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Reading Guide

  1. What does it mean to speak about the oral traditions behind the Gospels?

  2. What important events happened between the time of Jesus’ death and the writing of the New Testament Gospels? In what contexts did people tell stories about what Jesus said and did? Who would be telling these stories? What might they emphasize in the stories as they told them?

  3. Does it seem possible to you that some of the stories about Jesus were modified as they were told and retold? Why would they have been? What kind of changes might have been made?

  4. Is there any evidence that the stories recorded in our Gospels are ones that had been changed in the process of retelling? How convincing is this evidence to you? What other kinds of evidence would you look for?

  5. Why do scholars question the traditional view that the four New Testament Gospels were written by persons named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

  6. Why is it important to recognize the genre of a text?

  7. What are the chief characteristics of Greco-Roman biography as a genre?

  8. In what ways are the Gospels like Greco-Roman biographies? Why would understanding the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies help us to interpret them?

  9. Taking into account the role of religion in the Greco-Roman world (see chapter 2), what missionary tactics do you think would be most effective for early Christians?

  10. How many people in the Roman Empire were literate? What does it mean to “read” a book in antiquity? How do scholars understand the relationship between oral culture and history?

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