For Whom were the Gospels Written? (Bauckham, 1999)

My title – For whom were Gospels written? – could be analysed into two distinct questions, only one of which I intend to tackle this morning.  One could ask: Were Gospels written for Christians or for non-Christians?  This question has sometimes been discussed, particularly in the case of the Gospels of Luke and John, since a minority of scholars have argued that those Gospels were written as apologetic or evangelistic works, not for Christians but for outsiders.  On this question I shall go with the general consensus, that all Gospels were intended primarily for Christians, without arguing that point.  It does deserve to be argued, but I have another agenda this morning.  I will only say that it seems to me that, if any of the evangelists did envisage reaching non-Christian readers, they would have to have envisaged reaching them via Christian readers, who could pass on copies of Gospels to interested outsiders through personal contact.  So the Christian audience would in any case remain primary.

The second question one could ask, and the one I invite you to ask this morning is: Were the Gospels written for a specific Christian audience or for a general Christian audience?  Was, for example, Matthew written for Matthew’s own church, the so-called Matthean community, or was it written for the purpose of circulating widely around the churches?  Are a Gospel’s implied readers a specific Christian community, or are they the members of any and every Christian community of the late first century to which the Gospel might circulate?  Whereas my first question has sometimes been discussed, with some substantial arguments deployed in its discussion, this second question is remarkable for having never, so far as I can tell, been discussed.  No space remotely approaching even the scope of this lecture this morning has ever been devoted in print to arguing the case one way or the other.

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