Pacific InterChristian Community

7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Thursdays, April 12 to May 17, 2012

The gospels as literature

About a generation after Jesus was crucified and after the Jerusalem temple was razed by the Romans, writers in different places began to write down what they knew and believed about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. While Jesus is the central character in each of the gospel narratives, the writers see him from different perspectives and portray him in divergent ways for their communities.

In this program, we will read each gospel in its entirety, as separate works of literature, and consider Jesus as the protagonist in each story from the standpoint of the authors, the communities for which the gospels were written and our own experiences of the stories in our own time. References will be made to other gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Secret Gospel of Mark and the Protevangelium of James.

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April 12 Gospel as Literary Form

The gospel is a literary form with identifiable features and characteristics that distinguish it from historical narratives. We will consider the gospels as "crisis literature," examining the historical contexts that gave rise to them. We will also explore the “synoptic problem”: the relationship between the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and their known or hypothetical sources.

April 19 Mark

The Gospel of Mark is the earliest and shortest canonical gospel. We will read it as a concentrated, fast-paced story, intricately written, portraying the life of Jesus as a country peasant who suddenly became a healer and teacher.

April 26 Matthew

Matthew’s gospel revolves around a man who, from his birth, was destined to become a great leader, like Moses, to whom kings from afar would pay tribute. Great crowds gathered to hear him speak. Though Jesus had many followers, Matthew never forgets that he had significant enemies, too.

May 3 Luke (and Acts)

Luke is the gospel chronicler, intent on bringing his community detailed accounts of Jesus life and ministry. Jesus is portrayed as one of the poor whose lives had been profoundly affected by the Roman occupation of Palestine. After his death, his wisdom and compassion inspire a new religious movement.

May 10 John

The Fourth Gospel stands apart from the others as a glorious reflection on the significance of Jesus’ life. Apart from a few stories of remarkable detail and clarity, Jesus is depicted as an almost other-worldly being.wrongly victimized by religious authorities. John focuses on Jesus’ character and the meaning of his life and resurrection.

May 17 Jesus in, and Apart from, the Gospels

Wrap up, with discussion of the Gospel of Thomas and stories from other gospels.


After each week's meeting, Ann will post her notes for the presentation on our Blog. You're welcome to download them to review or to catch up if you miss a session.

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You are welcome to attend any or all sessions. Discussion will build on each gospel as the course progresses.

Cost: By donation.

Please register for “Reading the Gospels as Literature.” We will only use this information to contact you about the course, if necessary.



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Course leader

Ann Bemrose is an award-winning writer, editor and educator with over 18 years experience in curriculum development and adult religious education. She is a former member of the teaching staff at Trinity College, Toronto and was both an editor and the biblical resource writer for The Whole People of God and the Seasons of the Spirit curriculum resources for seven years.

Ann provides worship and education leadership for the Pacific InterChristian Community in Vancouver. She is currently working on a book about religions in online virtual worlds.

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