Why βίοϛ? : on the relationship between gospel genre and implied audience
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This thesis addresses the gap in the scholarly record pertaining to the explicit relationship between gospel genre and implied audience. This thesis challenges the consensus that the canonical gospels were written to/for individual communities/churches and that these documents (gospels) address the specific historical/social circumstances of each community. It is argued in the thesis that the Evangelists chose the genre of biography because it was the genre that was best suited to present the words and deeds of Jesus to the largest possible audience. The central thesis is supported by four lines of evidence: two external and two internal (Chapters 3-6). Furthermore, the thesis is bolstered by a new typology for Greco-Roman biography that arranges the biographical examples within a relational matrix. Chapter 2 is integral to the main thesis of this dissertation in that it proposes nuanced language capable of being applied to specific kinds of biographies with the emphasis on the relationship to implied audience. Chapter 2 sets the boundaries of the discussion of genre as a vital factor in potentially determining audience as well as raising the important consideration that genres are representative of authorial choice and intent. Chapters 3 and 4 take up the discussion of the two lines of external evidence pertinent to placing the Gospels within the relational typology proposed in chapter 2. Chapter 3 supports the main argument of the thesis in that it demonstrates that the earliest Christian interpreters of the Gospels did not understand them to be sectarian documents written specifically to and/or for specific sectarian Christian communities. The second line of external evidence, taken up in chapter 4, deals with the wider context of Jesus literature in the second/third century. We argue that these texts, if any of them are indeed biographies, were part of the wider Christian practice of writing and disseminating literary presentations of Jesus and Jesus traditions. Chapters 5 and 6 address the lines of internal evidence and chapter 5 deals specifically with the difficulty in reconstructing the various gospel communities that might lie behind the gospel texts. It is argued that the genre of biography does not allow us to reconstruct these communities with any detail. Finally, chapter 6 is concerned with the ‘all nations’ motif present in all four of the canonical gospels. The ‘all nations’ and ‘sending’ motifs in the Gospels suggest an evangelistic tone for the Gospels and further suggest an ideal secondary audience beyond those who could be identified as Christian.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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