On the drive up to Chicago yesterday, I listened to a handful of the New Testament podcasts Todd pointed to a week or so ago—which, incidentally, are really, really good. It’s immediately clear how good of a teacher Goodacre must be, and they would be worth listening to as a pedagogical model even if they weren’t helpful in substance. But then, of course, they are helpful in substance, if relatively basic.
Anyway, listening to a few of Goodacre’s mini-lectures on the Gospels reminded me of how outstanding the gospel writers are as theological stylists, undoubtedly better than many of the figures I put on my list. The genre itself is genius, and in each case it’s executed with really surprising creativity. The quiet riffs on older scriptural themes and figures, the way explicit points are also made to function as structural patterns of the whole narrative, the sheer number of ideas that arise solely from the story’s form, never once hammered didactically through a particular character…
I do think that any narrative-form genre has a massive stylistic advantage over expository genres. When narrative writers have some theological or philosophical point to make, they’re really forced to express it through the form of the piece rather than saying it directly (or else end up with a pretty terrible story). Most philosophers and theologians, accustomed to saying everything directly, don’t feel any need to say anything at the more elusive and difficult level of form.
Some may already know about these but I just starting listening to Duke Professor Mark Goodacre’s podcasts on the New Testament. You can find them here or just search “NT Pod” on itunes. The podcasts provide remarkably clear introductions to a variety of topics and there are a few series of podcasts that are quite helpful as a group (e.g. on the Synoptic Problem, on the Passion Narratives). Most of the podcasts are around 10 minutes, although sometimes he puts up extended 50 minutes versions (the longer ones are edited recordings of his NT class and for these he also includes copies of his handouts from class).