Among the many differences between the Gospels and the Epistles, it is possible to overlook what should be, perhaps, the plainest of them all: the significantly greater role of memory in the Gospels. In contrast to the immediacy of the Epistles (especially Paul's), the truth we find in the Gospels is essentially remembered truth.
Almost in passing, some Christians commented on this feature early in the second century. In our first extant reference to the Gospels, Papias of Hierapolis observed that the Evangelist Mark, "having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ." A few years later, Justin Martyr described the Gospels as memoirs composed by the apostles.
It is a fact that roughly a generation separated the life of Jesus from the earliest of the Gospels, probably Mark. Now, if we regard Mark's work and the other Gospels as memoirs, this should count for something in how we read them; we should recognize, for instance, that the information they contain was not recent or fresh. If Mark had written thirty years earlier, his work would not be a memoir.
Memoir vs. Martyrion
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more on bible from the online archives
more from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor