Why Does the Genre of the Gospels Matter?

It is impossible to read a text without interpreting the text in some way. The very fact we are converting signs and symbols on a page into thoughts in our mind is an act of interpretation. Every time we read a sentence, we make many decisions about what words mean or how a metaphor is to be understood. Rarely do we step back and think about how we understand a text. At the beginning of this series on the Gospels, I want to discuss the need for interpreting a text.Genre Matters

The genre of the text matters. If a reader does not know Harry Potter is fiction rather than history, they will be very confused indeed! But it is possible to describe Harry Potter as fantasy. Fantasy has certain “rules” which hold the stories together in ways a crime novel does not. If you think Harry Potter and Dirty Harry should solve their problem in the same way, you have misunderstood the genre! A Harry Potter book can also be described as a “young adult” novel. The young adult genre also has some characteristics typical of these stories (young protagonists, usually in some sort of difficult home life, some teen-romance, etc.) If you confuse the genre Harry Potter and Fifty Shades of Grey (a completely different genre!) you will not fully understand the story. With respect to the four Gospels, we need to be very careful in understanding the genre of these books. They are not dispassionate histories in the modern sense of the word, attempting to set the record straight about what Jesus really did.

The intention of the author matters. In most cases writers create documents in order to be understood. A good writer has an idea they want to express, or a feeling they want to create. A historical writer might want to describe a particular time and place in the past, or prove a point about some important event. With the exception of some modern poetry (or student papers), writers do not simply string words together and allow the reader to create whatever meaning they want. When we read the Gospels we need to be very careful to hear the voice of the author and correctly read the gospel as it was intended.

The situation of the reader matters. I am not advocating for some sort of reader response criticism that allows the reader to ignore the author’s intention and make a text mean whatever the reader can imagine. By situation I mean a reader’s cultural context. For example, I am a white male living in a wealthy, industrialized country. I am going to read texts about agriculture or poverty differently than someone in the Congo. I often miss things my female students hear in a text. Historically, I read the text of the New Testament differently than someone in the sixteenth century, or in the fourth century. I am often perplexed by the things that got Luther and Augustine excited, because my cultural context is different.

Another situation of the reader that matters is a reader’s preconceptions. For example, when I read Harry Potter, I assume  magic does not exist, there are no magical people living in London, there is no Diagon Alley where I can buy an owl. In my opinion, people who “really believe” are deluded and hopefully grow out of that delusion by their thirteenth birthday (or when they do not get an invitation to attend Hogwarts). If a reader as a preconceived belief that the Gospels cannot contain any real history, then they will read the story of Jesus differently than a believer. If a person is a committed Catholic, they may read the stories of Peter (especially Matt 16) differently than a committed Protestant. A person with a Charismatic theology will read some of the stories in the gospels with different eyes than a non-Charismatic.

My point here is not to argue reading is so arbitrary that all readings are equally valid. I am saying we ought to understand the text as clearly as possible, beginning with the words, genre and authorial intention, and at least recognize our assumptions when we come to the text of the Gospels.

How will an awareness of genre, authorial intent and the reader’s situation change the way we approach the Gospels? Perhaps you have encountered someone who read a text considerably different because of their personal context – were they “wrong”?

 

28 thoughts on “Why Does the Genre of the Gospels Matter?

  1. I think you did a good job describing the elements one should have in mind when reading the Bible.

  2. When reading our text this week, the chapter discussing genre was particularly interesting to me, because up until now when reading the Bible I never really thought that it fit into a genre. I always felt as though the Bible was a genre of its own, meaning that it was not to be categorized in the same way other stories are.
    “The Gospels were treated as products of the Christian community rather than individual authors (Strauss. 28)”.
    This intrigued me because as I said, I never thought of the Gospels as I did other books. I actually never really considered the fact that they all had individual authors. I always just imagined the Gospels were simply “There” and that was that. It is touched on that while the gospels indeed have their own uniqueness, they are also comparable to other ancient texts.
    I suppose because it is the Bible, which I obviously believe to be true, I never read it as a story, but more as just “this is what happened and this is how it is”. I also think I read other historical books in this same way. Never considering the author or genre.
    When our text was talking about the genre of the Gospels, I kept stopping to think what genre was Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I could not come up with a concrete answer, so when you made your point that we ought to understand what we are reading and recognize our assumptions, I immediately recognized that I had many assumptions but little real understanding. Now realizing that the authors of those various works had intent and purpose on what they were writing, it definitely makes me view the Gospels from a new perspective. So I am going to be reading them again soon, but with a different approach so that I can perhaps figure that out and come away with at least a little more understanding.

  3. The situation of the reader is an important aspect when reading a book as important as the Bible. The readers of today place their modern thoughts and ideas onto what the writers meant. One example of this, which you (P. Long) have mentioned in our Greek class, is the word dunamis. Dunamis means power but it is also where we get the modern term and idea of dynamite. Somewhere, while reading/preaching we began to place our modern meanings onto the Bible. It has stopped being just power and has become dynamite power. I doubt that the author(s) meant dynamite power since dynamite wasn’t a part of their culture, but because it is a part of our situation and culture we place it onto scripture. We as readers today may place our culture on Scripture and read the Bible in a different way, but as long as we are not changing the main ideas it’s not one-hundred percent wrong. In the case of dunamis it may not actually mean dynamite power, but it does still mean power.
    It is a slippery slope that we as readers are choosing. We need to take a step back and see the author’s culture and we may realize what was actually meant. We may begin to understand more of what was being taught, for instance if we take a step into the culture the story of the lost coin in Luke 15 would make more sense to us. We as modern readers think wow she lost a coin, but in their culture it was part of the engagement present and it would have been like the diamond of the engagement ring today. We don’t fully understand this until we step into their cultural setting.

  4. It is intriguing to me how the three components of reading for understanding (genre, authorial intention, and situation) are unique in their own entities. While, just as important is the unity they posses, enabling us to understand scripture as a whole. “To understand the Gospels, we must first ask, what are we reading?” (Strauss, 27). By being aware of all these differences, we will be able to extract the exact meaning behind what is being read. Sean (Sdaday), you mentioned that the gospels are unique in the fact that they all have individual authors. They may have individual authors in relation to man, but I think it is important to remember that the whole Bible is inspired by the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). By keeping this in mind, the authorial intent of the Bible may be more clear while reading it.
    I think many of us can mistake the text and it’s meaning by the situation we are in and what was culturally acceptable and relevant at the time of it being written. For example, I think many of us don’t fully understand the sacrifice of a lamb, and how Jesus became the sacrifice for us. In the Old Testament there are many references to lamb sacrificing (Genesis 8:20, Exodus 12:5; 49:51, etc.). Because we do not live in a place or time that regularly practices animal sacrifice it may be hard to understand what it means to have Jesus as our sacrifice, the blameless Lamb. We need to become aware of the context and situation of the passage so that it is not interpreted wrong.

  5. I think it is definitely important to realize the “background” of a passage when reading it. In some cases, it is even more important to do this when talking about the Bible. We all know that there are many different views on many passages of Scripture, both within Christian circles and beyond. For us Christians, I think it’s most important to understand the background of a passage, especially the author’s intent. Doing this will help to clear up the meaning and context of it. For example, sticking with the Gospels, we should understand that one of the authors may have recorded Jesus telling a parable that didn’t necessarily actually happen. The point of the parable is to send a message. Most Christians believe that many events in the Bible have really happened, but some are meant to send a message rather than explain an actual event. Understanding the different genres of the Bible will help with this, too.
    It is also important to realize that we’re not the only ones reading the Bible, but I think that the most important thing is to not be distracted from the message of the passage. What is God trying to tell us? That should be our #1 focus.

  6. This explanation of the importance of understanding the genre of text as we read it is going to be very important to how I begin to read scripture in the future. I will now stress the importance of not coming to the text with my cultural bias or preference of what I want scripture to show me. Instead of reading the Gospels like they are meant for me and my exact circumstances (which they clearly are not) I will try to focus on how the current and intended audience would be receiving the letter. For example, the idea of someone living with leprosy near us today would not be easily understood, so reading about the implications of Jesus touching a leper and healing him may not mean so much. Understanding that leprosy is not a made-up disease, and 2020 years ago many people had leprosy and were isolated from community is vastly important since Jesus instead of fleeing from these people, reached out touched them, and healed them. (Matt. 8:1-4).
    I appreciate (miller2016)’s explanation of how we add our own cultural twist on Scripture when we read today. Using the example of the Lost Coin in Luke 15 is a great example to show how values and morals change over time and the emphasis understood in that passage is much weaker today then the original audience.

  7. All of these things mentioned are key things to take into consideration when reading the gospels. Just like any other text in the bible or even outside of scripture like mentioned needs these things to be considered. When we do to things like, genre and authorial intent into consideration it will help us to understand what it is the author wanted his readers to get from reading. When we understand what the author intended through the type of literature he/she is writing we will be able to more fully understand what it is from the writing we can glean from the text and therefore in the instance of scripture, know what to apply to our lives. But this involves us as readers to take our situation into consideration. There will be some things that we as 21st century readers will apply differently or different things that resonate with us compared to readers in the 1st century and everyone in between. This does not make us wrong or them wrong as long as we are keeping a normal hermeneutic while studying the gospels. The best way to do that is to constantly be thinking about the authors intent as well as take into consideration the genre and time and place the author has written from.

  8. My job has been centered in the “book world” for many years. Currently, one of the first things I do at the beginning of each school year is teach kids about the many genres in literature. Watching the recognition on their faces when they realize a book is considered a mystery or fantasy based on the content is exciting. However, I have never considered looking at the Gospels with this same literary lens. Your point about the need to be very careful in understanding the genre of the Gospels made me sit back and really reconsider how I am reading the Bible. In the past have I ever read a book or chapter in the Bible as a piece of narrative literature with a plot, setting, and characters? Have I examined what the author’s intent, or voice, was in the same way I would analyze that of a beloved author?
    I appreciated how Strauss gave the example of each author’s distinct voice and unique perspective at the beginning of their writings. Showing the distinctions between how Matthew “shows immediate interest in Jesus’ Jewish ancestry” or Luke’s interest is “in producing an historical account” (Strauss p.36) brings a new awareness as a reader to understand what the author is trying to teach and convey. For example, I tend to skim over genealogy lists when reading the Bible. However now as I read the first chapter of Matthew, I have a new awareness of exactly why he has put this in his writing. I have been trying to be intentional in my personal reading life to read works written by authors who’s “own voice” is reflective of their writing. I think that if I can be intentional in examining these aspects while reading the Gospels as well, I may be able to avoid letting any unknown preconceptions or feelings interfere with my understanding of God’s word. Again, something I have never truly considered. I am excited to apply this concept of reading the Bible with the same type of literary lens I use in my everyday reading!

  9. As I read scripture, and really any other text, it is always understood from my own personal worldview. As I make connections with the text, it is because I have brought my personal experiences with me. One could also say that these experiences and worldviews lead to interpreting the words of scripture with a bias which would not allow the reader to see the deeper cultural context or intention of the author. When I think of this problem the first passage that always comes to mind is 1 Corinthians 11. It is a packed passage, especially 1-15, as it talks about head coverings. It is very easy to write off that passage as a problem of culture, not a recurring command that we still need to follow today. That poses a problem though as many of the other things within that passage we still follow today. If we are to disregard head coverings, are we then to disregard that men are the head of the household? I come to that passage with a cultural bias already in my head, evaluating the text through my lens, instead of the lens the author intended. That is a really tough example but knowing the intent behind what the author was trying to say would make understanding that passage a little easier. Knowing that I already have biases coming into reading of a passage, helps in evaluating the passage through clear eyes.

  10. This post is particularly encouraging to me as I am a reader with a narrow worldview. By this I mean that because I was so uncultured while I was younger, I understood and agreed only to what my parents taught me. For example, my parents explained to me that magic and sorcery was not real, nonexistent in the real world, and that this supernatural idea was beneath biblical truths. Because this idea was so instilled into my worldview, I thought it best to read what was written on the page and not to read between the lines. To apply this narrow worldview into my reading of Scripture, I often left little to the imagination or to critical thinking. With that being said, I have truly appreciated learning and better understanding the various illustrations of even just the gospel authors, as it aids in the growth of my deeper understanding of Scripture. For the longest time, I read the 4 gospel books as narratives, while in fact there is even a criticism required for really understanding the intended Word of God. My approach to the gospels, and any other piece of literature, is deeper than before. Strauss mentions in his text that, “Narrative criticism is interested…in the literary nature of the text itself, how it functions to produce the desired effect on the reader” (pg. 68). This statement is very encouraging to me, as I continue to understand that there is so much that Christians are not understanding about the gospels. I believe that this “desired effect” comes from the ultimate Author, and that this effect is intended to enlighten non-believers to come to the faith.

    Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: a Survey of Jesus and the Gospels. Zondervan, 2007.

  11. The awareness of genre, authorial intent and the reader’s situation change the way we approach not only the Gospels, but the Bible in its entirety. When we read the Bible, I think it is important to know the background of the passage, to know the background of the author that is writing the passage, for that information will change the way someone reads it.
    I think one of the most common texts that I–and many others–have read considerably different is Matthew 5:38. It is one of the most common texts taken out of context. I have come across individuals that thought that Jesus was giving Christians permission to do unto others what was done to them. Once you know the context, know the authorial intent and the situation, it is clear that Jesus was not telling Christians to seek revenge and do what is done to them.
    It is common for texts to be taken out of context and it is common for Christians to disagree among passages because of the personal differences while reading the Bible. Some people take the entire Bible literally (again, Matthew 5:38) while some pick and choose how they interpret a passage or a verse based on how they want to leave their life.
    Some Christians believe that women can be leaders of the church and that God does not prohibit that while others believe that God only intended men to be leaders of the church.
    In addition, Strauss talks about in his text of the distinctive languages of each of the author’s. He gives examples of how each writer writes in a different and unique language and how it can be seen through their writings what is important to them. So, as Strauss points out their differences in writings, he is showing how important it is to know the author you’re reading–to be aware.
    So, I think (as you said) that it is important to be mindful of the genre, the authorial intent as well as being mindful of the personal approach we may have while reading the Bible and once we are aware of those, we are better able to understand the passage we are reading in the way that God intended us to read it.

    • Rebekah,
      I really appreciate how you considered the importance of understanding the background of a verse and its context before we apply it to our lives. I think that what you said about interpreting the Bible literally or figuratively is very relevant to today. Especially when reading Revelation I see many people argue over whether or not the events that take place are literal or metaphors. It is so important to understand why we are interpreting literature a certain way, but especially Scripture. Understanding our own backgrounds and preconceptions can help us be aware of our possible fallacies. But, more importantly I believe that what you said about understanding the background of Scripture through context is what will allow us to understand truth.

  12. I find this article really insightful. It made me think more on the reading in chapter one of Strauss, I was intrigued by the impact of our interpretation because of genre and our preconceived notions and expectations of a piece of literature. I had always just assumed that the gospels were telling the same story from different points of view, but I had never stopped to consider how each book in the gospels has a different genre and therefore a different portrayal of who Jesus is. For example Stress talked about how Matthew which was the most organized and “structured” of the gospels talks about Jesus as the Messiah which the Jews were so expectantly waiting for (Strauss, pg.25, 2007). Mark considers Jesus from a more somber standpoint and reflects him as the “suffering Son of God” while also taking a more dramatic tone than the other gospels (Strauss, pg. 25. 2007). Luke focuses on how Jesus is the Savior of the world and is the most “thematic” as recurring themes pop up in the gospel of Luke (Strauss, pg. 25, 2007). Finally, John shows Jesus as a reflection of the God the Father to the world. John begins differently than the other three gospels by making a very theological statement saying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and later talking about how the “Word became flesh” who is Jesus (ESV). This shows how the book of John is the “most theological” in nature as it considers how Jesus represents God to mankind (Strauss, pg. 25, 2007). By not understanding these different genres and portrayals of Jesus I was actually missing out on some really wonderful and amazing details of who Jesus was and his reason for coming down to earth.
    Sources
    Strauss, M. L. (2007). Four portraits, one Jesus: A survey of Jesus and the Gospels. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
    ESV study Bible: English Standard Version. (2011). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

  13. Being aware of genre completely changes the way that we read the Gospels because if we were unaware of what genre the Gospels are, we would not be able to truly understand the purpose and meaning. For example, knowing that the book of Matthew is a historical narrative allows us to understand that what we are reading is specifically telling us a story/tale that actually happened in the past- rather than meaningless words or a hypothetical story. It is also important to be aware of the author’s intent because that is how we understand the intended messages/points that the author is trying to make. Without understanding the author’s intent, it is easier for the reader to just have their own interpretation of the text- which can cause confusion and misinterpretation. It is the responsibility of the reader to try to understand the text the way the author intended, but it is also the responsibility of the author to make sure their intentions of their writings are as clear and concise as possible for the audience. The situation of the reader also is important when reading the Gospels because it can affect the way the reader perceives the text. For example, in our situation we are in a different cultural context then when the Gospels were written. It can be hard for readers to understand certain things that we cannot relate to today in our culture, and there are old traditions/events that might seem abnormal to us now because of how much has changed over the years. When reading texts that are vague and not exact, it is easy for people to have different interpretations. This does not necessarily mean that a person is wrong though. Some texts such as poems are meant open to different interpretations, while some texts have intended messages.

  14. Our awareness of genre, authorial intent and the reader’s situation changes the way we approach the Gospels because of the writers. The Bible is very clearly written by many different authors. This was done very intentionally. If we were to look at the Bible as if it was written by the same person at the same time it changes things up drastically. How do they know all this information? Are they entirely accurate? So many questions arise if you do not know where and when these books were written. The intent also matters because we need to look into what the author was trying to get across to us. If they were trying to deep dive into a theological issue and we are using it for historical context, we are looking at it so wrong. We need to know if the writer was writing for a historical account before we read the book looking for a historical account. The situation of the author also matters because it could change our perspective. Paul is known to have written books of the Bible while he was locked up in prison. This changes the way we look at these books drastically. If he was lecturing people who did not necessarily have a lot while living in a giant mansion, it would come off as hypocritical and many would not want to listen. Instead, we know that he was in jail so he is not speaking down on people as if he is living such a lavish lifestyle. A verse that I always hear being referred to with less context is 1 Timothy 2:12. This verse is about women in ministry. I hear this often from a friend of mine who likes to have Biblical debates with me. He believes that women should not be in ministry at all because of this verse. I then always ask him about all the women that Paul put in charge of a Church. Context in this verse is key because Paul was not necessarily telling us that women should not be in any ministry today.

  15. Being aware of the Gospel’s genre, authorial intent, and the reader’s situation changes the way we should approach them because they were all written differently. All four Gospels portray Jesus differently. Matthew portrays Jesus as the Messiah, Mark as the suffering Son of God, Luke as the Savior for all people, and John as the eternal Son who reveals the Father (Strauss, 30). If you understand how each author intended on portraying Jesus than you will understand how they portray him through the events each other included into their book. Being aware that the genre of the Gospels is described under history, narrative and theology will help us better understand them. We can view the Gospels through these lenses and gain a better understanding of the location, the era, and Jesus’ impact on others. I have come across people who read the text as a non-fiction book. Because they did not believe that the Bible came from God, they viewed it as a story. Therefore, instead of reading the Gospels and feeling a sense of hope that Jesus Christ died for our sins, they viewed it as a story. Therefore, they did not understand the authors intent for the books. This is how our personal context can disrupt how the Bible was supposed to be interpretated.

    Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels, Zondervan Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, 2020.

  16. Awareness, especially of context, changes how we view several aspects of life. It changes how we read, how we communicate, how we evaluate, and how we interact with words, people, and things. This article specifically relates to how it affects our reading and interpretation of Scripture, which is essential to our faith and understanding. When we read the Bible, we need to recognize that it is truth. The Bible is infallible. This includes the gospels, which we are focusing on. They were written for a specific purpose and audience at their time; however, they provide endless benefits for us today. The gospels paint a picture of who Jesus was on earth and who he continues to be for us even as he is in heaven (Strauss, 2020). If we want to learn and understand as much as possible of what God wishes to share with us in these writings, we must be willing to study the background and context of these writings. I would not necessarily say that someone using their personal context to interpret Scripture is “wrong”. I think that God can use our circumstances and things from our lives to teach us truths. That being said, it is also important to be discerning when listening to Scripture interpreted by others as well as discernment in Bible reading by oneself. I think there are truths communicated to us in Scripture at different seasons of our lives, but that may not be the intended purpose/meaning of the passage. It is somewhat tricky, as we do not want to proclaim or teach heresy. Discernment is the key to determining whether different interpretations of a passage are “wrong”, where the context is key to determining the truth of the Scripture. The Holy Spirit ultimately will bless our efforts and time spent in the Word. Without the Spirit, without the correct heart posture, efforts are in vain. Ephesians 4:18 says “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Those who do not open their hearts to the Spirit will not be blessed with the truths from the Word, their hearts are hard.

    Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels. Zondervan Academic, 2020.

  17. Having an awareness of genre, writers intent, and readers situation will entirely change the way that we should be understanding and reading the Gospels. Having the correct awareness of all of these aspects impacts the way you read not only the Gospels but the entire Word. Without really going into depth and understanding what the writer is intending will change the meaning of the text and could teach others the entirely wrong way to believe. That is why it is important to fully understand the context of the scriptures as a believer more importantly as a pastor or church leader. As a leader you cannot go on teaching false doctrines and contexts of scripture because it will only continue to confuse the people on what is truly written in scriptures. We as humans are already straying further and further daily, the last thing we need is to not understand what scriptures say on top of blatantly not following them.
    I have never met someone who in my own opinion reads the Gospels entirely different than they are intended to be and them be correct about what the Gospels are really saying. I have only ever heard extreme stretches of scripture. An example of this would be Matthew 6:33 which states, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This is taken out of context because people often get focused on the “all these things will be given to you as well” and take it as we as believers if we follow Christ will and should be entitled to all of these blessings immediately. This was more so written as a warning and teaching backing up Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This is referring back to the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is instructing the people on how to act. It is often forgotten the true context of this passage and translated to fit a cultural or personal want and belief of entitled blessings.

  18. I really like how in this blog post you explain how if you confuse the genre of texts that things can get very confusing. I love Harry Potter so that being a reference in your blog already made me interested in what was being said. The way you explained how mixing genres can be confusing makes a lot of sense while thinking about the Gospels. If you want to understand a text fully you need to understand the genre. The last blogpost I read of yours mentions how Blomberg states that the gospels are theological biographies meaning they are historical, biographical and theological. If you were to confuse the genre of the Gospels and just think they are biographical then you would miss out on the theological and historical aspects of the Gospels. I think it’s really important to try and read and understand the Bible as clearly and precisely as we can. It’s important to ask questions or do some research if you don’t understand something in the reading rather than just trying to perceive the text in your own way. With that being said in your blog you mentioned that writers, especially historical writers don’t just string words together and hope you come up with your own meaning, they are often trying to give you valuable information. When it comes to reading the Bible this is something that we need to remember that the words in the Bible are from God and each word and book are there for a reason, which is to teach us and for us to understand the word of God not come up with our own meaning of the texts.

  19. When reading your blog you started off with mentioning how we as readers pretty much read something and pick it apart. That is naturally what our brains do. When reading the Gospels personally, I have to stop and think about the words being said and interpret them in a way that makes sense to me but also how it relates to the history. Using Harry Potter as an example proves why it is so important to pick apart a text but also understand the genre that it falls under. In my children’s literature class we talked about genres of books. Our professor would ask us what genres we thought books should fall under before telling us. We learned that books can be placed under more than one genre. Strauss mentioned in chapter one that the Gospels fall under three different genres, but the main being that historical theological piece. It is also stated in chapter one that we as readers will not get anywhere without knowing the genre. And like you stated in your post we also need to know the intent of the authors. Being able to read and pick a part of these books allows us to have a clear understanding of the events that took place. For myself as a reader reading the Gospels I feel more connected and in tune with not only the passage but what Jesus is facing because I am taking the time to break down the text and understand it.

  20. I took a class that focused on how to take a look at current issues within a biblical perspective, and this article heavily reminds me of what I learned in class. The way that the author intends for us to read the material is essential in order to truly understand the work. It is also important, however, to consider how the reader takes the material. One’s culture, experiences, and very being can determine and change how they read something. Not only that, but it is important to look into the genre of the material. This can alter the author’s intent, as well as how the reader takes the book. As mentioned, one is going to read a fantasy book differently than they read a romantic, adventure, sci- fi, and other type of novel.
    Taking a look back into the current issues and biblical perspective – it is almost the norm today to take a Bible verse off of google and apply it to your situation in order to justify or connect with the Bible. An example of this that was brought up in my class is taking a verse that was intended for military tactics within Israel and using it for how you should retaliate to others. As said, you could research “15 Bible verses for xyz” and get verses that could apply to your situation – but were written to be taken a completely different way. Context matters! The verses and passages were written with purpose and intention, and while we can all connect to it in a number of ways, it’s important to take a deeper look for even deeper understanding.
    That being said, it is also important to note that the Bible looks and means something different to everyone – just as there are many different ways one can worship, relating and connecting to Christ can look different for everyone. It does not make them wrong. It is important; however, to remember the difference between authorial intent and reader’s interpretation.

  21. Interestingly, Scripture has several different genres. I find this important because even though Scripture has different genres they all have one message. Ranging from historical books to poetry to prophetical books. By being aware of the genre of the book we are reading we will be able to better understand the text and what the reader is trying to tell us. For example, if I am reading Joshua to Esther those books are considered historical. In those books, we learn about Israel’s history which includes the culture, tribes, and customs. By knowing the genre beforehand we can go in expecting to learn about that genre. Strauss stated, “The first question readers must ask when approaching any literature is, ‘What am I reading?’” Even though at the end of reading a text we might still come up with a different understanding and perspective as a different person. In my opinion, this doesn’t mean one is right and the other wrong. I can learn from others and hear their different perspective than what I might have taken away. Just like in the four Gospels, each author is sharing the same story from their perspective.

    Strauss, M. L. (2020). Four portraits, one jesus: A survey of jesus and the gospels. Zondervan Academic.

  22. This is a very important and eye-opening blog post that I find very interesting and applicable to modern life as we know it; because in the sensitive, entitled, social media lifestyle that we live in today people can be whatever they want… thus, people interpret things the way they want. However, some things need to be 100% understood before interpreting; in this case the Synoptic Gospels and the overarching themes of Jesus’ biography need to be understood in order for the reader to interpret it correctly. P.Long mentions two very pivotal points that give importance to the genre of the Gospels that need to be broken down carefully. Understanding the intent of the author is a very important characteristic we need to pay attention to for P.Long states; “When we read the Gospels, we need to be very careful to hear the voice of the author and correctly read the gospel as it was intended” (P.Long). I agree with P.Long with this point because if we do not give credit to what the author has on his or her mind we will be lost throughout the whole read. The other thing that I think has the utmost importance would be what situation the reader is in. I think this is most important when reading the Bible alone because everyone will interpret things completely differently depending on phase of life, belief, worldview or even age. Which leads me to how preconceptions play a vital role in how things are interpreted, especially in the Bible. For example, imagine if a satanist were to read and interpret the bible; how would they analyze the Gospels. Moreover, if we look at the Christians of today’s age and look at earlier Christians, the worldviews will not exactly match.

  23. Being aware of the Gospel’s genre, authorial intent, and the situation at hand, SHOULD change how we approach and read each one. Think about it, if you are reading a picture book about a princess to a kid would you care if they make up their own story or ending? No! In fact, in most places, it is encouraged! However, if you change anything about the gospels’, the meaning becomes skewed and you risk coming to false conclusions, which in turn could draw you away from the Faith.

    This is of utmost importance when it comes to reading the gospels because each one is written differently! Matthew presents Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, Mark as the suffering Son of God, Luke as the Savior for all people, and John as the eternal Son who reveals the Father (Strauss, 30). They are all about the good news of salvation that Jesus’ gives us, but portrayed in four different “portraits”. Furthermore; Matthew, Mark, and Luke are known as the synoptic gospels. Meaning they view the life and ministry of Jesus from a similar outline and material. Whereas John writes from a different perspective, including unique material, and a different style of writing. Also, were these written in a post-COVID world? Did not think so. Far before! In a time when the church; while those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, were in captivity by the Romans and killed for their beliefs. All of this should be taken into account when reading the gospels, so that you may draw from them as accurately as you can.

  24. This blog post was really great to see and does a whole lot for me in terms of being able to relate not just to the bible, but also in our lives. In terms of the bible, it is so important to know things about the author of whatever scripture that you are reading, whether that be things about their writing style or about their life. Knowing this along with other things can help us to get a lot more out of what we are reading in the bible, as well as help us to get the right things and the things that God is intending for us to get out of his word. As mentioned, the Gospels are a great example of this, as even though they are telling very similar stories, each author wrote them differently and it is good to know how and why they wrote certain things to understand the true meaning better.

    In terms of how this message can relate to our lives, one huge way is in our daily communication with the people around us. Knowing certain things about someone that you are speaking to can be so helpful. It can help prevent you from saying the wrong thing and accidentally offending someone and can also help you say the right thing to someone or something that they really needed to hear. Our awareness can also help us in life situations, just knowing more about things can help us get the right message from certain things that we may face in day-to-day life.

  25. The mindset we have can change the way we interpret the Bible. It is important to come at the Bible with a open mindset. The Bible is a deep theological piece of Literature. We cannot compare it to a thriller or romance novel because it’s sole purpose is completely different. When reading the Bible we must recognize that each author of the Bible wrote with the inspiration of God. We must be careful to not bring preconceived opinions or thoughts. Strauss talked in the first chapter that the four gospels are similar in overall picture but they are different in tone, order and style. We must compare them but also read and seek what lessons each book is trying to say.

  26. When one understands the genre of the gospels they are able to understand what the author intended to be understood from the text opposed to what they themselves may view is being expressed. I can remember last year I was preaching a sermon at the church I attend at school, I consulted several other individuals more knowledgeable than myself on the Bible upon reading the text and found I had inserted material based on my own thoughts that was never actually in the text. I had to start my sermon process back to the basics but in doing so I was able to be more aware of the cultural historical background of the text, as well as the authors indeed meaning for his original audience. Resulting in an effective sermon after learning more about the information surrounding the text that I was preaching from. Genre is one of the ways in which one is able to dive deeper into knowing the surrounding reasonings that may have brought the author to write in style that they did. For example a lot of the Bible is categorized by the main ideas and subjects expressed within the text. The book of Proverbs for example is considered to be wisdom literature, containing a lot of non- literal mainly metaphorical sayings that give insight into how one ought to live. Whereas the book Deuteronomy is a book mainly having to do with specific laws God gives to Israel that they are to follow. One might out of just glancing at the two books might say both are instructions on how one ought to follow God in the Old Testament. This is true, but one is written with a poetic metaphorical way of demonstrating living in wisdom following God, whereas the other is mainly clearly established laws created by God that were to be kept by the people of Israel. If one were to begin to read either of these books they would likely be unable to understand what the author is trying to express and possibly add ideas that are not in the Biblical text. Long points out how “When we read the Gospels we need to be very careful to hear the voice of the author and correctly read the gospel as it was intended.” if one does not know the genre of the scripture of the reading then they will not be able to understand why the author chooses to write in the way in which they do. Strauss (2020) describes how each of the Gospels have unique characteristics which the authors write to show in different ways the good news of Jesus Christ and salvation through faith in Him. Therefore, without knowing the genre one is able to slip into their own preconceived ideas and interpretation of scripture that is not based on a proper understanding of the reasoning why the author wrote the text and its historical cultural implications that are unique to the writer and audience of their time.

Leave a Reply