Defining the Gospel genre

On June 4, 2011, in Gospel of Mark, Hermeneutics, New Testament, by Wayne Slusser

As I continue to work on my dissertation, I am developing the argument of the Gospel of Mark. In order to do this, proper methodology is important. Throughout the dissertation chapter, my intent is to communicate the argument of Mark through two components; that is, (1) genre criticism and discourse and (2) essential meaning. Genre precedes meaning.

The Gospels are not easy to define. The components that are typical within a Gospel are biography, history, and theology. If one is to come away with the author’s intended meaning, he must account for these three components (the content) and the method (how the content is put together) in which they are structured.

The literary structure (the “how”) of the Gospel of Mark is narrative; that is, communicative acts/episodes that are structured together (typically by chronology or geography) to provide a whole. Each of the episodes speak into the larger whole and thus give the reader/hearer the authorial intended meaning. This is discourse.

The genre (the “what”) of the Gospel of Mark is theological narrative bioi. The genre is one that I have put together to account for all of the above (biography, history, and theology). Mark has constructed his Gospel to explicate the words and deeds of Jesus Christ, the unifying focal character (biography), through three geographical settings during first-century Judaism in Palestine (history) with the intent that the reader will understand the significance of Jesus’ words and deeds as they pertain to the reader’s life (theology). This is genre criticism.

I’m still working through Mark’s argument, but at this point my initial thinking is that he communicates his intent up front, (1:1) — the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; for this is his christological title that is illustrated throughout the narrative giving the reader the true identity of Jesus Christ. More to come


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