Fortress Press

A Theory of Character in New Testament Narrative

A Theory of Character in New Testament Narrative

Cornelis Bennema (Author), R. Alan Culpepper (Foreword by)


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In this study in three-dimensional character reconstruction, Cornelis Bennema presents a new theory of character in the New Testament literature. Although character has been the subject of focused literary-critical study of the New Testament since the 1970s, Bennema observes that there is still no consensus regarding how character should be understood in contemporary literary theory or in biblical studies.

Many New Testament scholars seem to presume that characters in Greco-Roman literature are two-dimensional, “Aristotelian” figures, unlike the well-rounded, psychologized individuals who appear in modern fiction. They continue nevertheless to apply contemporary literary theory to characters in ancient writings. Bennema here offers a full, comprehensive, and non-reductionist theory for the analysis, classification, and evaluation of characters in the New Testament.
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451472219
  • eBook ISBN 9781451484304
  • Pages 240
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Publication Date April 1, 2014


Foreword by R. Alan Culpepper
1. Introduction—Identifying a Dominant Pattern/Paradigm
2. Character in Antiquity and Modernity—Deconstructing the Dominant Pattern/Paradigm
3. A Theory of Character in New Testament Narrative—Constructing a New Paradigm
4. Application of the Theory—Validating the New Paradigm
5. Conclusion


"Cornelis Bennema has already established himself at the forefront of the study of characterization in the Gospels. He has identified the need for a comprehensive theory of characterization that is informed by both ancient and modern literary theorists. I fully expect that this book will be a milestone in the field of narrative criticism of the Gospels and Acts."
—R. Alan Culpepper 
Mercer University

“‘Characters’ and ‘characterization’ have received considerable attention in recent biblical scholarship. What Cornelis Bennema brings to the table is a clear and well-honed theoretical framework for the study of characters in New Testament narratives. No future attempt at classifying and evaluating those characters can afford to ignore this insightful and valuable study.”
Catrin H. Williams
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
“In this book, Cornelis Bennema provides a concise and lucid account of the central issues in character analysis. He deftly combines ancient concepts of characters with modern narrative theories and develops a detailed list of character descriptors which helps to classify every character, major or minor, in New Testament narratives. Without any doubt, this is a unique and extremely useful study which will inspire further character studies in the biblical narratives and beyond. I have been enriched in various ways by this book.”
Ruben Zimmermann
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz