Formation of the Gospels – Life-situation of Disciples


Not only for teaching and catechetical instruction, but also when confronted by different life situations and practical questions about Christian life (marriage, divorce, attitude towards others, discipleship, sufferings, relationship to the Jews, etc.), the disciples had to turn back to Jesus’ teachings, his actions, and attitudes; and find in them the norm of their life. The re-telling of the story of Jesus and his savings in these different situations and needs meant that his original words came to be reformulated, adapted, and at times changed in the oral tradition. The reformulation of the story of Jesus and of his teaching included also an interpretation of the concrete life-situations of the communities and their problems. This is one of the reasons why the evangelists differ even when they cite the same saying of Jesus, or why certain sayings of Jesus, or stories are not found in all the gospels. In other words, while being faithful to the message of Jesus, the early preachers and teachers had to adapt and re-cast the sayings of Jesus and reformulate certain miracle stories according to the needs and circumstances of their audience. All this is done during the period of oral tradition. We can say without hesitation that the life situations, the needs, and interests of the early Church had a definite influence on the formation of the Jesus tradition, on its content, growth, and development, and ultimately on the written gospels themselves.

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