Header image  
line decor
line decor


The Place of the Gospels in the General History of Literature

Karl Ludwig Schmidt
Translated by Byron R. McCane, with an introduction by John Riches

The first translation into English of a landmark argument about the genre of the gospels

Karl Ludwig Schmidt's classic Die Stellung der Evangelien der allgemeinen Literaturgeschichte was one of a handful of twentieth-century essays on the New Testament to set the agenda for an entire generation of New Testament scholars. First published in 1923, the text laid out Schmidt's contention that the gospels represent a literary genre that does not derive from others in the ancient world. In portraying the gospels as the written record of an oral tradition rather than as biographical or historical text, the German scholar found points of comparison with the Sayings of the Desert Fathers and the later collections of Faust legends. Schmidt's powerful argument has commanded attention in Germany for decades but has never before been fully available in English. In recent years the question of gospel genre has reemerged as an issue of debate. With this translation, Byron R. McCane enables a new generation of English-speaking scholars to engage with Schmidt's classic perspective on an enduring question.

In an introduction to the volume, John Riches places Schmidt's landmark study in its context. He locates the text among the writings of the form critics, with whom Schmidt allied himself, and relates it to Schmidt's own still untranslated study of the topography and chronology of the gospels. He documents the essay's reception in the English-speaking world and critically examines the way Schmidt is understood in present-day discussion of the genre of the gospels. Riches also explores how recent efforts to classify the gospels as ancient biographies have in many ways misread and misrepresented Schmidt's views—errors that this translation will help to rectify.

Karl Ludwig Schmidt (1891–1956) was one of the most distinguished twentieth-century scholars to undertake the literary criticism of the gospels. His landmark study Der Rahmen der Geschichte Jesu: Literarkritische Untersuchungen zur ältesten Jesusberlieferung (1918) and the essay translated here have long been recommended reading not only for students in biblical studies but also for divinity school students.

Byron R. McCane is an associate professor of religion and chair of the Department of Religion at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His interest in the gospels includes the archaeology of Galilee, and he is director of the Field School of the Sepphoris Acropolis Excavations. McCane lives in Spartanburg.

John Riches is professor of divinity and biblical criticism at the University of Glasgow. He was one of the translators of Rudolf Bultmann's Gospel of John: A Commentary and is the author of A Century of New Testament Study. His most recent book is Conflicting Mythologies: Identity Formation in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.



book jacket for The Place of the Gospels in the General History of Literature


6 x 9
160 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-430-5
cloth, $24.95s

    Copyright ©2018 The University of South Carolina Press