The Gospels Are Universally Accepted As The Most Important Sources For Understanding The Life Of Jesus
Paul’s letters might be our earliest Christian writings, but the Gospels are universally accepted as the most important sources for understanding the life of Jesus. So, what is a ‘Gospels’?
For someone like Bishop John Shelby Spong the Gospels are not news about actual events but pious fiction with a spiritual message. ‘The concern of the gospel writers,’ he insists, ‘was not to record what happened in history, but to probe the experience that people had with Jesus.’10 Such a statement will resonate with post0modern literary critics, and perhaps with a few theologians, but it will puzzle the historian who studies the Gospels in their ancient context.
Spring seems unaware of the broad consensus of scholarship that the Gospels are a particular example of the Graeco-Roman genre of bios or biography.11 The bios was not a biography in the modern sense, in which authors explore their subjects in intimate detail from cradle to grave. It was instead a punchy, straightforward portrait of the deeds and words of great lives. All would agree that ancient biographers had an agenda in retelling the stories, but there is no question these stories were meant to be read as real episodes from the subject’s life.
The perspective is perfectly apparent in the opening paragraph of the Gospel of Luke. He emphasizes the importance of reliable information about his subject (Jesus): Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among…