(Re)Defining The Gospels: Mark As A Test Case, Part One -- By: Wayne Slusser

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 21:2 (Fall 2017)
Article: (Re)Defining The Gospels: Mark As A Test Case, Part One
Author: Wayne Slusser

(Re)Defining The Gospels:
Mark As A Test Case, Part One

Wayne Slusser

Abstract: The Gospel accounts are stories about Jesus Christ communicated through a common literary genre known as narrative. Although narrative is the literary medium used to categorize these accounts, the Gospels are more than narrative. They are a unique type of narrative; a sub-genre. They report biographical, historical, and theological information regarding a central character, Jesus Christ. This article proposes that the Gospels fit into a sub-genre of narrative; theological narrative biography. This proposed sub-genre category aims to account for the intention of the author, and the characteristics common within the Gospels. The intent of this article is to propose a sub-genre category that explicates the unique nature of the Gospel accounts.


How did the biblical authors communicate their information as it was revealed to them by God? As one reads the text, it is apparent as to what is said because we have the written text. But the concern of this paper is not what is said, rather how it is communicated to the reader. In other words, how does the author structure his story, letter, argument, sermon, etc., so that communication is possible?

Today’s reader has the difficult task of interpreting the biblical author’s communication that originated in another language, time period, and culture; was addressed to different recipients; and united two unique authors, the divine and the human. Given these characteristics of the text, part of the reader’s responsibility is to know how the author communicated to his original recipients. What basic framework was used? The

author’s style of writing typically represents the culture and history of his time period. In other words, the interpreter must know the genre that was used to communicate the text.

Genre is the basic framework in which communication occurs. Written communication or literature is not packaged in neutral containers but reflects the social and cultural conventions of the time in which the text is written. Literary genre therefore affects how writing is to be interpreted.2 Literary genre of all kinds is interpreted differently (e.g., epistles versus Gospels), for each possesses genuinely unique features.

Sub-genre, on the other hand, is a sub-category of the larger genre framework in which the text is to be understood. In other

words, a sub-genre facilitates a more distinct category that posses...

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