Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels for Preaching -- By: Craig L. Blomberg

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 12:1 (Fall 1994)
Article: Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels for Preaching
Author: Craig L. Blomberg

Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels for Preaching

Craig L. Blomberg

Associate Professor of New Testament
Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary
Denver, CO 80250

All true interpretation of [the Bible] must take the form of preaching,” claims J. I. Packer, while “all true preaching must take the form of biblical interpretation.”1 For Scripture postures itself as proclamation, and truly representing the intention of the inspired text requires legitimate hermeneutics. A recent major textbook on biblical interpretation comes to a similar conclusion: the final step in the interpretive process is homiletics, which is subdivided into contextualizing Scripture’s message and delivering a sermon.2

The Synoptic Gospels, no less than any other section of Scripture, thus require the full range of hermeneutical procedures applicable to all the biblical genres in order to interpret and preach them properly. The same selection of standard homiletical forms is available-expository, topical, textual, doctrinal, and narrative3 -as well as more recently developed designs for messages such as canonical, literary, and rhetorical preaching, or culture-specific styles such as Mrican-American sermons.4 Certain issues, however, emerge which do not apply to all parts of Scripture equally. These stem from the unique features of the genre of a gospel, from the fact that we have four overlapping accounts of the life of Christ, three of them quite similar yet still noticeably different from each other, and from the distinctive process of the formation of these three Synoptic narratives. Six issues clamor for our attention here.5

The Gospels as Narratives

Narrative Preaching

If one main purpose in preaching is not only to derive principles for contemporary living from biblical texts, but also to recreate the original effect which passages had on their first audiences, then narrative genres like gospels should often be preached by using narrative elements in sermons.6 Eugene Lowry

discusses four ways this can be done: “running the story” (with the whole sermon as a running narrative), “delaying the story” (where the narrative is introduced only after the preceding portion of the sermon prepares the way for it), “suspending the story” (when the narrative is interrupted in order to address an important question or give a flas...

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