Gospel Characters

Jesus and His Contemporaries

by Benjamin Ogechi Agbara (Author)
©2022 Monographs 162 Pages


Gospel Characters: Jesus and His Contemporaries contributes to an understanding of Jesus in the New Testament that is persons-centred. It highlights how different biblical characters help shape the stories that have come down to us. This book provokes thoughts for further research on other biblical figures and themes. It is an invaluable resource for catechists, pastoral workers, evangelizers and for instructions in Houses of Formation, particularly in furthering the ministry of the Word Made Flesh, who dwells among us.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Table of Contents
  • Abbreviations
  • Chapter One Literary Genre of the Gospels
  • Chapter Two Jesus and His Parents
  • 2.1 Mary the Mother of Jesus
  • 2.1.1 Mary at the Annunciation
  • 2.1.2 Mary at the Visitation
  • 2.1.3 Mary at the Birth and Presentation of Jesus
  • 2.1.4 Mary at the Finding of Jesus in the Temple
  • 2.1.5 Mary at the Wedding in Cana
  • 2.1.6 Mary Close to the Cross of Jesus
  • 2.2 Joseph the Father of Jesus
  • 2.2.1 Joseph as a Gospel Character
  • 2.2.2 Joseph as Son of David
  • 2.2.3 Joseph the Righteous One
  • 2.2.4 The Obedience of Joseph
  • Chapter Three Jesus and John the Baptist
  • 3.1 Birth and Parentage
  • 3.2 John as a Baptizer
  • 3.3 John as a Voice: The Preaching of John
  • 3.4 John as a Witness
  • 3.5 John’s Interaction with Jesus
  • 3.6 Imprisonment and Death of John the Baptist
  • Chapter Four Jesus and the Jewish Leaders
  • 4.1 The Jewish Origin of Jesus
  • 4.1.1 The Genealogy of Jesus
  • 4.1.2 Jesus and the Old Testament Immanuel Prophecy (Matt 1:18–23)
  • 4.1.3 Jesus as the Representative Jew (Matt 2:15)
  • 4.2 The Mission of Jesus to the Jews
  • 4.3 Jewish Opposition to Jesus
  • 4.3.1 Clashes between Jesus and the Jewish Leaders
  • 4.3.2 The Woe Oracles
  • 4.3.3 Parables Against the Jewish Leaders
  • 4.3.4 The Crucifixion: The Climax of Jewish Opposition
  • Chapter Five Jesus and the Gentiles
  • 5.1 Gentile Foremothers of Jesus
  • 5.1.1 Tamar
  • 5.1.2 Rahab
  • 5.1.3 Ruth
  • 5.1.4 Bathsheba
  • 5.2 The Wise Men from the East
  • 5.3 Other Gentile Characters
  • 5.3.1 The Centurion
  • 5.3.2 The Canaanite Woman
  • 5.4 Negative References to the Gentiles
  • Chapter Six Jesus and His Disciples
  • 6.1 The Call of the Disciples
  • 6.2 The Disciples as the Primary Witnesses to Jesus’ Works
  • 6.3 The Disciples and Doubt
  • 6.4 The Disciples and Worldly Ambition/Power
  • 6.5 Women as Disciples
  • 6.5.1 Mary Magdalene
  • 6.5.2 The Woman of Samaria
  • 6.6 The Disciples and Persecution
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography



Catholic Biblical Association of Nigeria


Catholic Biblical Quarterly






Et cetera (And others)


Jerome Biblical Commentary


Journal of Biblical Literature


Journal for the Study of the New Testament


Journal for the Study of the Old Testament




New Testament


New Testament Series


Old Testament


Society of New Testament Studies Monograph Series


Theological Publications in India








Word Bible Commentary


Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament

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Chapter One Literary Genre of the Gospels

Genre refers to the style or category of a literary work. Every piece of literature, art or music belongs to a particular form or category by which it is known. One of the first steps in the interpretation of any writing, whether ancient or modern, is to establish its literary genre. Establishment of genre implies determining what form of literature the work is. This also applies to the books of the bible. They are also studied in their literary environment. The determination of what form of writing a bible text is, belongs to the area of form criticism7 (Formegeschichte). Talking about the importance of form criticism in exegesis (Bedeutung der Formgeschichte für die Exegese), Klaus Berger states inter alia: „Anhand der Scheidung von Konvention und Situationsbedingter Abweichung wird erkennbar, worin die individualle Ausrichtung eines Textes liegt“8. It is the establishment of form or genre that determines the expectation of the reader and his or her interpretation of the text. The reader usually establishes the genre of a work “instinctively by comparing the writing with other similar writings with which he or she is familiar; occasionally further acquaintance with the text may lead to a revised assessment of its genre, and so of its interpretation”.9 The diagnosis of form is not concerned with some historical questions. It tells us nothing about the historicity of the material molded into the form of a saying, parable, or miracle story. It is not, for example, to determine if Jesus actually said or did what is written down by the author.10 In his work, The New Testament in Its Literary Environment, David E. Aune studies the New Testament through a literary dimension. The purpose of the book, which he explicitly declared, ←21 | 22→“is to compare the literary genres and forms found in the New Testament with those of the literary cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world, particularly Hellenism”.11 In the work, Aune defined literary genre as “a group of texts that exhibit a coherent and recurring configuration of literary features involving form (including structure and style), content, and function”.12 The task of the study here is to determine the literary genre of Gospels, which guides the study of the characters. This will be done with the consideration that these books were written by different authors to different groups.

How then are we to classify or categorize the Gospels? In talking about the genre of Matthew’s Gospel, Graham Stanton gives three considerations that help to answer this type of question. The first is a title or a preface. The second is the comments of the early readers on the genre of the writing.13 The third is the form and/or the content of the writing. The first and the third considerations are internal to the writing while the second is something external. How do these considerations help us to discover the genre of Matthew? On the first consideration, one may ask the questions: what title do the evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) give to their work? Do they have any preface to the books? Matthew began his writing with the expression: Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυὶδ υἱοῦ Ἀβραάμ (A book of the genealogy of Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham). The opening words contain no verb and so can be taken as a heading. These opening words of Matthew can be seen to refer to the record of ancestry of Jesus, which followed (Matt. 1:1–17), and not really to the entire Gospel according to Matthew. This is based on the closest parallel to it which is found in Gen 5:1 (after the fall of humanity) and it was used to introduce a line of descendants of Adam.14 As a result, we can say that the first consideration ←22 | 23→as proposed by Stanton does not help in determining how to categorize the book.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (November)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 162 pp.

Biographical notes

Benjamin Ogechi Agbara (Author)

Benjamin Ogechi Agbara is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Port Harcourt. He studied philosophy and theology at St Joseph Major Seminary, Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria. He holds master’s and licentiate degrees in biblical theology from the Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt and a doctorate degree in New Testament Exegesis from the Jesuit University of Philosophy and Theology (Sankt Georgen), Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Presently, he is a post-doctoral researcher (Habilitation) in New Testament Exegesis at the Faculty of Theology, Fulda.


Title: Gospel Characters