During class tonight, my professor dealt with the role of genre in biblical interpretation. While such topics are always intresting (at least to me), two discussions stuck out in particular.
One topic was over the genre of the gospels. My professor noted how there is much debate regarding how to classify the gospels. Much ink had been used, but in my professor’s view much of this was unnecessary. For him the obvious answer is that they are narratives. Nothing more, nothing less.
As i have reflected on this, it seems clear to me that he is right. The reason why evangelicals have such a problem with this is due not to the uniqueness in form, but rather with their understanding of inspiration.
For evangelicals the bible is without error, or inerrant. However, the problem is that frequently evangelicals have done an inadequate job in attending to genre and literary conventions in the ancient world. Instead evangelicals have simply allowed a modern view of historicity to infiltrate their exegetical practices and views of the bible. This has led evangelicals to miss the gospels for what they really are; particular stories of the life of Jesus Christ, arranged and told in such a way as to highlight certain aspects of Jesus’ life and mission and its consequences for the church. For evangelicals, the standard for inerrancy is the historical method of the enlightenment.
This doesn’t mean that the events recounted aren’t historical. However, we must remember that aside from the last two hundred years no one has had such stringent standards on what is and isn’t historical. Since the author’s intent isn’t merely to recount an unbiased, “objective” account of the gospels, it does violence to the text to subject them to such an approach. In all actuality, such a method is by and large vacuous. We can bypass desperate and strained attempts at harmonization if we allow the gospels to be what they were intended.