rhetorical period (Luke 1:1-4) to the conspicuously Septuagintal diction of the birth narratives (as signalled immediately in 1:5) demonstrates the dual literary standards Luke emulates, and the companions he wishes his work to have. The hybrid that results is a drama of fulfilment of divine prophetic promises in three acts, which impelled Luke to sequelise, not just Mark, but his own work, and produce a second volume (logos, Acts 1:1) we now know as 'The Acts of the Apostles'. In it Luke provided a foundation story for a unified Christian movement (a romantic vision which belies the primary evidence in Paul's letters) that was completely faithful to its roots in Jerusalem andJudaism (i:8f; 2:22-38; 24:44-7), yet, when spurned, turned to the Gentiles, who 'will listen to it' (Acts 28:28). Written to a patron, Theophilus, Luke-Acts is the fullest piece of early apologetics, a defence of the legitimacy of the Christian movement as a religion rooted in a 'righteous' founder, Jesus, who was no threat to Roman authority (as even the Roman governor who wrote the order for his execution averred three times),70 and instigated a movement which has as its goal not political sedition, but universal religious salvation. The two-volume work shows the spread of the gospel from origins in Jerusalem and Jewish literary culture to Rome and a Gentile audience (i:8f; 2:22-38; Acts 28:30-1). Jesus and the movement he spawned are part of'world history', set in relation to the Roman imperium (2:i; 3:i).
John. Scholars dispute whether John's gospel is, like Matthew and Luke, a rewrite of Mark.7' This literary theologian trumps even the Matthean and Lukan attempts to push Mark's 'beginning' back to Jesus' ancestry to Abraham (Matt i:i-i7) or Adam (Luke 3:23-37), to the primordial, prehistorical 'beginning' before the creation of Genesis i:i. His famous prologue, a poetic rendering of the career of the logos ('the Word'), is cleverly poised to claim for Jesus divine praises from Hellenistic Judaism and Greek philosophy. The christological question that formed the centre of Mark's narrative ('Who do people say that I am?')72 becomes in John an inquiry about origins and destinations - 'Where is he from?' and 'Where is he going?'73 As in Mark the reader has been clued in to the answer from the prologue, but in the act of reading s/he is given the opportunity to 'see' and 'touch' textually the divine realities which will lead to belief, and true life (John 20:30-i; i John i:i-4). Like Matthew, John combines narrative material with discourse, but in his case
71 See pt 11, ch. 6, above. I tend to think John does know Mark.
the focus is not so much ethical as christological. Jesus in John is the divine 'exegete' (i:i8), who reveals God by disclosing his identity in predication (the frequent 'I am' statements) and paradox,74 chiefly his exaltation in the very moment of crucifixion, a literal 'lifting up' from the earth (John 3:i4; 8:28; i2:32-4) which is a moment of oxymoronic glorification (John i:i4; i2:i6, 23, 28; i7:5). But even the divine self-exegesis of the gospel text requires update and further interpretation. The gospel ofJohn has several endings, added over time in new editions, which allow us to glimpse the subsequent fate of the witness who stands behind the work, the 'Beloved Disciple' (see especially 2i:20-5; cf. i9:35), and Peter (2i:i8-i9), now martyred. The re-editions of the gospel are accompanied by at least one primer (perhaps written by one of the final editors?)75 in how to read it right. First John repudiates those who have gone astray from the proper 'beginning' and not understood that 'Jesus Christ has come in the flesh' (i John 4:2-3) in 'water and blood' (i John 5:6; cf. John i9:34). It is not hard to see how other readers, such as the Gnostic Heracleon, could find in this gospel's portrayal of Jesus' impassivity before death76 ample grounds for the contrary view, even as the revelation discourses in John were to be a standard literary form among the books found at Nag
Gnostics, and other Christians, had more gospels than these four. When Origen seeks to explain Luke's reference to 'many [who] have undertaken' to write (Luke 1:1), he names such works as 'the gospel of the Egyptians' (elsewhere, also, 'the gospel of the Hebrews'), 'the gospel of the Twelve', 'the gospel of Basilides', 'the gospel of Thomas', and 'the gospel of Matthias', among 'many others'.78 The second century saw increasing debate about the status, authority and consistency among these various gospels. Several solutions were proposed: for a community of Christians to pick (and perhaps suitably edit)79 one gospel that best reflects their views, to harmonise the gospels into a single composite narrative,80 or deliberately to enshrine the diverse portraits into a
74 On paradox as characteristic of Christian discourse, see Cameron, Christianity and the rhetoric of empire.
75 Brown, Gospel according to John, vol. 1, xxiv-xl.
76 Compare John 12:27 and Mark 13:32-41.
77 See The Nag Hammadi library in English, Robinson (ed.).
78 Hom. Luc. 1.4-5. See Klauck, Apocryphal gospels, and translated texts in NTApoc, vol. 1.
79 See ch. 9, below, on Marcion's edition of Luke's gospel.
80 Such as Tatian's 'Diatessaron' (see pt iv, ch. 19, below).
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