Encountering the New Testament, 4th Edition

A Historical and Theological Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


11. The Modern Study of the Gospels

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Outline some major approaches to the study of the New Testament
  • Identify major scholars who are associated with each approach
  • Define and contrast the methods of source, form, and redaction criticism
  • Discuss current methods of approaching the study of the Gospels
  • Formulate a Christian response to methods that are needlessly skeptical

Chapter Summary

  1. Prior to the seventeenth century, the Gospels were widely believed to be inspired by God and therefore true and binding for all people.

  2. New impetus to Synoptic study was given by Griesbach’s work on the Gospels, published in 1776.

  3. In form criticism, the material in the Gospels was broken down into isolated, independent units, called “pericopae,” for further study.

  4. Form critics held that the writers of the Gospels were not writers at all but compilers of tradition.

  5. The form critics focused on the community that kept the memory of Jesus alive.

  6. Redaction criticism focuses on the writers in their own right.

  7. There is currently no single method of Gospels interpretation on which all scholars agree.

  8. Newer methods of criticism include structuralism, which is part of literary criticism. It maintains that there is a structure within our minds that determines the direction of our thoughts, and that it is necessary to understand that deep structure in order to understand a story.

  9. Some newer methods of criticism are narrative criticism, reader-response theory, rhetorical criticism, and deconstructionism.

Study Questions

  1. What is the “Synoptic Problem,” and how did it arise?

  2. What is form criticism? What can be said for and against it?

  3. Why did redaction criticism arise, and what does it teach?

  4. Discuss some of the current trends in Gospel study.

  5. How should evangelicals relate to critical biblical studies?

  6. What is your opinion of modern biblical studies? Does it help or hinder understanding the New Testament?