Biblical Source Criticism and Narrative Criticism as a Part of It

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1466 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Aug 14, 2023

Words: 1466|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Aug 14, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Jesus Passion Through the Biblical Source Criticism
  2. Conclusion
  3. References

Biblical criticism is the study of looking at the textual, compositional and historical questions surrounding the Old and New testament. The theme of narrative criticism as a part of biblical source criticism is revealed in the essay. Narrative criticism tries to understand the meaning of words based on the way they are written in the story. Narrative criticism also considers the implied audience, setting and characters. Each gospel is written for a different audience, so the author uses their own vocabulary and will be concentrating on the setting, implied audience, characters and symbolism. This essay will be discussing the narrative criticism used in Mark and Matthew’s passion narratives. Even though Mark and Matthew gospels are identical, they have different number of chapters. Matthew has 28 chapters and Mark has 16 chapters. Matthew emphasizes Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel and why the teachings of Jesus are important, but on the other hand, Mark gives special importance to Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem, crucifixion and resurrection. Matthew’s gospel is written mainly for Jewish Christians living near Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Matthew’s gospel was written so that the Jews that became Christians around that time would have a better understanding and appreciation of Jesus. But on the other side, Mark’s gospel was written for a gentile audience. Mark’s gospel aim was to support people living under the threat of prosecutions. Passion narratives are stories from Jesus’s agony in Gethsemane to Jesus’s burial. This essay will be discussing about three of the stories from the passion narrative. These include Jesus’ arrest, Jesus’ trial before Pilate and Jesus’ crucifixion. Narrative criticism helps readers interpret the text in a new way. Narrative criticism also helps reader understand story from an imaginary implied reader. 

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Jesus Passion Through the Biblical Source Criticism

Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane is the start of Jesus’ passion. Even though the plot is the same Matthew and Mark’s story of Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane is still different. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus’ arrest is basic but in Mark’s gospel the arrest is a bit longer. For example, Matthew 26:48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” But Mark says, Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” The extra few words do make it different. This is purposely done by the authors because Mark’s gospel is written to people under persecution so Mark talks about Jesus’ persecution in detail. But Matthew’s audience is Jews trying to be Christians, so they just need to know the basic story. To do this Mark presented Jesus as a martyr. Mark wanted the gentile coverts to stay strong and keep going through prosecutions. But Matthew’s aim is to Christians who were excluded mainly because the religion was Judaism. This aim is to tell the Jewish community about Jesus’ teachings. The setting in both gospels are the same. Jesus gets arrested while he was talking with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was taken by guards. Jesus is portrayed as being obedient to the scriptures. The disciples fleeing shows humans that pray to Jesus for a wish and if the wish doesn’t come true, they just leave Jesus. The characters in Matthew’s version of this story include Jesus, twelve disciples, mob of guards, the crowd. In Mark’s version the characters include Jesus, twelve disciples, mob of guards, the crowd and a young man. Judas symbolizes the people of God. Most people are turning away from God and going after worldly pleasures.

Jesus is portrayed as a great and mystical man in all the gospels. But there are also parts in all gospels where he is presented as being weak. This is related to the topic because this story is part of the passion narrative and readers are able to learn more if they know more information about the setting, characters and audience.

The next part of Jesus passion is when he gets trial by Pilate. The narrative in both gospels are the same in both gospels but there are noticeable differences. Again, Mark’s version of the story is longer for the same reason presented in the first body paragraph. Matthew version of Jesus before Pilate is split into two stories Jesus before Pilate and Way of the cross. But Mark’s version is under one subheading. Matthew talks about Pilate’s wife having a dream and Pilate washing his hands. For example, Matthew 27:24-25 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

This describes that Pilate knew Jesus was innocent and Pilate didn’t want crucify Jesus, but he had to please the people. Matthew talked about these two sentences because to tell his audience that Jesus was innocent and holy.

But Mark presented Pilate as a person who shows no mercy towards Jesus. This was exactly Mark wanted to say towards his audience. Mark’s aim was to tell his audience that no mercy will be shown towards people fighting for Jesus.

The setting is the same in both gospels. This story is set in the early morning, in Judea because Pilate was the governor of Judea and Jesus was taken to the house of Pilate. The characters in this narrative include Pilate, Jesus, Barabbas and the crowd of people. In this story Jesus is shown as weak and helpless because he is being obedient to the scriptures. The crowd shows normal people not doing anything to save Jesus. There is no relationship with God and the people.

Jesus gets handed over this symbolises how Jesus is threatened by his own people. This is related to the topic because this story is part of the passion narrative and readers are able to learn more if they know more information about the setting, characters and audience.

Jesus’ crucifixion is a one of the final parts of the passion narrative. Matthew’s version is longer. In Mathew’s version the crucifixion part is under the sub heading The Way of the Cross. But Mark has a separate heading for Jesus’ crucifixion. In Mark’s time is specific. For example, it was nine in the morning when they crucified him. This is said to show that Jesus was up all-night cause Jesus was arrested at midnight, then the trials happened. The setting and characters in both gospels are similar they both happen at Golgotha, I front of the elders and high priests. The characters in this story include Jesus, Simon, soldiers, 2 bandits, scribes, elders, people passing by and high priests. Jesus is shown to be weak and he still has not said a word. The crowd is talking in a rude way to Jesus and annoying him.

Jesus getting crucified symbolises that people don’t care about Jesus after a while. He suffers a painful death. This symbolises that people standing up for Jesus will also be killed just like the disciples of Jesus got killed. Authorities convincing people and getting rid of Jesus and be dominant. Using narrative criticism, we are able to figure out the interests and concerns of the early Christians who wrote these texts. We are able to learn about what the author wanted to say to the audience.


To conclude, narrative criticism is closely linked with biblical criticism. Biblical criticism looks at every aspect of the story, but narrative criticism looks at the words and what they mean to the audience. Even though the plot for Mark and Matthew are similar, Mark and Matthew were written for different audiences. So, they purposefully included important vocabulary. This essay talked about three key aspects in Jesus’ passion. These included Jesus arrest, Jesus’ trial before Pilate and Jesus’ crucifixion. Narrative criticism has aspects to it which include implied audience, characters, setting and symbolism. Using narrative criticism to analyse the bible will help the reader to understand and interpret the point that the author was trying to make.   


  1. Alter, R. (1981). The Art of Biblical Narrative. Basic Books.

  2. Powell, M. A. (1990). What Is Narrative Criticism? Fortress Press.

  3. Richter, S. L. (1995). The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament. IVP Academic.

  4. Steinberg, D. (2017). The Fiction of the Past: Narrative Theology in the Historical Jesus Debate. Oxford University Press.

  5. Berlin, A. (1999). Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative. Eisenbrauns.

  6. Jobling, D. (1998). The Sense of Biblical Narrative II: Structural Analyses in the Hebrew Bible. T&T Clark International.

  7. Gunn, D. M., & Fewell, D. N. (Eds.). (1993). Narrative in the Hebrew Bible. Oxford University Press.

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  8. Exum, J. C. (Ed.). (1996). Beyond the Biblical Horizon: The Bible and the Arts. Scholars Press.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Biblical Source Criticism and Narrative Criticism as a Part of It. (2023, August 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 11, 2023, from
“Biblical Source Criticism and Narrative Criticism as a Part of It.” GradesFixer, 14 Aug. 2023,
Biblical Source Criticism and Narrative Criticism as a Part of It. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 11 Dec. 2023].
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