Possible Explanation for Late Reception of the Gospels by Early Church in Rome (Gupta)

As I prep for new courses here at George Fox Evangelical Seminary, I am enjoying getting more acquainted with gospels-scholarship (I am teaching “Gospels and Acts” this term). I found this statement from Eugene Boring (An Introduction to the New Testament) fascinating. 

There is no indication that the Christian community in Rome, during the period when it was becoming the leading church in the empire, accepted the Gospels into their collection of normative Christian documents until well into the second century. One reason for the hesitant reception of the Gospels is that the reading of narratives of Jesus’ life and teaching did not already have the accepted slot in Christian worship that had become standard by virtue of reading the Pauline letters and other letters in the Pauline tradition alongside the Scriptures. It is likely that another, theological reason played a role as well: narratives focused on a miracle-working, divine man Jesus were too easily misunderstood in docetic terms, and difficult to reconcile with the epistolary focus on the cross and resurrection. (p. 507).

Is Boring right about this? What do you think? 

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3 thoughts on “Possible Explanation for Late Reception of the Gospels by Early Church in Rome (Gupta)

  1. Sure, Paul’s letters have a natural chronological and geographic priority in Rome, but what reason does Boring give for the lack of acceptance of the written Gospels once they were disseminated? Without the narrative (-s) about Jesus Paul’s letters wouldn’t seem to make as much sense as they would with the context of the Gospels–but I’m not a 2nd C. Roman–anti Jewish bias may play a role here, with consequences that reverberate today. The second idea proferred: “It is likely that another, theological reason played a role as well: narratives focused on a miracle-working, divine man Jesus were too easily misunderstood in docetic terms, and difficult to reconcile with the epistolary focus on the cross and resurrection.” would, ISTM, require quite a bit of explanation just to make sense.

  2. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In other words, what evidence exists for the opposite claim: that the church in Rome did NOT accept the Gospels into their collection of normative Christian documents?

    Also, I must be forgetting it, but what precisely is the indication that Paul’s letters were read alongside the “Scriptures” in Rome before the mid-2nd century?

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