or speeches connected to those miracle stories. The narrative is arranged both chronologically and by means of geographical schematization (though of course, this does not imply the historical reliability of John's arrangement). John's interest in Jesus’ speeches is obvious. The style is not especially elevated but the author frequently employs puns, double entendre, and irony. The treatment of Jesus’ opponents as blind and the insistence that his kingdom is not in competition with the Roman Empire are aspects of John's apologetics.

The biographical classification is more problematic with Luke-Acts; since Luke-Acts is normally conceived as a single work which includes elements of both history and romance and therefore exceeds the normal parameters of a bios.

Once the flexibility of the Greek and Roman bios genre is appreciated, and with the abandoning of the theological conviction that the literary products of early Christianity must have differed substantially from those of the surrounding cultures, the identification of the intracanonical gospels as bioi was widely embraced. A few scholars nevertheless believe that the effort to place the intracanonical gospels in the company of Greco-Roman biography is misguided, and argue instead that these gospels should be seen as the literary embodiment of the church's proclamation of the saving nature of Jesus’ ministry and passion. Thus Guelich argues that “the literary gospel ultimately represents the Church's gospel in narrative form” (Guelich 1983, p. 213) and that while “formally…these gospels belong to the broad category of hellenistic biography…materially, they are sui generis” (Guelich 1989, pp. xix–xxii).

Sayings Gospels.

Discussion of the content and nature of sayings collections has focused largely on Q and the Gospel of Thomas. Prior to the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, Q was variously treated as virtually a transcript of the teaching and preaching of Jesus “without any clearly discernible [editorial] bias, whether apologetic, didactic, ecclesiastical, national or anti-national” (Harnack 1908, p. 250), a view that belongs to the era when the Gospels were treated as Kleinliteratur. With the rise of kerygmatic theology in the 1920s—a theology that emphasized the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus as the essential core of Christian theology—Q was reconceived as a didactic supplement to the kerygma, since it did not refer to the death and resurrection of Jesus (Manson 1949). With the rise of redaction criticism following World War II, however, more attention was given to Q as an expression of theological convictions in its own right. James Robinson argued that Q belonged to a “trajectory” of wisdom genres, Logoi sophōn or “sayings of the sages,” that could be traced from wisdom collections from Babylonian and Egyptian sources, to the sayings collection in Proverbs, 1 Enoch, the Didache, and First Clement, and then to Q and the Gospel of Thomas. The genre finally was transformed into Gnostic dialogues such as the Book of Thomas, and rabbinic collections of wise sayings (Mishnah ʾAbot) or was absorbed into the canonical gospels. This generic trajectory and its inherent tendency to associate the speaker of wise sayings with the heavenly source of wisdom accounts for the fact that a collection of wise sayings of Jesus would also invoke the heavenly Sophia (Q 7:35; 10:21–22; 11:49–51), and that the Gospel of Thomas could represent its speaker as a divine revealer and its contents as secret saving words (Robinson 1971). Thus when Q was absorbed into the fuller narrative gospels of Matthew and Luke, its inherent generic tendency was neutralized.

Famously, Helmut Koester argued that Q and other logoi sophōn exemplified only one type of primitive gospel. The four primitive gospel forms were (a) an apocalyptic depiction of Jesus’ significance that used apocalyptic tropes from Second Temple Judaism and which located the significance of Jesus in a future redemption; (b) a thaumaturgic gospel form which borrowed from the discursive world of Hellenistic and Jewish wonderworking and which treated Jesus as a “divine man” (theios aner); (c) a sapiential form which focused on wise sayings and which eventually produced a wisdom christology and hymns to Jesus as the Logos or as Heavenly Wisdom; and (d) a gospel form that privileged Jesus’ death and vindication, modeled on martyrological literature. The Synoptic Gospels combined these four forms into their “gospels” (Koester 1971).

A lasting contribution of Koester's approach is his insistence on multiple early theological formulations and, correspondingly, multiple literary expressions of those formulations, instead of supposing a single Christian kerygma and a single literary expression. More problematic was his assumption that the primitive gospel types were pure genres. This implied that Q, as an instance of logoi sophōn, had already been expanded by apocalyptic Son of Man sayings and hence was not a pure example of the genre. The Gospel of Thomas by contrast was a better or purer example of the genre of logoi sophōn than the final form of Q, since Thomas contained only wisdom sayings. A different, though not wholly incompatible approach to the nature of Q was proposed by Kloppenborg, who developed a taxonomy of ancient Near Eastern, biblical, and Greco-Roman sayings collections. This taxonomy, like the taxonomy of bioi, acknowledged a good deal of flexibility in the content, function, and style of sayings collections, which ranged from collections of aphorisms randomly organized, to highly organized collections, and from sapiential advice intended for general instruction to instructions directed at specific social locations or even esoteric sayings that demanded enlightened exegesis. A very common feature of sayings ollections was their proto-biographical character: sayings collections are normally attributed to a named sage (rather than being anonymous), and many have narrativizing introductions and/or conclusions. In light of the dynamics of sayings genres, it was possible to characterize Q as embodying both the features of a Near Eastern instruction (typified by collections of second-person admonitions prefaced by programmatic aphorisms and concluded by warnings), and the form of a collection of chreiai—the witty or wise anecdotes attributed to a named sage (Kloppenborg 1987). Q's proto-biographical aspects—its opening prediction of a “Coming One” (Q 3:16) and the introduction of Jesus with an ordeal narrative (Q 4:1–13)—made it comparable to other sayings collections that had also been given a biographical cast (the Sayings of Ahikar, the Life of Aesop, and Lucian's Demonax considered above as bioi). Kloppenborg's approach to the genre of Q did not exclude prophetic or apocalyptic content on the grounds of alleged generic incompatibility, although he did argue that Q had undergone redaction that had added polemical and prophetic sayings to a collection that was originally hortatory and instructional (Kloppenborg 1987).

With the publication of the Gospel of Thomas in the late 1950s it became clearer that sayings gospels like Q not only could, but did exist. Insofar as Thomas repetitively introduces sayings of Jesus with “Jesus says,” it is technically not a sayings collection but is rather a chreiai collection. Since chreiai could take the form of simple assertions (“N said x”), or brief dialogues (“being asked x, N said…”), the dialogical elements found in the Gospel of Thomas are fully compatible with its characterization as a chreiai collection. And as noted above, chreiai collections could easily be incorporated into fuller bioi. Indeed they already had a biographical aspect.

Dialogue Gospels.

Early Christian documents expressly labeled as “gospels” such as the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Judas and those customarily called “gospels” such as the Gospel of the Savior stand in a generic continuity with chreiai collections with dialogical elements and may also share features with the dialogues favored in certain philosophical circles. The Book of Thomas (Nag Hammadi Codex II,7) begins much like the Gospel of Thomas:

Gospels

Four Source Hypothesis.

Matthew and Luke independently used two earlier sources—the gospel of Mark and “Q,” a collection of sayings of Jesus—for their Gospels. They also used other sources specific to each of them.

© OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

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“The secret sayings that the Savior spoke to Judas Thomas.” But it is framed as a dialogue between the risen Jesus and Thomas.

Recent consideration of the nature of “gospels” acknowledges their broadly biographical character. The essentially biographical nature of the narrative gospels is the most obvious. But once the range and breadth of ancient biographical forms is appreciated, it is perfectly plausible to place sayings collections such as Q, chreiai collections such as the Gospel of Thomas, and dialogues such as the Gospel of Mary within the spectrum of ancient bioi. In order to qualify as an euaggelion the key requirement is that such collections focus exclusively or dominantly on Jesus and his significance in the transformation of human existence.

Literary Relationships among the Gospels.

Not only do the “gospels” discussed above share a common nomenclature and, in some cases, a common literary genre, but in several cases there would seem to be a clear literary relationship among them.

The Synoptic Problem.

The striking similarities among the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels) indicate that a literary relationship exists. The level of agreement between any two of these gospels, both in the wording of sayings or stories and in the sequence in which the materials are given is such that it is impossible to account for those agreements in any other way than to posit a literary relationship, i.e., that one has copied from another or that both have used a common source. Studies of memory have shown that verbatim agreement of more than fourteen words in sequence between two versions of a story or saying indicates the strong likelihood of the use of a written source (DeConick 2008).

According to the dominant view of Synoptic relationships, called the “Two Document Hypothesis” (2DH), Mark is the earliest of the three Synoptic Gospels; Matthew and Luke independently used Mark as a literary source; and because there are significant agreements between Matthew and Luke than cannot be explained by their mutual use of Mark, another common source of sayings must be posited. This source—accounting for about 4,500 words—is normally called “Q” or the “Sayings Gospel Q” (See above). On this hypothesis, Q must be a written source rather than merely a set of oral traditions, since the agreement between Matthew and Luke in reproducing Q's wording and sequence is in many cases so high that it cannot reasonably be explained apart from a thesis of literary dependence on a source text (Kloppenborg 2000, ch. 1).

There are two main alternate views of synoptic relationships, neither requiring the positing of Q: the “Mark-without-Q Hypothesis” (MwQH) accepts Markan priority, but posits direct borrowing between Luke and Matthew. If Luke had Matthew before him, there is no need to posit “Q” since the material that the 2DH derives from Q is simply Matthean additions to Mark that Luke took over directly from Matthew (see Goodacre 2002; Kloppenborg 2003). The “Two Gospel Hypothesis” (2GH) rejects Markan priority, and instead posits Matthew as the earliest gospel. However like the MwQH, it holds that Luke had direct access to Matthew. This too obviates the need to posit “Q”, since Luke then received all of his “Markan” and “Q” material directly from Matthew. Mark then conflated and abbreviated Matthew and Luke.

Although the 2DH remains the most widely held view, each of the main hypotheses has to contend with data not entirely coherent with the hypothesis: on the 2DH there should be relatively few points where Matthew and Luke agree in wording of sayings or stories against Mark (since according to the theory they used Mark independently); but there are a few striking agreements. On the MwQH and 2GH Luke's alleged use of Matthew is at many points very difficult to explain, since Luke has failed to adopt from Matthew vocabulary and ideas that are fully congenial with his editorial aims; and his aggressive reordering of Matthean pericopes is difficult to explain. On the 2GH Mark's treatment of his two sources (Matthew and Luke), in particular his omission of materials that are seemingly congenial with his literary intentions, also creates difficulties.

While complete unanimity on synoptic relationships is lacking, there remains a broad consensus that some kind of literary relationship exists among the first three gospels.

John and the Synoptics.

It is much less clear whether John's gospel is literarily dependent on the Synoptics. John, to be sure, narrates a number of incidents also preserved in the Synoptics: stories about John the Baptist; the healing of an official's son in Capernaum; a multiplication of bread and Jesus’ walking on the sea; a declaration of Peter about Jesus; Jesus and the Temple merchants; and an account of the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus. In most of these stories, however, John's versions of the stories are sufficiently different from the Synoptic forms that it is difficult to establish a pattern of borrowing. There are only a very few points where John agrees with one or more of the Synoptics in small and significant details that might signal John's knowledge of the Synoptics—for example, John 18:10 and Luke 22:50 agree that it was the right ear of the chief priest's servant that was severed at Jesus’ arrest, or the agreement between Luke 24:12 and John 20:4–5 that Peter ran to see the empty tomb and that Peter (in Luke) or the Beloved Disciple (in John) “stooped down and saw…the linen wraps” (kai parakypsas blepei…ta othonia).

Scholars disagree on how to assess this combination of some general agreements and a few very specific agreements. Some have assumed that John knew Mark and Luke, and felt free to recast his sources rather completely either to provide a supplement to the Synoptics or to offer an interpretation of them; others supposed that John knew the Synoptics and sought to displace them by offering a competing depiction of Jesus. By the mid-twentieth century a new consensus had developed, that John was substantially independent of the Synoptics and represented a stream of the Jesus tradition which, at some points, was at least as primitive as that preserved in the Synoptics (Gardner-Smith 1938; Dodd 1963). This consensus has more recently been challenged by scholars who point to small agreements between John and Luke, especially in the passion sections, which may signal either John's knowledge of Luke or Luke's use of John. Others have pointed to the striking parallels in the sequence of episodes between Mark 6–8 and John 6 and argue that John knew Mark. Frans Neirynck (1992) finds it preferable to account for the shape of John's account by positing knowledge of all of the Synoptics than to suppose that John has access to other unknown source materials. Summarizing the state of the question, D. M. Smith concludes that “the questions of John's knowledge and use of the Synoptics remains a vexing, critical one” (1992, p. 103).

The Gospel of Thomas.

One of the most controversial issues in gospel relationships concerns the Gospel of Thomas. Almost one-third of Thomas's sayings have counterparts in “Q” material and there are a few other parallels with sayings that appear only in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. The level of verbatim agreement does not approach the level of agreement within the Synoptics themselves, and there is very little agreement between Thomas and the Synoptics in the sequence of sayings.

Some scholars hold that Thomas is derivative of the Synoptic Gospels and therefore is of little value in mapping the early history of the Jesus tradition (Perrin 2002). The difficulty with this view is that it does not account either for the almost complete lack of agreement in sequence between the Synoptics, the supposed source, and Thomas and, more troublingly, the fact that a significant number of Thomas's versions of sayings lack the editorial elements found in the Synoptic versions (see, e.g., Kloppenborg 2006, ch. 8). Thomas would have had to remove the elements added by the synoptic evangelists, a supposition that does not seem very likely.

Other scholars, now in the majority of experts on Thomas, acknowledge that while there may be some influence from the Synoptics on the fourth-century Coptic manuscript of Thomas, in the many cases where Thomas and the Synoptics have parallels, Thomas's version shows no knowledge of the editorial features of the Synoptics and is therefore independent of the Synoptics (Patterson 1993; Hedrick; Plisch 2008). A few scholars have argued that where Thomas and Q have parallels, Thomas's version of the saying is always the more primitive (Koester 1990, p. 60).

The consequence of Thomas's version of sayings being either independent of, or more primitive than, those found in the Synoptics is highly significant for the issue of the origin of the gospels, for if this view is cogent, gospel origins must be conceived of as multiple, with at least sayings (or chreiai) gospels and narrative gospels enjoying equal priority in the formation of the gospel tradition. This would also cast doubt on the insistence that the narration of the death and resurrection of Jesus was either literarily or conceptually essential for a “gospel.”

Jewish Christian Gospels.

The matter of dependence on the Synoptic Gospels is clearer in the case of the Jewish Christian gospels. The Gospel of the Nazoreans is an imaginative expansion of Matthew in Hebrew, and thus clearly dependent on the (Greek) gospel of Matthew. The Gospel of the Ebionites, composed in Greek, shows evidence of having conflated elements from Matthew and Luke and is therefore dependent on them. Because the sayings in the Gospel of the Hebrews diverge so widely from the contents of the Synoptic Gospels and share some materials with the peculiar sayings of the Gospel of Thomas, it is not possible to establish any relationship of dependence on either the Synoptics or Thomas (see Vielhauer in Schneemelcher, pp. 154–178).

Prospects.

The history of the study of the nature and character of the gospels evidences a noteworthy shift from approaches that exaggerated the differences between early Christian literature and the products of high literary culture (Schmidt), and approaches dominated by theological and apologetic interests (Bultmann), to approaches that are more strictly literary and comparative. The latter emphasize the commonalities between the variety of early Christian gospels—narrative gospels, sayings collections, and dialogues—and comparable examples of narrative bioi, saying collections and dialogues in the literatures of Greek and Roman antiquity. It remains to map more carefully both the generic and the genetic relationships among all those texts called “gospels” and, correspondingly, to understand the sense in which euaggelion was (or could be) applied to those documents.

[See also APOCRYPHA, subentry NEW TESTAMENT; JOHN, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO; LUKE, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO; MARK, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO; Mary, Gospel of; MATTHEW, GOSPEL ACCORDING TO; NAG HAMMADI LIBRARY; Philip, Gospel of; and Thomas, Gospel of.]

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  • Schmidt, Karl Ludwig. “Die Stellung der Evangelien in der allgemeinen Literaturgeschichte” [The place of the Gospels in the general history of literature]. In ΕΥΧΑΡΙΣΤΗΡΙΟΝ: Festschrift Hermann Gunkel, edited by Hans Schmidt, 2:50–134. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, vol. 36. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1923.
  • Schneemelcher, Wilhelm, ed. New Testament Apocrypha. Volume One: Gospels and Related Writings. Translated by Robert M. Wilson. Rev. ed. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox, 1990.
  • Shuler, Philip L. A Genre for the Gospels: The Biographical Character of Matthew. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982.
  • Smith, Dwight Moody. John among the Gospels: The Relationship in Twentieth-Century Research. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992.
  • Talbert, Charles H. What is a Gospel? The Genre of the Canonical Gospels. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977.

John S. Kloppenborg