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The Gospels as Stories

A Narrative Approach to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

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Jeannine Brown, an expert on the Gospels and a popular writer and teacher, shows how a narrative approach illuminates each of the Gospels. This book offers a corrective to tendencies to read the Gospels piecemeal, one story at a time. Brown provides hands-on tools and perspectives to help students interpret the Gospels as whole stories.

The Gospels as Stories takes four key areas of narrative analysis and applies them to the four Gospels. The book is filled with numerous examples that show how narrative criticism brings the text to life, and it includes pedagogical helps, such as visual aids, sidebars, and further reading suggestions, making it an ideal supplementary textbook that will complement any standard introduction.


Part 1: Introduction
1. The Turn to Gospels as Stories: Narrative Criticism in Gospel Studies
Part 2: Plot and Plotting
2. The Selection, Sequence, and Shape of the Story
3. Narrative Plotting in the Gospel of Luke
Part 3: Character and Characterization
4. The People in the Story
5. Matthew's Characterization of the Disciples
Part 4: Intertextuality
6. The Stories behind the Story
7. Intertextuality in John: Passover Lamb and Creation's Renewal
Part 5: Narrative Theology
8. How a Story Theologizes
9. The God of Mark's Gospel
Part 6: Conclusion
10. The Ongoing Power of the Gospels as Stories
Recommended Resources


"The four Gospels of the New Testament have been read in a variety of ways but not always as they were meant to be--as unified stories about Jesus of Nazareth. This book will equip its readers with perspectives and strategies to approach the Gospels in a way that goes beyond mere atomistic reading. Including a wealth of concrete examples, Brown presents us with an excellent introduction to the narrative interpretation of the Gospels."

Kazuhiko Yamazaki-Ransom, academic dean, Covenant Seminary, Tokyo

"In college and graduate school I viewed historical-critical methodologies as useful to an extent, but uninspiring. Then, in a class taught by Jeannine Brown, I discovered narrative criticism. This rejuvenated me. Finally, I was allowed--no, expected--to focus on the text as we have it; I started to hear the text speak. Now I have the honor of helping my own students hear the text speak, and using narrative criticism forms them into better readers of the Gospels and Acts. As Brown argues in The Gospels as Stories, reducing the theology of the Gospels to propositions is not helpful, for the Gospels theologize powerfully when they are read as they are meant to be read: as stories."

Holly Beers, associate professor of religious studies, Westmont College

"In my three decades of teaching the Gospels I have found that the one thing certain to enlighten and excite students is a simple but profound appreciation for the Gospels as stories. In this book, Jeannine Brown shows us how to read the Gospels not merely as compilations of religious data and anecdotes but as narratives with captivating story lines, intriguing characters, and developing motifs. She demonstrates how each Gospel tells its story of Jesus with accomplished rhetoric and artistry that, despite overlapping content, set each Gospel apart from the other three. Anyone interested in the Gospels for their historical, theological, or literary merit will find this book enriching and useful."

Mark Allan Powell, professor of New Testament (emeritus), Trinity Lutheran Seminary

"The study of the Gospels as narratives has been one of the most fruitful areas of Gospel research over the past three decades. In this volume, Gospels expert Jeannine Brown draws from her wealth of experience to guide students skillfully through the ins and outs of narrative analysis. This is an ideal supplemental text for Gospels courses and a must-read for pastors preparing to preach through the Gospels."

Mark L. Strauss, Bethel Seminary; author of Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels

The Author

  1. Jeannine K. Brown

    Jeannine K. Brown

    Jeannine K. Brown (PhD, Luther Seminary) is the David Price Professor of Biblical and Theological Foundations at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is the author of Scripture as Communication, The Gospels as Stories, two...

    Continue reading about Jeannine K. Brown


"Impressively informative and expertly written, organized, and presented, The Gospels As Stories: A Narrative Approach to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is an extraordinary and welcome addition to church, seminary, community, college, and university library Biblical Studies collections in general, and New Testament Criticism and Interpretation supplemental curriculum studies lists in particular."

Midwest Book Review