Teaching the Gospels

I am teaching a class on the gospels. My first tendency is to think: the content of each book, it’s relationship to the Old Testament, and then a synthesis of all four seems best. It will keep things interesting as we focus on Jesus and we can compare intertexts with the rest of the New Testament. But, then people won’t learn all the stuff that is kinda important but really doesn’t help you read the gospels because it is so much conjecture: dating, who copied who, what sources lie behind the texts etc.

In seminary and Bible college classes you seem to focus so much on the non-important issues that you spend very little time in the text and what you do spend, you don’t spend it dealing with issues related to things like ancient culture and genre so that you can understand each narrative. It certainly isn’t spent studying how the gospel authors intended to move their hearers to live. It’s usually spent asking which gospel writer added or subtracted this or that detail. You can’t teach everything. But man, I want to go with my first tendency despite it not being what most classes I’ve taken or heard complained about by others recommend.

Dallas Willard once recommended that a pastor spend two years studying the four gospels with a church before moving onto other important things. I doubt he meant the synoptic problem or the best reconstruction of the gospel’s writing (which I do care about to the extend that I have a theory).

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