Archive for April 27th, 2012


I. Identifying New Testament Narrative and Gospels

a. Definitions

i.      Narratives is a literary form which gives historical details and it’s meaning found both in the Old and New Testament.

ii.      Gospels are a form of narrative found in the New Testament, which record the life and ministry of Jesus.

iii.      For the purpose of this outline, Gospels and New Testament narratives are considered together.

1. Principles for interpreting New Testament narratives are applicable to the Gospels.

2. Further principles for the Gospels will also be covered.

b. Where the genres can be found in the New Testament

i.      Gospels

1. Matthew

2. Mark

3. Luke

4. John

ii.      Non-Gospel Narrative

1. Acts

c. Elements[1]

i.      The essential elements include:

1. Scene

a. This is probably the most important element.

b. Scene involves sequence of event in the narrative.

2. Plot

This concerns the beginning, middle and ending of the development of the narrative.

3. Character

Who is involved in the narrative?

4. Setting

Where in space/time does this narrative takes place?

5. Point of view

ii.      Other elements:

1. Dialogues

2. Parables

3. Rhetorical devices[2]

II. General principles in interpretations

a. For New Testament Narratives and Gospel

i.      Consider how the text fits into the greater context of the section or book.

1. Each passage is part of a section that gives meaning to the greater whole.

2. The greater whole controls what each part means.

ii.      Considering the theology of the text

1. Make a distinction between descriptive and prescriptive passages.

2. Some of the accounts of events in narratives are not moral examples to emulate.

iii.      When possible, the proper interpretation of other portion of the Bible must be taken into account in interpreting particular narrative events.

1. Pay attention to antecedent theology.

a. What are prior revelation in the Bible that might shed some light on the historical narrative?

b. What theological theme previously revealed in the Old Testament is now being given fuller details in the passage under scrutiny?

2. Utilize the Epistles

Epistles can give fuller theological explanations of events recorded in the Gospel or Acts.

iv.      Asking theological questions of the text

1. What does this account tell us about God?

2. What does it tell us about the human condition?

3. What does it tell us of the world?

4. What does it tell us of the people of God and their relationship with Him?

5. What does it tell us of the individual believer’s life of faith?

v.      Watch the characters

1. Who are the main characters in the narrative?

Why are they important and what purpose do they serve in the text’s intention?

2. Who are the supporting characters in the narrative?

They are the foil for a reason, so why are they mentioned and how does this serve the text’s intention?

3. God is always in the narrative, even if He is not explicitly mentioned

This is why it is important to ask the theological questions of the text (see above).

vi.      Attention to the details of each scene

1. What has taken place previously in Biblical history at that location? Is there any significance of this?

2. What was the political and religious climate of the location?

vii.      Be conscious of the setting

There might be relevant background information that aid in interpretation.

viii.      Discern the point of view even within dialogues

1. Distinguish between dialogues and straight narrative.

2. Non-dialogues serve as the “Voice of God” about the event.

3. The words of Jesus or the prophets are authoritative!

4. The dialogue can portray the point of view of the speaker.

5. This is true unless the narrative makes it clear otherwise that the dialogue is a lie.

6. Point of view from human dialogue might not be truths from God.

ix.      Understand the plot

The plot is how each scene relates to each other!

b. For the Gospel

i.      Compare the parallel account in other Gospels

1. What are further facts given in the other Gospels about this event?

2. Why did the particular gospel made the editorial choice of what to include, and what not to include?

ii.      The teachings of Jesus must be read with care

1. What is He saying?

2. Why is He saying it?

3. How does this apply to me today?

iii.      The theological significance of Jesus miraculous works

1. It is important that these are not interpreted as prescriptive realities of the Christian life and ministry today per se.

2. It is important to understand the purpose of His miracle as testifying to the truth of Jesus as Messiah.

iv.      Implications of the Kingdom of God and the Covenants

1.      “One dare not think he or she can properly interpret the Gospels without a clear understanding of the kingdom of God in the ministry of Jesus.”[3]

2.      In light of Jewish eschatological anticipation of the Kingdom of God (or Kingdom of Heaven), how do we understand the events in Jesus ministry?

3.      What aspects of the various biblical covenants point towards Jesus have been fulfilled in His first advent, and what aspects of biblical covenants remain to be fulfilled?

a.      Fulfilled aspects of the Covenant testify to Jesus as Lord!

b. Aspects of the Covenant that remain to be fulfilled will have implications for eschatology.[4]

[1] Many of these elements are found in Old Testament narratives and historical narratives as we-ll.  Much is borrowed from the previous session on Old Testament narratives in this outline.

[2] See my basic hermeneutic course for the fundamentals of the historical grammatical approach, in which items such as idioms, hyperbole, etc must be taken into account.

[3] Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart., How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 131.

[4] This is a fascinating relationship between hermeneutics (principles in interpretation), genre (Gospels) the biblical covenants and systematic theology (specifically, eschatology)!


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