At Bible and Interpretation, Justin Marc Smith has a post about the relationship of the Gospels’ genre to the their intended readership and proposes a new typology (contemporary open, contemporary focused, non-contemporary open, non-contemporary focused) based on whether the Gospels were written within the living memory of the subject and whether they had a particular or general audience in mind. I have a few initial thoughts. First, we may have to look at each Gospel individually, for Mark may be contemporary with and may have consulted some eyewitnesses (though I question the tradition that Mark was Peter’s interpreter) while Luke-Acts was potentially an early 2nd century work. Second, I agree that the Gospels should not be treated like epistles and I appreciate that Smith notes that there are biographies directed towards specific or broad audiences. However, outside of Luke’s address to the official Theophilus, the evangelists do not explicitly mention the audiences they envisioned and I would need to see Smith’s evidence about why they should be classified as “contemporary open.” Finally, I agree that reconstructions of “Gospel communities” are often built on sand, but I also disagree with Bauckham’s view of the early Christ movement as a unified international network and think that there are some clues in the Gospels about the implied reader. Mark’s implied reader seems to be a Christ-following insider on the margins (e.g., unexplained Christological titles and secrecy themes, the cryptic reference to flee at the sight of the desolator, allusions to persecution) or Matthew’s implied reader a Torah observant Jewish Christ-follower (e.g., scriptural proof-texts, distinct M traditions on the Law and Israel). It is possible that the evangelists did hope that their Gospels would persuade other Christ-followers to their points of views and the eventual success of these Gospels in reaching a wide readership often resulted in their distinctive theological emphases getting suppressed in the process. Anyways, the Bible and Interpretation article is a summary of Smith’s case in his monograph Why Bios? On the Relationship Between Gospel Genre and Implied Audience (LTS 518, London: T. & T. Clark, 2015).
There is a copy of The Gospel on the Margins: the Reception of Mark in the Second Century that is available on the Review of Biblical Literature. It would also be great to see if anyone wants to review it on other open access journals such as Marginalia or Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception. I always find book reviews to be a nice way to get a new book and to build up the CV a little bit. I also am trying to pass on the links of any bloggers who post a review, so, if I missed you, please let me know!
James Tabor, professor of Ancient Judaism & Early Christianity in the Department of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte, has written the following endorsement about my new book:
I want to highly recommend Michael J. Kok’s new book, The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2015). This is a substantial work, running 400 pages, and the retail price might seem a bit steep to some, but you can get it through Fortress for 40% off (less than Amazon paperback or Kindle). I am not sure how long this sale will last so act fast if you have a serious interest in Christian Origins and add this book to your library and reading list.
I thought that even the price on Amazon was reasonable given how high monographs can cost these days, but interested readers should definitely buy as long as there is a sale going on at Fortress Press (I also noted you can now read a few sample chapters for free on there). Thanks Dr. Tabor!