This article considers the roles of women in which the New Testament bears witness. In Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married raised the ire of churches. The more interesting question is: why does it matter to so many people that they were or might have been? To attend exclusively to the question of Jesus' marriage is to evade the general charge laid by the novel's characters at the Church's door: that the Church has consistently marginalized and belittled women. Was Jesus (ever) married? There is no unambiguous evidence, either way, to enable us to decide, and not much ambiguous evidence either; the debate can be refined and subtle and, forever unresolved, can leave disputants as confident as ever of the view they have always maintained or presumed. Far more unsettling is the impassioned argument over the Church's treatment of women; and it may become clear in retrospect that Christian responses to the novel have shone the spotlight so brightly and narrowly on Jesus' supposed marriage that the charge of systemic misogyny has been (conveniently) forgotten in the surrounding darkness.
Richard A. Burridge
The basic question of what the gospels actually are from a literary point of view should have been one of the first things biblical scholars sorted out and agreed about. However, the history of the last century or more of critical study is one in which the pendulum has swung back and forth – from a biographical approach to the gospels to considering them to be unique, and then back to biography again. In order to answer the question of the genre of the gospels properly, it is necessary to understand two key areas: the critical theory of genre and the kinds of literature contemporary with the gospels within the Graeco-Roman and Jewish worlds around the first century. This article first looks at genre theory and then sketches a brief historical overview of scholarly approaches to the gospels. This leads to the recently developing consensus that the gospels are a form of ancient biography and some current issues of debate and future directions of research.
Paul S. Fiddes
The story of the passion of Jesus Christ, in its earliest forms, was already shaped by interpretation. This was the story of a man – who had announced the coming of the Kingdom of God and who had presumed to offer forgiveness, healing, and an acceptance of social outcasts on behalf of the God whom he called Father – which ended in agonizing execution and an experience of forsakenness by friends, fellow countrymen, and his God. The four Evangelists try to grapple with the mystery of ‘atonement’, the belief that through this death a union has been achieved between the Creator and a rebellious creation. When the story of the passion is told in English poetry and prose, one can identify versions of the great models and metaphors of atonement that were developed in Christian theology.
This article examines the impact of Graeco-Roman world studies on biblical scholarship. Classical language, rhetoric, philosophy, and culture have had a continuing impact on study of the Bible since antiquity. The rise of formal biblical scholarship during the Renaissance set the study of the Bible firmly and naturally within the humanist and intellectual context of the study of the Graeco-Roman world. The development of critical biblical studies in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries triggered another major leap in the importance of classical study upon biblical studies, for virtually all scholars of theology and biblical studies then had deep classical roots. Greek and Roman languages, literatures, and histories directly and indirectly informed the study of the Bible.