Notes 3 - The Gospels (A3-4)

Notes 3 - The Gospels (A3-4) - The Gospels Assignments 3 4...

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As we begin to study the Gospels, there are several questions that arise. Some of these include: What is a Gospel?; How do we interpret the passages?; How can we understand the text?; How are these texts developed and what is their purpose? These are but a few of the questions with which we will attempt to deal. By the way, that for which you should strive is called “exegesis”. Exegesis means that we seek to uncover and understand what a text really means. Far too often people practice “eisegesis” – reading into the text what one wants it to say. So if we truly wish to understand, we must strive to let the text speak to us what it will. So, what is a gospel? James Stewart stated that they are not biographies but are “a set of memoirs, selected historical reminiscences”. The word which we translate “gospel” is “euangelion” (literally, “good news”). In secular Greek usage, it was a technical term for news of victory, whether in the Olympic games or in battle. Some believed that good fortune was contained within the word itself, and it not only declared salvation but effected it. In the imperial cult, the emperor combined both the extraordinary and salvation in one person. The ruler was considered divine by nature and brought good news of an era of peace and prosperity when he ascended to the throne. Gospels as “Biography” When people hear the word “Gospel,” many presume that a gospel is simply a biography just like modern-day biographies. While gospels fit the general genre of biography, it might be helpful to view ancient ideas of the word “biography”. The ancient writer, Plutarch (CE 45-125) wrote many biographies. In his book on Alexander, he wrote about his approach: “In writing for this book the life of Alexander the king…I have before me such an abundance of materials that I shall make no other preface but to beg my readers not to complain of me if I do not relate all of his celebrated exploits or even any one in full detail, but in most instances abridge the story.
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I am writing not histories but lives, and a man’s most conspicuous achievements do not always reveal best his strength or his weakness. Often a trifling incident, a word or a jest, shows more of his character than the battles where he slays thousands, his grandest mustering of armies, and his sieges of cities. Therefore as portrait painters work to get their likenesses from the face and the look of the eyes, in which the character appears, and pay little attention to other parts of the body, so I must be allowed to dwell especially on things that express the souls of these men, and through them portray their lives, leaving it to others to describe their mighty deeds and battles.” ( Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology , by Actemeier, Green, and Thompson, p.65). As you can see, the idea of biography is more than simply a recitation of
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Notes 3 - The Gospels (A3-4) - The Gospels Assignments 3 4...

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