A brief narrative
focused on a memorable saying associated with a prominent figure. The term was
coined by the British scholar, Vincent
Taylor, & widely used
in the English-speaking world for the type of story that early German form critics
"paradigm" or "apophthegma" (a Greek term meaning
"what is uttered aloud"). Recent scholars often prefer to call such
stories by the classical rhetorical term: "chreia."
story briefly sketches a setting for a dramatic saying. The basic story is a
self-contained unit designed for easy memory & oral repetition. Details
are generally limited to sketchy description of elements that set the stage
for a remark that might otherwise be perplexing. In many cases a pronouncement
by or about Jesus represents the original climax of the story. In stringing
such stories together to form connected written narratives the authors of the
gospels have provided their own transitions.
As originally a
form of oral folklore, pronouncement stories are quite flexible. Each gospel
writer preserved the logical structure of a basic story but felt free to
reword any details needed to clarify the point. The setting of the
pronouncement could be expanded or condensed; the pronouncement itself could
be paraphrased; the same story could be told in a different context in the
narrative. The story in which Jesus identifies his true
kin (Mark 3:31-35 & parallels) is a good example of varied performances of a typical pronouncement
analyze pronouncement stories involving Jesus not just to determine what he said, but to learn more
about the situation of followers who told these stories about him.
critics analyze the different versions of pronouncement stories to clarify the distinctive
traits of each writer's perspective on Jesus.