n Neotestamentica - Archetypes and the Fourth Gospel: Literature and Theology in Conversation, Brian Larsen - book reviews

Volume 53 Number 3
  • ISSN : 0254-8356
  • E-ISSN: 2518-4628


Larsen’s monograph is a reworked version of his 2001 dissertation, submitted to the University of St. Andrews for a Ph.D. in literature and theology. The book reflects this dual interest as it marries two of the author’s great loves, namely, theology and the Bible, on the one hand, and literature and literary analysis, on the other. Larsen sets out to remind his readers that the Bible is “a work of literature and a work of theology” (1), and that the Fourth Gospel (FG) is no exception to this. In his study, Larsen employs (and adapts) Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism (1957), in which Frye developed a theory of literary criticism framed by four generic plots: romance, tragedy, satire and irony/comedy. Avoiding the usage of only one of these plots to describe the FG, Larsen identifies them as four possible literary archetypes and argues that different characters in the Gospel embody salient features of each:

Jesus, an innocent and virtuous man acting on behalf of others embodies much of the heroic pattern characteristic of romance; Pilate, unable or unwilling to act justly in an unwanted and unavoidable particular circumstance, as tragic; Thomas and the Jews, as representatives of the ironic and skeptical point of view; and Peter, who denies Christ and later recovers, as comic. (5)

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