“Early Readers of the Gospels”

Greg Goswell has the latest article in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, “Early Readers of the Gospels: The Kephalaia and Titloi of Codex Alexandrinus.” Goswell observes that “there is substantial variation among the codices [Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, and Sinaiticus] with regard to where [chapter] divisions are placed” (135) and argues that

A survey of the kephalaia in the four Gospels [of Alexandrinus] indicates that their placement is not haphazard but reflects an evaluation of the flow of the narratives and shows insight into the meaning of the story. Some breaks are close together, but others are widely separated. There are considerable differences in the length of the sections, reflecting a perception of the nature of the text by those responsible for the sectioning. Even a glance at the headings assigned to the kephalaia reveal the large element of commonality between the four Gospels (e.g. the headings of Mt. A6, Mk A4 and Lk. A12 that all read ‘Concerning the leper’), but they also bring to light, at times, what is distinctive about particular Gospels (e.g. the differing themes of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke). . . . The function of a textual break in separating or joining material has at times provided . . . exegetical insights. One clear trend within all four Gospels is the highlighting of the element of the miraculous in the ministry of Jesus and (the reverse side of this) the downplaying of his teaching. The headings usually focus on the fact of controversy between Jesus and the religious leaders rather than what issues were controverted. The lack of attention given to dominical passion predictions and the paucity of divisions within the passion narrative itself suggest that there is little focus upon the suffering and atoning death of Jesus. Instead the divisions in the passion narratives reflect a homiletical tradition (or liturgical usage) in which there is a moralistic focus on positive and negative ethical examples (172–74).

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