Formation of the Gospels – Apologetic Interests


Another factor that influenced the shaping of the gospel material can be identified as the apologetic interests of the primitive Church. The early Church had to defend its life and practices against attacks from the Jews. In such situations of conflict or crisis the disciples looked back into the life of Jesus and re-called his teaching, his conduct, and practices as norms for their own life. Certain apologetic interests of the early Church seem to have influenced the inclusion of episodes in which Jesus defended himself, his conduct, and practices or those of his disciples against his opponents’ criticism. We can think of the many conflict stories in the gospels, particularly the controversies regarding fasting, observance of the Sabbath, and Jesus’ association with sinners and outcasts. Similarly, certain authoritative, pithy sayings of Jesus, such as found in Mark 2: 10, 17; 10: 14; 12: 14, etc. may have been used by the early Church to defend its own doctrine and practice.

As to sum up we can say that the second stage of the formation of the gospels is the time of the incipient Church during which Jesus traditions were transmitted mainly by words of mouth in preachingteaching, liturgical celebrations, etc. The handing over of these traditions was connected with the life and practice of the primitive Church. Constant repetition in different contexts and life situations eventually led to certain fixed forms of expression for the events, words, and deeds of Jesus. Consequently, some of the material in the oral tradition came to be written sown as small collections. These include the account of the passion, death, and resurrection; some of the sayings of Jesus, collections of parables, and perhaps also of Jesus’ miracles. Except for the passion narrative, other units of traditions were not written down according to their chronological or geographical sequence.

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