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Biblical Studies Passion Narratives
by
Ellen B. Aitken

Introduction

The term “passion narrative” is used primarily to refer to the accounts given in the canonical gospels of the suffering and death of Jesus. Generally, scholars treat the passion narratives as beginning with Jesus’ agony and arrest in Gethsemane and concluding with his burial. The sections to which these narratives are typically assigned consist therefore of Matthew 26:30–27:66, Mark 14:26–15:47, Luke 22:39–23:56, and John 18:1–19:42. Those scholars who would include the Last Supper and the discovery of the empty tomb as parts of the passion narratives would expand this list of passages to reflect these additions. In addition to the gospels of the New Testament, noncanonical texts recounting the death of Jesus, of which the fragmentary Gospel of Peter stands at the forefront, have in recent decades occupied vital roles in scholarship on the passion. Nonnarrative material that discusses Jesus’ death has also contributed to the exploration of the development of early Christianity’s understanding of the passion; as the earliest extant reflections on Jesus’ death, the letters of Paul have proven to be essential to this area of study. In the past, research into the passion narratives greatly affected source and form criticism of the New Testament; it continues to inform scholarship on such topics as the historical Jesus, the development of anti-Judaism in early Christianity, and the theological orientation of early Christian texts.

General Overviews

Although the majority of scholarship concerning the passion narratives focuses on specific texts or issues, several significant publications are available that seek to provide a more comprehensive examination of the passion, incorporating all of the canonical gospels as well as additional texts. Brown 1994 has become an essential commentary on the gospel accounts of Jesus’ death. Bovon 2006 is a concise treatment that will be of use to scholars and students. The essays in Carroll and Green 1995 provide an excellent introduction to a wide range of topics and texts central to the study of the death of Jesus. Matera 1986 emphasizes the significance of the passion narratives in understanding each canonical gospel as a whole. The essays in Frey and Schröter 2005 offer several studies on the cultural and religious contexts of the passion. Martinez 2008 is a detailed analysis of every reference in the New Testament to the death of Jesus. The lectures published in Hooker 1995 explore the imagery used by different New Testament texts in discussing Jesus’ death. Readily accessible to a general readership, Patterson 2004 argues that any exploration of how early Christians responded to the death of Jesus must take into account how this response also incorporates their understanding of Jesus’ life.

  • Bovon, François. The Last Days of Jesus. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006.

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    English translation of Les derniers jours de Jésus: Textes et événements (Geneva, Switzerland: Labor et Fides, 2004). An economical yet nuanced introduction to major issues surrounding the passion narratives, written from a historical perspective.

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  • Brown, Raymond E. The Death of the Messiah—from Gethsemane to the Grave: A Commentary on the Passion Narratives. 2 vols. Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

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    A massive commentary that meticulously examines and compares each episode from the canonical passion narratives with an eye toward clarifying the intent and reception of each text. A key tool for scholars but also of interest to a more general readership. See Crossan 1996 (cited under Anti-Semitism, Anti-Judaism, and the Passion Narratives) for a sustained critique of Brown’s approach and methodology.

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  • Carroll, John T., and Joel B. Green. The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995.

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    Collaboratively authored essays that provide multifaceted discussions of how the death of Jesus is treated in various New Testament and other early Christian texts. Provides excellent surveys of scholarship on the passion.

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  • Frey, Jörg, and Jens Schröter, eds. Deutungen des Todes Jesu im Neuen Testament. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 181. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005.

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    Large collection of essays that consider the Jewish and pagan matrices of early Christian understandings of the death of Jesus. Primarily in German, with some English.

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  • Hooker, Morna D. Not Ashamed of the Gospel: New Testament Interpretations of the Death of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995.

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    Adapted from a series of lectures, these studies offer the eminent theologian’s analysis of the breadth of imagery employed by New Testament authors in articulating the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

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  • Martinez, Ernest R. The Gospel Accounts of the Death of Jesus: A Study of the Death Accounts Made in the Light of the New Testament Traditions, the Redaction, and the Theology of the Four Evangelists. Rome: Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 2008.

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    Analyzes every New Testament reference to the death of Jesus that falls outside the passion narratives and then examines the gospel narratives in light of this study. A revised and expanded edition of the author’s previously published 1971 dissertation.

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  • Matera, Frank J. Passion Narratives and Gospel Theologies: Interpreting the Synoptics Through Their Passion Stories. New York: Paulist Press, 1986.

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    Landmark study that provides a systematic approach to the critical role played by the passion in the larger narratives of each synoptic gospel. Accessible to advanced undergraduate students.

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  • Patterson, Stephen J. Beyond the Passion: Rethinking the Death and Life of Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

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    Patterson approaches the death of Jesus from the perspective of his early followers, exploring how these early Christians articulated their understandings of Jesus according to the identities of victim of Roman imperial rule, martyr, and sacrifice.

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Reference Works

Entries on passion narratives in Bible dictionaries provide readers with basic introductions to key issues, as well as brief bibliographies for further reference. Nickelsburg 1992 offers a more extensive overview of the passion in canonical and deuterocanonical sources, while Soards 2000 concentrates largely on the source history of the narratives.

  • Nickelsburg, George W. E. “Passion Narratives.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 5. Edited by David Noel Freedman,172–177. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    After discussing issues concerning genre, proceeds to supply a thorough discussion of the passion with respect to its treatment in the four canonical gospels, as well as in extracanonical texts such as the Gospel of Peter.

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  • Soards, Marion L. “Passion Narratives.” In Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 1011–1013. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000.

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    Especially useful for its coverage of questions relating to the source history of the passion narratives.

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Bibliographies

Garland 1989 represents the only major bibliography dedicated to passion narratives. Readers will therefore want to make use of the summaries of books and articles provided in New Testament Abstracts. Many monographs and other works focused on the passion narratives also contain useful bibliographies. The extensive, categorized bibliographies in Brown 1994 (cited under General Overviews) may be of particular use.

  • Garland, David E. One Hundred Years of Study on the Passion Narratives. National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion Bibliographic Series 3. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1989.

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    Garland’s bibliography, which covers books and articles published in English, German, and French, devotes sections to each gospel passion, individual pericopes, and such topics as source history and noncanonical passion accounts.

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  • New Testament Abstracts.

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    An online version that includes publications since 1985 and can be accessed through institutional subscription. Excellent resource providing bibliographic information and abstracts for scholarly publications in many languages.

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Works on Specific Gospels

In addition to publications that treat the gospel passion narratives collectively, extensive scholarship is available that focuses upon the treatment of the passion in individual gospels.

Death of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew

Scholarly attention to the passion narrative in the Gospel of Matthew is relatively sparse in comparison with that devoted to other gospels’ treatment of the death of Jesus. Senior 1985 and Heil 1991 provide introductory studies that seek to articulate the theological and rhetorical aims, respectively, of the Matthean passion. Senior 1975 offers a more technical description of Matthew’s redaction efforts. Carroll and Green 1995 incorporates many of the insights of Heil and Senior in its overview of the narrative, while giving special attention to characterization in Matthew.

  • Carroll, John T., and Joel B. Green. “His Blood on Us and on Our Children: The Death of Jesus in the Gospel According to Matthew.” In The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity. Edited by Raymond E. Brown, 39–59. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995.

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    A brief overview that concentrates on character analysis.

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  • Heil, John Paul. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus: A Narrative-Critical Reading of Matthew 26–28. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991.

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    A close reading of the Matthean passion narrative that utilizes narrative criticism in a manner accessible to nonspecialists.

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  • Senior, Donald. The Passion Narrative According to Matthew: A Redactional Study. Bibliotheca Ephemeridium Theologicarum Lovaniensium 39. Louvain, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 1975.

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    A thorough study of Matthew’s passion that seeks to articulate how the Markan source material is adapted in Matthew’s formation of a unique vision of the death of Jesus.

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  • Senior, Donald. The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Wilmington, DE: Glazier, 1985.

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    A general introduction to issues important to the critical study of Matthew’s passion narrative.

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Death of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark

Owing to the wide scholarly acceptance of Mark as the oldest extant gospel, Mark’s passion narrative has been the object of much research, a significant portion of which has been devoted to its place in the source and form history of the gospels (see Sources of the Passion Narratives and Genre). Although mindful of questions about the literary history of the texts, Best 1965 and the essays in Kelber 1976 mark a shift from form and source analysis to the study of the theological and narrative role of the passion in the gospel as a whole. Senior 1991 also treats the contribution of the passion to Mark’s wider vision in a manner accessible to beginning students. Donahue 1973 dedicates a detailed redaction study of Mark to the development and purposes of the gospel’s trial narrative. Sommer 1993 explores in great detail long-standing issues concerning the historical dimensions of the text but introduces important questions with respect to the role of faith in interpreting history. Broadhead 1994 provides an in-depth literary critical reading. Essays from several leading scholars in Van Oyen and Shepherd 2006 represent a range of methodologies and topics of interest.

  • Best, Ernest. The Temptation and the Passion: The Markan Soteriology. Society for New Testament Studies Monongraph Series 2. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1965.

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    An influential study of Mark’s theological understanding of the passion.

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  • Broadhead, Edwin K. Prophet, Son, Messiah: Narrative Form and Function in Mark 14–16. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994.

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    A technical and challenging narrative-critical reading of the Markan passion with special focus on the characterization of Jesus.

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  • Donahue, John R. Are You the Christ? The Trial Narrative in the Gospel of Mark. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 10. Missoula, MT: Society of Biblical Literature, 1973.

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    In this redaction-critical study, Donahue analyzes the development of Mark’s trial sequence and proposes that the author of the gospel sought to promote through this narrative his preferred Christological vision, as well as to address the needs of those in his community who were facing their own trials.

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  • Kelber, Warren H., ed. The Passion in Mark: Studies on Mark 14–16. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976.

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    Essays from experts on the Markan passion that treat each pericope in turn, largely from a redactional-critical lens. Accessible to more advanced students.

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  • Senior, Donald. The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991.

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    A literary study of the passion that also incorporates insights from redaction criticism. Excellent for students.

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  • Sommer, Urs. Die Passionsgeschichte des Markusevangeliums: Überlegungen zur Bedeutung der Geschichte für den Glauben. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 58. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr, 1993.

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    Offers detailed literary and historical analysis but is especially attentive to the hermeneutical question of the relationship between theological and historical perspectives in the study of the passion.

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  • Van Oyen, Geert, and Tom Shepherd, eds. The Trial and Death of Jesus: Essays on the Passion Narrative in Mark. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters, 2006.

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    Representing more recent scholarship, these studies question the role of blasphemy in the trial of Jesus and examine how Mark expresses the meaning of Jesus’ death.

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Death of Jesus in Luke–Acts

Together with the questions that surround its place in the source history of the gospels, the multiplicity of features unique to the Lukan passion narrative has led to numerous scholarly publications. Tyson 1986 and Karris 1985 both take literary critical approaches to Luke and seek to situate the passion in larger themes of conflict and community in the text. Like Tyson, Neyrey 1985 is interested in approaching Luke–Acts as a unified literary work, but Neyrey’s analysis of the passion is largely a redaction study. Neagoe 2003 explores the rhetorical method behind Luke’s theological presentation. Bovon 2003 shares these studies’ literary interests in Luke but also offers a significant overview of the source history of the passion. Soards 1987 also examines the source history of Luke and explores the theological motivations driving Luke’s use of his source material. Senior 1992 is the best introduction for beginning students. The essays in Sylva 1990 cover a number of significant issues, but their primary concern is with the question of Luke’s theological understanding of the passion.

  • Bovon, François. “The Lukan Story of the Passion of Jesus (Luke 22–23).” In Studies in Early Christianity. By François Bovon, 74–105. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 161. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2003.

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    A detailed literary reading of Luke’s passion, as well as an analysis of Luke’s use of sources.

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  • Karris, Robert J. Luke: Artist and Theologian: Luke’s Passion Account as Literature. Theological Inquiries. New York: Paulist Press, 1985.

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    A thematic examination of the Lukan passion that explores Luke’s literary qualities. Suitable for students.

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  • Neagoe, Alexandru. The Trial of the Gospel: An Apologetic Reading of Luke’s Trial Narratives. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 116. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    A redaction and narrative critical analysis of the contribution of the trial narratives in Luke–Acts to the presentation of Luke’s Christological message.

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  • Neyrey, Jerome. The Passion According to Luke: A Redaction Study of Luke’s Soteriology. Theological Inquiries. New York: Paulist Press, 1985.

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    A detailed redaction-critical reading that gives special focus to the importance of Acts in interpreting Luke’s passion. Suitable for more advanced students.

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  • Senior, Donald. The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992.

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    Excellent overview for scholars and nonspecialists.

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  • Soards, Marion L. The Passion According to Luke: The Special Material of Luke 22. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 14. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987.

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    Argues against theories contending that Luke’s passion narrative reflects the usage of major non-Markan sources. Instead proposes that Luke creatively adapts its source material in composing a passion narrative supportive of its own theological and ecclesiological vision. Soards’s technical redaction-critical analysis is probably best suited for experienced scholars and students.

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  • Sylva, Dennis D., ed. Reimaging the Death of the Lukan Jesus. Athenäums Monografien: Theologie; Bonner biblische Beiträge 73. Frankfurt, Germany: Hain, 1990.

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    Important collection of essays primarily interested in redressing the lack of interest in theological issues pertinent to the Lukan passion in previous scholarship.

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  • Tyson, Joseph B. The Death of Jesus in Luke-Acts. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986.

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    A literary-critical approach that is especially strong in its treatment of the trial scenes and the preceding conflicts between Jesus and Jewish groups.

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Death of Jesus in the Gospel of John

In certain ways, John’s passion narrative represents the point at which the fourth gospel most resembles the synoptics. This literary resemblance has ensured that, as with the other gospels, the Johannine passion has been subject to an abundance of source-critical research. Still, John diverges in key ways from the synoptics in its passion narrative and has thus prompted several distinctive topics of study. Bultmann 1974 shaped the study of the passion in John for years to come, and its influence continues to be felt. Dauer 1972 provides a highly detailed analysis of the interrelationship between the passion narratives in John and the synoptics, as well as discussion of the major themes in the Johannine passion. A debate that has long resonated in the study of John’s passion concerns whether the gospel treats Jesus’ death as atoning; Forestell 1974 and Grigsby 1982 are significant representatives of the two conflicting views. Nicholson 1983 seeks to demonstrate the importance of the passion in understanding the Christology at play throughout the gospel. De Boer 1996 approaches the death of Jesus with respect to the diverse valences applied to it throughout the writings of the Johannine corpus. Senior 1991 provides a fine overview of John’s passion. The essays in Van Belle 2007 make available a large sampling of current international scholarship.

  • Bultmann, Rudolph. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Translated by G. R. Beasley-Murray. Oxford: Blackwell, 1974.

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    Bultmann’s highly influential discussion of the Johannine passion argues that Jesus’ death in the gospel does not serve a salvific function, but rather a revelatory one that supports the incarnational theology of the gospel as a whole. English translation of Das Evangelium des Johannes (Kritisch-Exegetischer Kommentar über das Neue Testament 2; Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1941).

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  • Dauer, Anton. Die Passionsgeschichte im Johannesevangelium: Eine traditionsgeschichtliche und theologische Untersuchung. Studien zum Alten und Neuen Testaments 30. Munich: Kösel Verlag, 1972.

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    Dauer attempts to isolate the source adapted into John’s passion narrative and then proceeds to compare this reconstructed source with the synoptic accounts, concluding ultimately that John’s source was composed with an awareness of the synoptic versions of the passion.

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  • De Boer, Martinus C. Johannine Perspectives on the Death of Jesus. Kampen, The Netherlands: Kok Pharos, 1996.

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    Treats as divergent and developing the significance assigned to the death of Jesus by the community responsible for the Johannine writings and explores how and why these texts interpret Jesus’ death as they do.

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  • Forestell, J. Terrence. The Word of the Cross: Salvation as Revelation in the Fourth Gospel. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, 1974.

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    A good representative of the argument against understanding John’s presentation of the death of Jesus as expiatory and vicarious. Compare with Grigsby 1982.

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  • Grigsby, Bruce H. “The Cross as an Expiatory Sacrifice in the Fourth Gospel.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 15 (1982): 51–80.

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    Confronts the more-established thesis that the death of Jesus in John does not serve an expiatory function. Instead argues that John presents Jesus in sacrificial terms drawn from Jewish tradition. Compare with Forestell 1974.

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  • Nicholson, Godfrey. Death as Departure: The Johannine Descent-Ascent Schema. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 63. Chico, CA: Scholars, 1983.

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    A literary-critical approach that concentrates particularly on John’s Christology and the life-setting of the narrative.

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  • Senior, Donald. The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991.

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    A close reading suitable for a general audience.

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  • van Belle, Gilbert, ed. The Death of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. Louvain, Belgium: Leuven University Press.

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    Essays from a wide selection of international scholars on various topics concerning the Johannine passion. In English, French, and German.

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Death of Jesus in the Gospel of Peter

The fragment of the Gospel of Peter discovered in 1886, which narrates events from the trial of Jesus to his ascension, has contributed significantly to the passion scholarship of the last two decades. Denker 1975 examines the location of the text in the history of early Christian literature and highlights Peter’s deep interaction with scriptural references in composing its account of the death of Jesus. Originally, much of the discussion of Peter centered on its theological orientation, and Head 1992 contributes to the debate over the supposed docetism of the text. More recently, however, Peter has primarily been a flashpoint in debates concerning the source history of the passion narratives. Crossan 1988, which also provides commentary on the text, is a key proponent of the claim that Peter reveals a source of the canonical passions. Koester 1980 also argues for Peter as a source of the canonical material. Dewey 1990 and Green 1987 challenge the conclusions of Crossan and Koester, respectively. Kraus 2007 provides a large number of essays that cover a broad array of topics concerning Peter.

  • Crossan, John Dominic. The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.

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    An important full-length treatment of Peter that examines its composition, provides in-depth commentary on the text, and considers its relationship with the canonical passion accounts.

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  • Denker, Jürgen. Die theologiegeschichtliche Stellung des Petrusevangeliums: Ein Beitrag zur Frühgeschichte des Doketismus. Europäische Hochschulschriften, Reihe 23, Theologie 36. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Peter Lang, 1975.

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    Denker’s discussion of Peter’s account of the passion emphasizes the text’s reliance on scripture, particularly Isaiah and the Psalms, and argues that Peter was produced by a Jewish community during the time between the two revolts against Rome.

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  • Dewey, Arthur. “‘Time to Murder and Create’: Visions and Revisions in the Gospel of Peter.” Semeia 49 (1990): 101–127.

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    A detailed, technical essay that seeks to question and revise aspects of Crossan 1988 with respect to the composition and redaction history of Peter.

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  • Green, Joel B. “The Gospel of Peter: Source for a Pre-Canonical Passion Narrative?” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 78.3/4 (1987): 293–301.

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    Argues against the use of Peter as a witness to a precanonical passion narrative.

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  • Head, P. M. “On the Christology of the Gospel of Peter.” Vigiliae Christianae 46 (1992): 209–224.

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    Investigates the question of Peter’s supposedly docetic nature and seeks to place the text in the context of Jewish apocalypticism and martyrdom narratives.

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  • Koester, Helmut. “Apocryphal and Canonical Gospels.” Harvard Theological Review 73.1/2 (1980): 105–130.

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    An important argument for the reevaluation of the relevance of apocryphal texts to the study of gospel literary history; see especially pp. 126–130 for Peter.

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  • Kraus, Thomas J., and Tobias Nicklas. Das Evangelium nach Petrus: Text, Kontexte, Intertexte. Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 158. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007.

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    Collection of essays examining a host of questions surrounding Peter. Primarily German, with some works in English.

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Works on the Death of Jesus in Nonnarrative Texts

As with the narrative gospels, the suffering and death of Jesus are of critical concern to nonnarrative texts within early Christian literature. The letters of Paul contribute important early testimony concerning the passion, and the death of Jesus occupies a crucial position in Pauline literature. Paul’s understanding and presentation of Jesus’ death is explored in Dunn 1991 on the basis of several epistles. Pickett 1997 concentrates on Paul’s discussion of the meaning of Jesus’ death with respect to the situation in the Corinthian Church. Hurtado 2004 is interested in emphasizing the breadth of topics concerning Jesus’ death that a variety of New Testament texts articulate. Aitken 2004 examines 1 Corinthians, 1 Peter, the Epistle of Barnabas, and Hebrews in order to explore how these texts reflect the development of passion accounts in the community life of early Christians. Carroll and Green 1995 reflect more briefly on the pivotal role of Jesus’ death in three texts. De Boer 1991 reevaluates the purpose behind 1 John on the basis of its treatment of the death of Jesus. Franklin 1998 provides an even-handed consideration as to the significance of Jesus’ death in the sayings gospel known as Q.

  • Aitken, Ellen Bradshaw. Jesus’ Death in Early Christian Memory: The Poetics of the Passion. Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus/Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testaments 53. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004.

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    Examines nonnarrative biblical treatments of the suffering and death of Jesus and locates the development of the passion narrative within the context of ritual performance and the interpretation of the scriptures of Israel.

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  • Carroll, John T., and Joel B. Green. “The Death of Jesus in Hebrews, 1 Peter, and Revelation.” In The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity. Edited by John T. Carroll and Joel B. Green, 133–147. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995.

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    Brief treatments of the critical role of the death of Jesus in these texts.

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  • De Boer, Martinus C. “The Death of Jesus Christ and His Coming in the Flesh (1 John 4: 2).” Novum Testamentum 33.4 (1991): 326–346.

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    Develops arguments against interpreting the letter as a challenge toward docetists and instead contends that the text seeks to elevate the death of Jesus as an exemplary act of love.

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  • Dunn, James D. G. “Paul’s Understanding of the Death of Jesus as Sacrifice.” In Sacrifice and Redemption: Durham Essays in Theology. Edited by Stephen W. Sykes, 35–56. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    Investigates multiple Pauline epistles in order to clarify the theological orientation of Paul’s interpretation of the death of Jesus. Reissued in The Christ and the Spirit: Collected Essays of James D. G. Dunn. Vol. 1, Christology by James G. Dunn (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).

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  • Franklin, Erik. “A Passion Narrative for Q?” In Understanding, Studying, and Reading: New Testament Essays in Honour of John Ashton. Edited by Christopher Rowland and Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis, 30–47. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 153. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998.

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    Asks whether it is possible that Q had some sort of passion narrative, and considers how its treatment of the death of Jesus may have differed from that of the synoptic gospels.

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  • Hurtado, L. W. “Jesus’ Death as Paradigmatic in the New Testament.” Scottish Journal of Theology 57.4 (2004): 413–433.

    DOI: 10.1017/S003693060400033XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews a wide array of nonnarrative texts and emphasizes the range of issues addressed by these texts in interpreting the death of Jesus.

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  • Pickett, Raymond. The Cross in Corinth: The Social Significance of the Death of Jesus. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 143. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.

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    Utilizes rhetorical criticism in an attempt to clarify how Paul interprets the death of Jesus in the context of the Corinthian correspondence.

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Genre

The passion narrative occupies a unique place in New Testament form criticism in that it is predominantly treated as a continuous narrative rather than being broken into small units of material. As for the genre represented by the passion as a cohesive literary unit, the conclusions of Nickelsburg 1980—that the narrative should be identified as an account of the “suffering righteous”—have had considerable resonance. Dormeyer 1974 views the passion as combining Jewish and pagan martyrdom accounts in order to produce a paranesis centered on Jesus. Collins 1993 challenges the results of Dormeyer and Nickelsburg and proposes that the passion narrative of Mark best resembles moral literature reporting the deaths of exemplary men. Kloppenborg 1992 reaches similar conclusions while looking at Luke. Broadhead 1996 disputes the dominant view of the passion narrative as a cohesive unit and questions whether its genre can thus be discerned. See also Van Henten 2005 (cited under Passion Narratives and Martyrdom).

  • Broadhead, Edwin. “Form and Function in the Passion Story: The Issue of Genre Reconsidered.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 18.61 (1996): 3–28.

    DOI: 10.1177/0142064X9601806101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Brings into question long-standing conceptions of the passion narratives as cohesive units and argues that these texts may not reflect any particular genre.

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  • Collins, Adela Yarbro. “The Genre of the Passion Narrative.” Studia Theologica 47 (1993): 3–28.

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    Looking primarily at Mark and the hypothetical pre-Markan passion source, Collins argues that literary accounts of the exemplary deaths of noble men best represent the genre of Mark’s passion. Criticizes the methodology and conclusions of Nickelsburg 1980.

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  • Dormeyer, Detlev. Die Passion Jesu als Verhaltensmodell: Literarische und theologische Analyse der Traditions- und Redaktiongeschichte der Markuspassion. Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen n.F. 11. Munster, Germany: Aschendorff, 1974.

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    Contends that Mark’s passion narrative combines pagan and Jewish martyrological literary traditions in order to represent Jesus as a parenetic model. Critiqued in Collins 1993.

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  • Kloppenborg, John S. “Exitus clari viri: The Death of Jesus in Luke.” Toronto Journal of Theology 8.1 (1992): 106–130.

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    Reaches conclusions similar to those of Collins 1993, but with respect to the Lukan passion.

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  • Nickelsburg, George W. E. “The Genre and Function of the Markan Passion Narrative.” Harvard Theological Review 73 (1980): 153–184.

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    An influential approach to the Markan passion narrative that locates its genre in accounts of the “vindication of the persecuted righteous” from the Hebrew Bible and elsewhere. See Collins 1993 for criticism. Reprinted in George W. E. Nickelsburg in Perspective: An Ongoing Dialogue of Learning (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2003), pp. 473–503.

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Sources of the Passion Narratives

The question of the origins and literary source history of the passion narrative occupies a considerable position in scholarship on the passion. Much of the debate concerns whether Mark has priority in the literary history of the narrative, or whether pre-Markan material can be isolated. Likewise, scholars have explored what sources apart from Mark may have been mined by the remaining gospels in forming their passion narratives. An appendix in Soards 1994 gives a detailed overview of the different positions taken by scholars on the existence of a pre-Markan passion narrative and outlines their different methodological approaches. Green 1988 argues for a pre-Markan passion but reaches different conclusions concerning the place of the Gospel of Peter in this history (see Death of Jesus in the Gospel of Peter for further contributions). Harrington 2000 provides an important history of the scholarship on Luke’s use of sources. Matera 1985 argues against the thesis that Luke utilized non-Markan sources. A contrary view is given in Matson 2001, which defends the less popular opinion that Luke is partially dependent on John. In addition to discussions of source history defined more rigidly along literary parameters, important studies that consider the roles of community life and ritual in the development of passion traditions include Trocmé 1983.

Relationship with Jewish Scripture

The Jewish scriptures occupy a vital role in the passion narratives, which rely heavily upon direct and implicit reference to scriptural texts. Studies devoted to exploring the significance of particular texts (most notably Isaiah, certain Psalms, and Zechariah) in different gospels’ interpretation of the death of Jesus are abundant. Many publications also explore the role of scriptural interpretation in the formation of passion traditions, particularly with respect to the nature of the relationship between such interpretation and the historical events surrounding Jesus’ death. While providing lengthy analysis of the various instances of scriptural allusions in the passion narratives, Moo 1983 also argues against the thesis that the formative role of scriptural interpretation in these narratives rules out their historicity. Aitken 2004 (cited under Works on the Death of Jesus in Nonnarrative Texts) situates the development of passion accounts in the context of the interface between scriptural interpretation and ritual in early Christian communities. Marcus 1992 concentrates on scripture in Mark’s passion, adeptly placing the gospel’s use of scripture in the context of Jewish exegetical practices. Aus 2008 contributes an intensive examination of the relationship of the passion narratives’ presentation of Jesus to the expansive literary tradition surrounding Moses. The importance to the passion of the figure of the “suffering servant” in Isaiah 53 is the object of much scholarship; Hooker 1959 and Stuhlmacher 2004 present opposing views concerning the role of Isaiah 53 in Jesus’ self-conception. The significance of the “suffering servant” is also considered by Ahearne-Kroll 2007, which treats the place of the Psalms in the passion at length. Robbins 1992 examines the Markan passion’s use of Psalm 22 but also seeks to expand the sample of texts used in studying the gospel by exploring the intertextual relationships between Mark’s account of the crucifixion and an oration of Dio Chrysostom.

  • Ahearne-Kroll, Stephen P. The Psalms of Lament in Mark’s Passion: Jesus’ Davidic Suffering. Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 142. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    Examines Mark’s use of four psalms of lament in the passion and argues that David rather than the Deutero-Isaian “suffering servant” is the more apt model for Jesus.

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  • Aus, Roger David. The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus and the Death, Burial, and Translation of Moses in Judaic Tradition. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2008.

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    An exhaustive examination of the parallels drawn between Moses and Jesus in the gospels that relies upon a detailed and technical analysis of an extensive range of early Jewish and Christian texts.

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  • Hooker, Morna D. Jesus and the Servant: The Influence of the Servant Concept of Deutero-Isaiah in the New Testament. London: SPCK, 1959.

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    Fifty years after its original publication, this work continues to serve as a counter-argument to claims that Jesus understood his mission and death in terms of Isaiah 53’s presentation of the “suffering servant.” See Stuhlmacher 2004 for a view against Hooker’s.

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  • Marcus, Joel. The Way of the Lord: Christological Exegesis of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Mark. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1992.

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    An excellent overview arguing that Mark, following contemporary Jewish exegetical trends, brings together several themes from the Jewish scriptures in narrating the passion. See chapter 8 (pp. 153–198) for a discussion of passion.

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  • Moo, Douglas J. The Old Testament in the Gospel Passion Narratives. Sheffield, UK: Almond, 1983.

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    A full-length study of the variety of points at which the passion narratives employ material from the Hebrew Bible and an examination of the hermeneutical issues at play in the gospels’ appropriation of those texts. Requires knowledge of Hebrew and Greek.

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  • Robbins, Vernon K. “The Reversed Contextualization of Psalm 22 in the Markan Crucifixion: A Socio-Rhetorical Analysis.” In The Four Gospels 1992: Festschrift Frans Neirynck. Edited by Frans van Segbroeck, C. Tuckett, Gilbert van Belle, and J. Verheyden, 1161–1183. Bibliotheca Ephemeridium Theologicarum Lovaniensium 100. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters, 1992.

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    Robbins utilizes critical literary theory in exploring how Mark’s account of the crucifixion interacts with Psalm 22, arguing that Mark subverts the rhetoric of confidence expressed by the psalm in order to better emphasize the sense of abandonment experienced by Jesus.

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  • Stuhlmacher, Peter. “Isaiah 53 in the Gospels and Acts.” In The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources. Edited by Bernd Janowski and Peter Stuhlmacher, 147–162. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004.

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    Contends that the early church’s understanding of the death of Jesus is a reflection and development of themes concerning the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53 that originate with Jesus himself. Compare with Hooker 1959.

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Relationship with Greco-Roman Literature

Although the position of Jewish scripture has consistently occupied an integral place in scholarship on the death of Jesus, the literary and cultural contributions of the Greco-Roman world to the passion narratives also receive increasing attention. Moreover, there is a growing tendency to avoid overly strict divisions between early Jewish and Greco-Roman literary activity. This tendency is well represented by Neyrey 1996 and Seeley 1990, which assert the interrelationship between the Jewish and Hellenistic backgrounds to the passion narrative. Hengel 1981 examines a wide sampling of literature in an effort to uncover how existing Greco-Roman concepts of atoning deaths may have influenced the reception of the passion story. Marcus 2006 also explores how special attitudes toward violent death may have influenced understandings of the passion by examining the resonances surrounding crucifixion in the Roman world. Van Henten 2002 provides a wide-ranging collection of texts from Antiquity that pertain to Greco-Roman, early Jewish, early Christian, and rabbinic discussions of martyrdom and noble deaths.

  • Hengel, Martin. The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981.

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    Seeks to articulate how the reception of passion accounts in the Greco-Roman world may have been influenced by Hellenistic concepts of expiatory deaths. The work consists of two related essays, the first being most relevant.

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  • Marcus, Joel. “Crucifixion as Parodic Exaltation.” Journal of Biblical Literature 125.1 (2006): 73–87.

    DOI: 10.2307/27638347Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a literary and historical background to the role played by irony in the description and performance of crucifixion and explores how this may have influenced early Christianity’s understanding of the death of Jesus.

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  • Neyrey, Jerome. “Despising the Shame of the Cross: Honor and Shame in the Johannine Passion Narrative.” Semeia 69 (1996): 113–137.

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    An in-depth examination of the sociological significance of concepts of honor in John’s passion; seeks especially to demonstrate the applicability of a supposedly Greek phenomenon to an early Jewish setting.

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  • Seeley, David. The Noble Death: Graeco-Roman Martyrology and Paul’s Concept of Salvation. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 28. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1990.

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    Explores several different contexts that might explain Paul’s understanding of the death of Jesus and concludes that Hellenistic noble death accounts, including those found in 4 Maccabees, provide the most insight. See also Kloppenborg 1992 (cited under Genre), which, along with Seeley, contributes to a growing body of publications that situate the passion narratives in the context of noble death accounts.

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  • van Henten, Jan Willem, ed. Martyrdom and Noble Death: Selected Texts from Graeco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian Antiquity. Context of Early Christianity. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.

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    A useful collection of primary texts relevant to the study of martyrdom and noble death accounts. Each text is supported by brief introductory articles. See chapter 1 (pp. 9–41) for Greco-Roman texts from the 8th century BCE to the 3rd century CE.

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Passion Narratives and Martyrdom

The relationship between the passion narratives and martyrdom literature has proven to be an important topic in the study of the death of Jesus. Scholarship has pursued questions concerning the contributions of Jewish martyr acts (along with Greco-Roman death reports) to the interpretation of the death of Jesus, as well as the influence of passion traditions on subsequent early Christian discourse on martyrdom. Downing 1963 argues that early Christians followed the lead of Jesus himself in interpreting his death in terms supplied by Jewish martyrdom literature. De Jonge 1988 also contends that such Jewish literature was integral to early Christian responses to Jesus’ death, while Dormeyer 1974 sees Jewish martyr acts as exerting their influence in conjunction with their pagan counterparts. Seeley 1990 tracks the influence of Jewish martyr acts, while emphasizing the relationship of these texts to Greco-Roman literature concerning the deaths of exemplary men. Van Henten 2005 supplies an excellent overview of the major propositions concerning the contribution of Jewish martyrdom literature to the passion narratives. Many publications have centered on the question of parallels between the passion narratives and the Martyrdom of Polycarp, and Holmes 2005 seeks to place such arguments in perspective. Reddish 1988 considers the special resonance of the passion in Revelation’s discourse on martyrdom. Many of the essays in Horbury 1981 offer insight into the place of martyrdom in New Testament treatments of Jesus’ death.

  • De Jonge, Marinus. “Jesus’ Death for Others and the Death of the Maccabean Martyrs.” In Text and Testimony: Essays on New Testament and Apocryphal Literature in Honour of A. F. J. Klijn. Edited by Tjitze Baarda, A. Hilhorst, G. P. Luttikhuizen, A. S. van der Woude,142–151. Kampen, The Netherlands: Kok, 1988.

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    Examines several proposals as to what sorts of literary sources may have influenced early understandings of Jesus’ death as restoring covenant, and argues that the martyrdoms of 2 and 4 Maccabees offer the most fruitful parallels. Reprinted in Marinus de Jonge, Jewish Eschatology, Early Christian Christology and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1991).

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  • Dormeyer, Detlev. Die Passion Jesu als Verhaltensmodell: Literarische und theologische Analyse der Traditions- und Redaktiongeschichte der Markuspassion. Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen n. F. 11. Munster, Germany: Aschendorff, 1974.

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    Proposes that Mark’s passion narrative combines pagan and Jewish martyrological literary traditions in order to represent Jesus as a paranetic model. Critiqued in Collins 1993 (cited under Genre.

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  • Downing, John. “Jesus and Martyrdom.” Journal of Theological Studies n.s. 14.2 (1963): 279–293.

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    A prominent study arguing that early Christians understood the passion in terms influenced by Jewish martyrdom reports and by Jesus’ own self-identification with such martyrs.

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  • Holmes, Michael W. “The Martyrdom of Polycarp and the New Testament Passion Narrative.” In Trajectories Through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers. Edited by Andrew F. Gregory and C. M. Tuckett, 407–432. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Examines the possible parallels between the Martyrdom of Polycarp and the passion narratives and concludes that Polycarp is not simply an effort at mimesis, but rather exemplifies a nuanced theological interpretation of the passion.

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  • Horbury, William, and Brian McNeil, eds. Suffering and Martyrdom in the New Testament: Studies Presented to G. M. Styler by the Cambridge New Testament Seminar. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511659591Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A consequential gathering of essays, several of which are relevant to the question of martyrdom’s role in New Testament discussions of the death of Jesus.

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  • Reddish, Michael G. “Martyr Christology in the Apocalypse.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 33 (1988): 85–95.

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    Argues that Revelation presents Christ as the quintessential martyr and that this depiction is crucial to the text’s effort to prompt its community to be faithful witnesses in imitation of Christ.

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  • Seeley, David. The Noble Death: Graeco-Roman Martyrology and Paul’s Concept of Salvation. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 28. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1990.

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    Claims that Hellenistic noble death accounts, including the martyrdom passages in 4 Maccabees, provide the most insight toward understanding Paul’s conception of the death of Jesus.

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  • Van Henten, Jan Willem. “Jewish Martyrdom and Jesus’ Death.” In Deutungen des Todes Jesu im Neuen Testament. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 181. Edited by Jörg Frey and Jens Schröter, 139–168. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005.

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    A diligent examination and appraisal of several influential theories concerning the relevance of Jewish martyrdoms to the study of the passion, from a leading Dutch scholar of the subject.

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Passion Narratives and Roman Empire Studies

Recent years have witnessed a surge of interest in exploring the political dimensions of the passion narratives, particularly with respect to the significance of the Roman imperial context in which both Jesus and his early followers lived. Elliott 1997 argues in favor of a political reading of Paul’s discourse on the cross, rejecting interpretations that view Paul’s apocalyptic orientation as foreclosing upon any direct engagement on his part with the realities of Roman rule. Maier 2005 and Richey 2007, respectively, argue that Colossians and the Gospel of John appropriate aspects of imperial ideology in order to present Jesus as a political alternative to Rome. Ahn 2006 and Kelber 2006 probe the role of the passion in different New Testament authors’ efforts to negotiate responses to imperial power. Versnel 2005 provides an extensive study of texts from Antiquity that touch upon the theme of vicarious death and suggests that the New Testament’s understanding of Jesus’ death is influenced by “pagan” theories of the virtues of self-sacrifice that should be dated to the early imperial period. Although the intensity of inquiry into the political stance of early Christian texts is a more recent development, scholarship on the death of Jesus has a longer tradition of examining the historical role of Roman agents in the execution of Jesus (See Anti-Semitism, Anti-Judaism, and the Passion Narratives and Passion Narratives and Historical Jesus Research).

  • Ahn, Yong-Sung. The Reign of God and Rome in Luke’s Passion Narrative: An East Asian Global Perspective. Biblical Interpretation Series 80. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2006.

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    Applies postcolonial theory to a reading of the Lukan passion from an explicitly East Asian perspective; argues that Luke is both the product and opponent of Roman imperialism.

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  • Elliott, Neil. “The Anti-Imperial Message of the Cross.” In Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society. Edited by Richard A. Horsley, 167–183. Philadelphia: Trinity International, 1997.

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    Calls for a reading of Paul that recognizes the interrelationship between Paul’s apocalyptic and political worldview in interpreting the death of Jesus.

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  • Kelber, Warren H. “Roman Imperialism and Early Christian Scribality.” In The Postcolonial Biblical Reader. Edited by R. S. Sugirtharajah, 96–111. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.

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    Looks at Mark, John, and Revelation to determine how early Christians promoted their message about Jesus by producing texts that challenged or accommodated the political forces responsible for his execution as a criminal.

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  • Maier, Henry O. “A Sly Civility: Colossians and Empire.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 213 (2005): 323–349.

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    Examines how the author of Colossians dramatically reconfigures terms associated with the cult of the emperor in interpreting the death of Jesus as a subversion of imperial ideals of victory.

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  • Richey, Lance Byron. Roman Imperial Ideology and the Gospel of John. Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 43. Washington, DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 2007.

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    Explores the function of imperial ideology in Asia Minor and argues that the Gospel of John confronts this ideology by positing Jesus as an alternative to the emperor.

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  • Versnel, H. S. “Making Sense of Jesus’ Death: The Pagan Contribution.” In Deutungen des Todes Jesu im Neuen Testament. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 181. Edited by Jörg Frey and Jens Schröter, 213–294. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005.

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    Examines the reemergence of classical themes of exemplary deaths during the period of the late Republic and early Empire, and suggests that notions of Jesus’ vicarious death originated less under the influence of earlier Greco-Roman and Jewish texts than that of contemporaneous texts produced under Roman imperial rule.

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Feminist Approaches to the Passion Narratives

The passion narratives, particularly with respect to the execution and entombment of Jesus, provide some of the more prominent portrayals of female followers of Jesus. Feminist scholarship on the passion narratives has predominately focused upon exploring how the narratives clarify the ways in which women are depicted in the gospels. Carson 1990 examines several passion narratives in order to determine what they may reveal concerning the roles of women in the communities responsible for such literature. Corley 1998 attempts to situate Mark’s representation of women at the execution and burial of Jesus in literary traditions that explore women’s roles in death and burial practices. Schottroff 1993 and Talvikki 2004 both consider the ambiguity in the gospels’ assertion of women’s status as witnesses and disciples. Kitzberger 1995 is also conscious of this ambiguity but argues more optimistically in favor of John’s validation of women’s roles in the passion. Newsom and Ringe 1998 provides some brief introductory materials concerning women in the passion.

  • Carson, Mary. “‘And they said nothing to anyone’: A Redaction-Critical Study of the Role and Status of Women in the Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection Stories of the Canonical and Apocryphal Gospels.” PhD diss., Newcastle University, 1990.

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    Full-length study that seeks to determine how the presentation of women in a variety of passion narratives may reflect the position of women in the early church.

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  • Corley, Kathleen E. “Women and the Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus.” Forum n.s. 1.1 (1998): 181–225.

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    Prominent study that examines the role of gender in ancient literary accounts of burial practices in order to clarify the depiction of women in the Markan passion.

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  • Kitzberger, Ingrid Rosa. “Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala—2 Female Characters in the Johannine Passion Narrative: A Feminist, Narrative-Critical Reader-Response.” New Testament Studies 41 (1995): 564–586.

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    Attempts a character analysis of the women in John’s passion based on the reconstructed perspective of a hypothetical 1st-century female reader. Employs some technical literary-critical theory.

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  • Newsom, Carol Ann, and Sharon H. Ringe, eds. Women’s Bible Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998.

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    Accessible but brief treatments of the position of women in each text of the Bible, including the gospels and their respective passion narratives.

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  • Schottroff, Louise. “Mary Magdalene and the Women at Jesus’ Tomb.” In Let the Oppressed Go Free: Feminist Perspectives on the New Testament. Translated by Annemarie Kidder, 168–203. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993.

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    A historical-redactional reading that compares the narratives of Mark and Matthew; concludes that although the synoptics do not reduce the importance of women’s roles in the aftermath of Jesus’ execution, this does not much alter the deeply androcentric perspective of the gospels.

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  • Talvikki, Mattila. “Naming the Nameless: Gender and Discipleship in Matthew’s Passion Narrative.” In Characterization in the Gospels: Reconceiving Narrative Criticism. Edited by David M. Rhoads and Kari Syreeni, 153–179. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement 184. London: T&T Clark, 2004.

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    Performs a character analysis of women in the passion narrative that explores how gender codes provide tension to Matthew’s presentation of the women as witnesses to Jesus.

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Anti-Semitism, Anti-Judaism, and the Passion Narratives

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, scholarship on the passion has grown acutely more aware of the critical role of the interpretation of Jesus’ death in the development and persistence of Christian anti-Judaism. The scholarly response to the need to amend understandings of the relationship between Jews and the death of Jesus has largely followed two trends: the reevaluation of the gospels’ portrayals of Jews and the revision of the historical role of Jews in Jesus’ execution. Cargall 1991 and Hamilton 2008 reach different conclusions while analyzing Matthew 27:24–25, a passage that has proven to be particularly consequential for the relationship between Jews and Christians. Crossan 1996 questions the historical accuracy of the New Testament representation of Jews, while also making a strong case for the place of ethics in historical scholarship. The contributions in Gordis 1971 present several influential approaches to the question of Jews’ roles in the condemnation and execution of Jesus. The essays in Richardson 1986 are a good representation of many of the most important approaches taken to the study of New Testament texts’ treatment of Jews. Thomson 2005 is an introduction accessible to a wide readership.

  • Cargall, Timothy. “‘His Blood Be upon Us and upon Our Children’: A Matthean Double Entendre?” New Testament Studies 37 (1991): 101–112.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0028688500015356Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A narrative-critical reading that argues against interpreting the notoriously consequential verses of Matthew 27:24–25 as exonerating Pilate while condemning Jews to perpetual blood-guilt. See Hamilton 2008 for a critique of Cargall’s conclusions.

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  • Crossan, John Dominic. Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

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    Questions the historical accuracy of the gospels’ presentation of Jews as responsible for Jesus’ death, but readers should note that this issue is somewhat subordinate to Crossan’s methodological critique of Brown 1994 (cited under General Overviews. Written for a broad audience.

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  • Gordis, Robert, ed. Special Issue: The Trial of Jesus in the Light of History. Judaism 20.1 (1971).

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    With the entire issue devoted to the problem of Jewish and Christian relations, most of these oft-referenced essays offer competing historical evaluations of the roles of Jews in the trial and death of Jesus. Largely nontechnical, these studies are accessible to advanced students.

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  • Hamilton, Catherine. “His Blood Be upon Us.” Catholic Bible Quarterly 70.1 (2008): 82–100.

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    Takes issue with the growing influence of the “ironic” reading of Matthew 27 (see Cargall 1991) and instead places this text in the context of traditions surrounding blood-guilt and the death of Zechariah.

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  • Richardson, Peter, and David Granskou, eds. Anti-Judaism in Early Christianity. Vol. 1, Paul and the Gospels. Studies in Christianity and Judaism 2. Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1986.

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    A variety of essays from key scholars, several of which directly concern the question of anti-Judaism in New Testament texts on the death of Jesus.

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  • Tomson, Peter J. Presumed Guilty: How the Jews Were Blamed for the Death of Jesus. Translated by Janet Dyk. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005.

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    An excellent introduction for general audiences to key issues concerning the development of Christian anti-Judaism. An abridgement of “If This Be from Heaven. . .”: Jesus and the New Testament Authors in Their Relationship to Judaism (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001).

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Passion Narratives and Historical Jesus Research

Historical Jesus scholarship focusing on the passion has predominantly concentrated on the trial sequences reported in the gospels. A formidable number of publications have pursued questions concerning the respective roles of different Jewish and Roman groups in the prosecution of Jesus, as well as what the legal bases may have been for Jesus’ condemnation. Winter 1974 provides an important development of the argument against the historicity of the gospel accounts of the trial before the Sanhedrin. The essays in Bammel 1970 present several different analyses of various facets of the trials of Jesus, but many of the authors share a general disagreement with Winter. Gordis 1971 (cited under Anti-Semitism, Anti-Judaism, and the Passion Narratives) offers excellent exposure to many of the main questions in historical research of the judicial procedures against Jesus. Millar 1990 is a compact comparison of the gospel trial accounts from a historical perspective. Hengel 1977 is the source of important literary and historical background to the practice of crucifixion in the Roman Empire. Sanders 1985 aims to establish and then clarify the facts surrounding Jesus’ conflict with his contemporaries and his subsequent execution. Crossan 1996 (cited under Anti-Semitism, Anti-Judaism, and the Passion Narratives) argues that the historical investigation of the passion narratives and their consequences for Christian attitudes toward Jews must be conducted with an awareness of the ethical stakes. Horsley 1994 gives an excellent review of scholarship on the subject and also makes a case for an increased use of political approaches to the passion.

  • Bammel, Ernest, ed. The Trial of Jesus: Cambridge Studies in Honour of C. F. D. Moule. London: SCM, 1970.

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    Offers various approaches to questions concerning the trial of Jesus. These essays are variously a rebuttal of Winter 1974.

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  • Hengel, Martin. Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977.

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    A brief but significant study providing historical and literary background to the practice and interpretation of crucifixion in the ancient world.

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  • Horsley, Richard A. “The Death of Jesus.” In Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research. Edited by Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans, 395–422. New Testament Tools and Studies 19. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994.

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    Excellent overview of the passion in historical Jesus studies that also calls for greater awareness of sociopolitical approaches.

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  • Millar, Frederic. “Reflections on the Trial of Jesus.” In A Tribute to Géza Vermès: Essays on Jewish and Christian Literature and History. Edited by Philip R. Davies and Richard T. White, 355–381. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 100. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1990.

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    A brief comparison of the canonical gospels with respect to the historical insights provided by each.

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  • Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985.

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    An investigation of the historical circumstances leading to the death of Jesus, from one of the foremost scholars of the historical Jesus. See especially Part 3 (pp. 245–318).

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  • Winter, Paul. On the Trial of Jesus. Studia Judaica: Forschungen zur Wissenschaft des Judentums 1. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1974.

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    A meticulous and influential study aimed at uncovering the apologetic and thus ahistorical nature of the gospels’ depiction of the role of Jews in the trial of Jesus. See Bammel 1970 for reaction to the impact of Winter’s conclusions. Originally published in 1961.

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LAST MODIFIED: 09/13/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393361-0088

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