The Spiral Gospel: Intratextuality in Luke’s Narrative

By Rob James

Uncovering hidden meaning and authorial craft in the Gospel of Luke.

ISBN: 9780227178171


How did the author of the Gospel of Luke intend it to be read? In The Spiral Gospel, Rob James shows that the assumptions many modern readers bring to the text – that it claims to be historically factual, or merely regurgitates existing stories – are not those of antiquity. Building on the central insight that it was written for a community who would have used it as their pre-eminent text, James argues convincingly for a continuous, cyclical reading of Luke’s narrative.

The evidence for this view, and also its consequences, can be seen in the gospel’s intratextuality. Context is given at the end of the gospel that informs the beginning, and there are countless other intratextual elements throughout the text that are most readily noticeable on a second or subsequent reading. This deliberate, creative interweaving on the author’s part opens up new levels of appreciation and faith for those who read in the way Luke’s first audience received his work.

Additional information

Dimensions 254 × 156 mm
Pages 200

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

The Revd Dr Rob James has been the Professor of Anglican Formation and Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology since July 2022. Before this, he was Chancellor of Wells Cathedral, Somerset, and has served as a vicar in Gloucestershire. Alongside his work for the Church of England, he taught theology and religious studies for various institutions in the UK before moving to Canada.



Luke: History, but Not as We Know It
On Reading the Bible Then and Now
On Q and on Luke as Author: The Chicken or the Egg?
The Material to Be Explored

1. Linking the Ending to the Beginning
The Boy in the Temple and the Emmaus Road
Further Intratextuality Relating to the Temple
Witnesses to Jesus and the ‘Word’
Power from on High
Concluding Comments

2. Intratextual Attributes of Jesus
Jesus as the Radically Pure One
Jesus as the ‘Beloved’ and ‘Chosen’ Son
The Face of Jesus, His Chosenness and Choices
Concluding Comments

3. Titles of Jesus
Jesus as the Son of Man
Jesus as the Son of God
Jesus as the Christ
Concluding Comments

4. On Jesus’ Teaching and Doing
Joy and the Developing Church
Petitionary Prayer and the Revelation of God in Jesus
Pride, Humility and True Righteousness
Concluding Comments

An Intratextual Reading Paradigm: The Spiral Text
Further Thoughts on Q
Reading Luke Intratextually



Endorsements and Reviews

Rob James makes the case convincingly that Luke was an intentional and creative author in his own right, intending his central message to be discerned through an iterative, intratextual, spiral reading of the text. James illuminates the inner coherence and connections that make this possible. Readers will find intellectually stimulating new ways to think about Luke as an author who expected his text to be deeply quarried for its rich treasures.
Paul Foster, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

This book proposes that Luke hoped for his Gospel to be re-read multiple times by the community for whom it was written. Whether or not one is persuaded by the thesis itself, James provides a careful study of multiple intertextual references within Luke, convincingly demonstrating the skill and deliberation Luke employed as he crafted his narrative.
Shelly Matthews, Professor of New Testament, Brite Divinity School

The Spiral Gospel considers the Gospel of Luke as a narrative designed to be read not once but repeatedly and to become richer with each rereading. By tracing the ways Luke interweaves recurring words, phrases, and themes, Rob James shows us how the author invites us into an ever-deepening engagement with the Jesus story. This study will reward the attention of both non-specialists and experts. I heartily recommend this book.
Harry O. Maier, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Study, Vancouver School of Theology