Miracle Story Exorcisms Healings of Diseases Nature Miracles Hero
Story Sayings Materials Logia Parables Passion Narrative (Passio Jesu)
GUIDELINES FOR EXEGETING the Literary Forms
Consider relevant concerns for each subgroup in the larger genre categories.
The prologues of the gospels and in particular the prologue of Luke-Acts need
to be compared to the ancient prefaces. The following are items which are common
to the ancient prefaces and should be examined in the gospels: (1) the author's
predecessors and their inadequacies, (2) the subject matter of the work, (3)
the plan, arrangement or table of contents, (4) the stated purpose of the writing,
(5) the author's name, (6) the official addresse of the work.
For some helpful treatments of prologues see:
Alexander Loveday, "Luke's Preface in the Context of Greek Preface-Writing,"
Novum Testamentum 28, no 1 (1986): 48-74.
Charles H. Talbert. Reading Luke. New York: Crossroads, 1982.
Classify the prounouncement story.
The stories should be classified according to the relationship between the
stimulating occasion (the narrative) and the response (the pronouncement).
According to the Pronouncement Story Work Group of the Society of Biblical
Literature there are seven basic types of pronouncement stories: correction,
commendation, objection, quest, inquiry, description, and hybrids (i.e., more
than one class exists). It is best to categorize the story according to its
function and impact within the passage rather than imposing a sometimes foreign
If the story does not seem to fit neatly into an above-mentioned category
the interpreter should carefully observe the function and impact of the pronouncement
as seen in the relation between the stimulating occasion and the response.
This should provide a descriptive term(s) to categorize the pericope and to
use in exegesis.
View the pronouncement as an integral part of the
The pronouncement no doubt represents either the literary or the theological
climax of the passage and many times, both. It should not be ignored when
drawing final conclusions. For example, in the first pronouncement story in
Luke (2.41-52), Jesus' pronouncement in verse forty nine contains the revelation
of who Jesus is and how he is related to his heavenly father. This should
be view as the basic teaching of the passage as opposed to any type of model
Robert Tannehill, "Introduction: Pronouncement Story and Its Types," Semeia
20 (1981). Consult this same issue for an in-depth investigation of the pronouncement
Consult the following when determining the smaller genre in the Lukan infancy
Herman Hendrickx. The Infancy Narratives. London: Geoffrey Chapman,
Renè Laurentin. Les évangiles de l'enfance du Christ: Vérité de
Noël au-delà des mythes: Eéxègse et sémiotiquehistoricité et théologie.
Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1982.
Following the lead of modern study, there should be an attempt to find a single
primary purpose for the parable. However, the interpretation should not be limited
to that if more can be justified. Some basic questions should be answered in
the exegetical process:
In what larger context(s) is the parable set? Does the block diagram indicate a single key statement? Does the semantic analysis indicate a single key statement? Are there significant didactic statements on the
Look in particular for contrasts: e.g., wise and foolish, prepared and unprepared
Carefully examine the results of the form, literary and structural work;
in particular note the Sitz im Leben Jesu, Kirche und Verfasser. Are there
any OT quotations? How do they relate to the primary message of the parable?
Diligently attempt to strip away the inherited "obvious understandings" and
hear the parable like the very first listener. What was said that would have
been shocking to them? For example, does your structuralist analysis and/or
studies indicate any reversals?
In attempting to find any legitimate figurative or allegorical meaning, ask,
Would the original listeners have picked up such a meaning? Can, at this later
time, one be legitimately superimposed?
Adolf Jëlicher. Die Gleichnisreden Jesu Dormstadt: Wissenschaftliche
Joachim Jeremias. The Parables of Jesus. Trans. S. H. Hooke. Rev.
ed. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963.
For a more recent conservative approach see:
Lorin L. Cranford, Study Manual of the Parables of Jesus: English Text.
Fort Worth: Scripta Publishing Company, 1988.
Robert H. Stein. An Introduction to the Parables of Jesus. Philadelphia:
Westminister Press, 1981.
For the teaching of Jesus in the sayings material see the following sources:
John Dominic Crossan. In Fragments: The Aphorisms of Jesus. New York:
Harper & Row, 1983.
Norman Perrin. Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus. New York: Harper
& Row, 1967.
Robert H. Stein. The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings. Philadelphia:
Westminster Press, 1978.
Set the miracle story in the context of the miracle
stories in the Gospels.
(1) Analyze the miracle story with reference to the component motifs which
For details see Gerd Theißen, The Miracle Stories of the Early Christian
Tradition, trans. F. McDonaugh (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983),
(2) Determine the themes reflected by the specific components.
(3) Determine approximately when the miracle story took place in the ministry
of Jesus. Consult listing.
Analyze the narrative elements in the miracle story with reference
They can be portrayed in the role of responsibility, the role of reception
and the role of participation.
(a) The causes of miraculous events include performance, prayer, pronouncement
(b) The most common classes or miraculous events include exorcism, healing,
punishment and raising.
Miracle stories in the gospels are told in third person narration. This
means that the narrators are never characters in the miracle story. Some
miracle stories outside the gospels are told in first person.
In the gospel miracle stories, the explanation or interpretation is made
by the voice of one of the characters rather than by the narrator. The editorial
contribution of the evangelists may be seen in the introduction and the
conclusion of the miracle story, but the heart of the story is explained
with the voice of one of the characters. This section many times also contains
the heaviest concentration of traditional material.
In the gospel miracle stories, the perspective is usually external, that
is, the focus is on actions, occurrences and statements. There are some
indications of an internal perspective or focus on thoughts and emotions
when the reaction of the audience is presented in the conclusion.
Determine the importance of the position of the passion
narrative in the overall scheme of the gospel.
See Heinrich Zimmermann Neutestamentliche Methodenlehre: Darstellung
der historisch-kritischen Methode, 7th rev. ed. by K. Kliesch (Stuttgart:
Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1982), 135, for details.
(1) Compare multiple tradition (parallels) for similarities and differences
and form theological explanations.
A good discussion of this redactional type study is Keith Crim, ed., IDB,
Supplementary Volume (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976), s.v. "Passion Narrative,"
by J. R. Donahue. Also good on the growth of passion tradition and relations
between accounts is X. Leon-Dufour, "Passion (Rcits de la)," Dictionanaire
de la Bible, Supplment, 6 (1960): cols. 1419-92.
(2) Compare extra-biblical parallels to pericope content.
For example, Erich Klostermann, Das Lukasevangelium (Tëbingen:
J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1975), notes a parallel in Lysias 12.8f. where
a person who has been offered money to do a service agrees to do it. This
in comparison to Judas' betrayal in Luke 22.1-6.
Determine motifs existent for aid in exegesis.
See Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke X-XXIV, The
Anchor Bible (Garden City: Doubleday, 1981), 1362-65.
(1) New Testament motifs
The dominance of faith in the risen Christ
The accomplishment of God's will
The tendency to hint at a more-than-human condition of Jesus
The emergence of declarations of Jesus' innocence
The tendency to excuplate the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate and to incuplate
the Jewish leaders
The tendency to excuse the desertion of the disciples
(2) Old Testament motifs
Look for precursor to specific subform existent in OT; specifically
look at the point of LXX intersection of interpretative words.
(a) Forshadowing of the passion ordeal found in Zechariah 9-14. (See
F. F. Bruce, "The Book of Zechariah and the Passion Narrative," Bulletin
of the John Rylands Library 43 [1960-61]: 336-53.)
(b) Investigate all prophetic pericopae which portray messianic suffering.
The following guidelines apply to all Gospel texts as well as to the overtly
Apocalyptic genre texts such as the "Little Apocalypse" in the Synoptics.
Identify the Apocalyptic elements in the passage
"Manner of Revelation,"
"Content," ("Temporal Axis," "Spatial Axis," "Paraenesis by Revealer," "Concluding
"Function" by using the worksheet in Appendix I.
This should be used for comparative analysis once other works in the same
subgenre are identified. This final element "Function" is not included in
Collins' Master Paradigm but is borrowed from David Hellholm, "The Problem
of Apocalyptic Genre and the Apocalypse of John," in Society of Biblical
Literature 1982 Seminar Papers, ed. Kent Harold Richards (Chico, CA:
Scholars Press, 1982), 164.
Identify the subgenre to which the text belongs
by use worksheet in Appendix J.
From Apocalypse: The Morphology of a Genre identify
the subgenre to which the text belongs
by locating its proper listing in the individual studies (i.e., "The Jewish
Note especially the works which have several Apocalyptic elements in common
with the text (as identified from the worksheet in Appendix I).
Do primary source work on the text(s)
which seem to have the most in common with the biblical passage being exegeted.
For a listing of the texts in Acts linked to the
appropriate genre, click here.
The episodic narrative is a narrative genre in which events are related in a
somewhat condense format, so that events that occurred over an extended period
of time can be viewed as a whole in a relatively short literary section. Because
historical events tend to be summarized rather than spelled out in immense detail,
some authors refer to narratives of this type as "summary narratives," but this
term should be avoided since it is also used of narrative sections which summarize
historical events which have already been related.
The episodic narrative should be approached as a narrative genre; thus the
text, context, message and means of the passage should be identified as diagramed
The Narrative Paradigm
Experience & Imagination
Creation & Reading
Real Audience MEANS
CONTEXT MESSAGES Textual
It is particulary important to remember that time is compressed in this genre
and that events may be telescoped, perhaps giving a false impression of chronological
proximity on a cursory reading. It is also instructive to note the present of
literary "echoes" of earlier material, which have the rhetorical effect of bringing
earlier narratives to mind and of associating them with the present pericope.