The Programmatic Scene in New Testament Gospels and Ancient Biographies

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Kasper Bro Larsen


Aarhus University


DKK 819,731




Monograph Fellowships


With the Carlsberg Monograph Fellowship I am honoured to have the opportunity to finish a monograph that I am currently researching. The monograph is a genre historical study of an important element in ancient biographies and gospels: the programmatic scene. The programmatic scene contains the main character's first public appearance, for example Alexander's first military campaign, Demosthenes' first rhetorical speech, Moses' characteristic first address to the Israelites, and Jesus' first programmatic public appearances in the gospels. In the monograph, I argue that the programmatic scene functions as a main interpretive key to the work in which the scene appears.


With this monograph I offer a new approach to ancient biographies and gospels. In recent decades, scholarship has demonstrated that the New Testament gospels are Jesus biographies that play into the ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman bios/vita genre. The programmatic scene, however, remains overlooked. The monograph (1) demonstrates how the programmatic scene functioned in ancient rhetoric and literature, (2) identifies and analyses the variety of programmatic scenes in the four New Testament gospels, and (3) shows how ancient Christian gospel users in their exegetical practice and manuscript culture applied special significance to the programmatic scenes. This approach has potential for impact beyond New Testament studies, for example on the study of ancient literature in general.


In the monograph, I shall give particular focus to the programmatic scenes of the four New Testament gospels. Each of the four gospels highlights a different scene as the programmatic scene of Jesus. The gospel author's deliberate choice of programmatic scene thus reflects the overall theological conception and target audience of each gospel. I shall demonstrate this through in-depth exegetical analysis of the ancient Greek texts including the ancient manuscripts that reveal how later Christian readers of the gospels would interpret the programmatic scenes.

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