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Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite

Overview

In Scripting Jesus, famed scholar of early Christianity L. Michael White challenges us to read the gospels as they were originally intended—as performed stories of faith rather than factual histories. White demonstrates that each of the four gospel writers had a specific audience in mind and a specific theological agenda to push, and consequently wrote and rewrote their lives of Jesus accordingly—in effect, scripting Jesus to get a particular point across and to achieve the ...

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Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite

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Overview

In Scripting Jesus, famed scholar of early Christianity L. Michael White challenges us to read the gospels as they were originally intended—as performed stories of faith rather than factual histories. White demonstrates that each of the four gospel writers had a specific audience in mind and a specific theological agenda to push, and consequently wrote and rewrote their lives of Jesus accordingly—in effect, scripting Jesus to get a particular point across and to achieve the desired audience reaction.

The gospel stories have shaped the beliefs of almost two and a half billion Christians. But the gospel writers were not reporters—rather, they were dramatists, and the stories they told publicly about Jesus were edited and reedited for the greatest effect. Understanding how these first-century Christians wanted to present Jesus offers us a way to make sense of the sometimes conflicting stories in the gospels.

One gospel's version of events will be at odds with another. For instance, in Jesus's birth narrative, there is no mention of a stable in Matthew or Luke, but then there are no wise men in Luke and no shepherds in Matthew. Jesus has brothers in some gospel accounts, and sisters in others, and their naming is inconsistent. Depending on which gospel you are reading, the disciples shift from bumbling morons to heroes of faith. Miracles alter or disappear altogether, and whole scenes get moved around. Such changes from one gospel to the next reveal the shaping and reshaping of the basic story in the living world of the first followers of Jesus.

With his usual engaging style, White helps us read the gospels with fresh eyes, giving us a clearer idea of what the gospel stories meant to people in ancient times, and offering insight for how we can understand Jesus's story today.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061228797
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Pages: 516
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

L. Michael White is Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Christian Origins and is the director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of From Jesus to Christianity and was featured in two award-winning PBS Frontline documentaries, "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians" and "Apocalypse!," for which he also served as principal historical consultant and co-writer. He also directs ongoing archaeological excavations of one of the oldest Greco-Roman synagogues at Ostia, Italy.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Prologue: Scripting Jesus: The Storyteller's Art 1

Act I Casting Characters

Chapter 1 Acting the Part 19

Messiah

Chapter 2 Logos and Wisdom's Child 39

Chapter 3 Divine Man 51

Chapter 4 Savior 66

Act II Crafting Scenes

Chapter 5 Orality, Memory, and Performance 87

Chapter 6 Heralding the Crucifixion 106

Chapter 7 Marking the Passion 124

Chapter 8 Casting Spells 161

Chapter 9 Spinning Parables 188

Chapter 10 Potting the Nativity 226

Act III Staging Gospels

Chapter 11 The Misunderstood Messiah 259

The Gospel of Mark

Chapter 12 The Righteous Teacher of Torah 290

The Gospel of Matthew

Chapter 13 The Martyred Sage 318

The Gospel of Luke

Chapter 14 The Man from Heaven 345

The Gospels of John and Thomas

Chapter 15 Gospels and More Gospels 374

Epilogue: Tales of Fancy, Acts of Faith 405

Appendices

A The Geography of Jesus's World 423

B Solving the Synoptic Problem 428

C The Gospel of Peter 432

D A "Transcript" of Q 437

E Mapping the Narrative World of Luke 449

Notes 455

Ancient Writings Index 499

Subject Index 507

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