The Gospels as Ancient Biographies
[Objectives] [Kerygma and Not Fact?] [Was Ancient Biography Reliable As History?] [The Gospels as Biography] [A Comparison and Contrast Case Study] [Conclusions]

The Gospels are ancient biographies. This may not seem important, but we will see why it is. In this article, our purpose is:

  1. To review the evidence that the Gospels are indeed ancient biographies (bioi). Here we shall draw extensively upon the work of Glenn Miller of the Christian ThinkTank.
  2. To compare the Gospels in form and structure to other known bioi, and draw some relevant conclusions based on these comparisons.

Objection: The Gospels may be in the form of bioi, but their kerygmatic nature overrules this classification and relevant considerations.

We take a closer look at the kerygma issue in this article. For the present, the objection above is answered by Talbert [Talb.WIG, 2], who observes that the Bultmannian assumption that the Gospels are purely kerygma rests on three assumptions:

  1. That the Gospels are mythical in orientation, whereas ancient biographies are not;
  2. That the Gospels served a cultic purpose, whereas ancient biographies did not;
  3. That the Gospels were written by a group with a world-negating view, while ancient biographies were world-affirming.

Talbert deconstructs each of these assumptions in turn, noting that:

  1. The Gospels are similar in nature to those also written about Dionysius and Asclepius - as we would expect if Jesus were regarded as an immortal figure! (ibid., 37-41)
  2. Other ancient biographies also served cultic purposes (ibid., 108).
  3. The point of the view of the Gospels is not world-negating at all (ibid., 127).

Talbert then divides ancient biographies into five types:

  1. Biographies meant to offer a pattern to copy.
  2. Biographies intended to dispel false images, and give a true model. Talbert puts Xenophon's bio of Socrates in this category, along with the Life of Apollonius (see below) and all four Gospels to some extent, with this being the main purpose of Mark and John.
  3. Biographies written as expose' to discredit someone.
  4. Biographies offering the life of a founder of a philosophical school, followed by an account of those who follow the founder and keep his traditions. Talbert puts the Luke-Acts tandem in this type, along with Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers.
  5. Biographies that provide a "hermeneutical key" for the teaching of doctrine. Here Talbert places Matthew, along with Porphyry's Life of Plotinus.

In conclusion, Talbert asserts that the Gospels would be recognized as biographies by those who saw them. (ibid., 116)

Ancient biography is a lot different from modern biography. Ancient biographies often resorted to exaggeration and fabrication.

This may be granted to a certain extent: Aune writes that "In the ancient world biography was a powerful propaganda tool." [Aune.NTLE, 35] However, we may note that:

  1. There were still certain restrictions on what could be written, as we shall see;
  2. The nature of biography is such that it invites interpretation, and this is unavoidable. Cox [Cox.BLAnt, 12] writes of ancient biographical works:
    The difference between history and biography lay not primarily in form but in content...(Plutarch) pleads with his readers not to criticize the selective nature of his accounts of deeds and events in his biography of Alexander (the Great). For biography does not aim to give exhaustive historical reporting. It succeeds in its portrayal of character by a careful selection of whatever actions serve best to illustrate it.

    And things have not changed. Oates [Oat.BioH, 11], a specialist in modern biography, offers this admonition:

    The process of selection, of deciding which details and quotations should be used and which discarded, depends on the biographers interpretation of character and career, his sense of significance, and his intentions and insights. No two biographers, when confronted with the same body of evidence about a person, will reach the same set of conclusions. That is why there is no such thing as a definitive biography.

    To this, Oates adds [ibid., 13] that the best biographical writers are those who empathize with their subjects - as the Gospel writers did with theirs. It is those who dislike their subject that are most likely to resort to caricature.

  3. To be fair, it is not only the Gospels that are looked at this way - Burridge notes similar criticisms of Tacitus' Agricola [Burr.WAG, 173], and I have seen many other such cases elsewhere.
  4. Biographers are just as likely today to produce "propaganda pieces" and exaggerate their subjects' lives (more by omission today than by addition) as they were in Jesus' time. Take note of this criticism:
    Biographies, as generally written, are not only misleading, but false. The author makes a wonderful hero of his subject. He magnifies his perfections, if he has any, and suppresses his imperfections. History is not history unless it is the truth.

    If you think that this criticism applies to ancient biographies, you may be right - but these words were spoken by Abraham Lincoln concerning the biographies of HIS time [Oat.BioH, 6] - and I daresay they apply just as well to many biographies today.

Nevertheless, standards of truth did indeed exist for ancient biographies, as indeed they exist today. We again refer to Miller, who writes:

...even a brief review of ancient history writers can surface numerous statements about concern over "fact and accuracy", and the scholarly estimates of those perspectives will bear this up. If we then examine the Gospel writers to see if they intended to write "history" in this 'ancient' sense, and find that it was so, we will have a good case for their 'professional ethics relative to fact and accuracy'. (See also JPM,ScSy, 141.)

Miller goes on to identify five areas of study for this issue:

1.Examine ancient history/biography writers for 'clues' as to their orientation toward "fact and accuracy": original statements, scholarly examples, and scholarly summaries.
2.We will see if these standards apply to the category of Bioi (Greek term for a written account of a celebrated "life")
3.We examine three specific issues that come up in this area:
The issue of "invented" speeches
The issue of "historical elaboration"
The issue of the "rhetorical historians" of Imperial times
4.We then examine the evidence for classifying the Gospels in the category Bioi
5.We note any additional relevant evidence.

For Item #1, Miller provides statements from several ancient historians, and modern scholars of ancient history, demonstrating the concern for accuracy. For brevity, we shall repeat only some here; the full accounting may be found at Miller's site:

Herodotus (the Father of History: 484bc-428bc)
At this point I find myself compelled to express an opinion which I know most people will object to; nevertheless, as I believe it is true, I will not suppress it [The Histories 7.138-139]
Polybius (204bc-117bc)
There is a proverb which tells us that a single drop, taken from even the largest vessel, is enough to reveal to us the nature of the whole contents, and the same principle may be applied to the subject we are now discussing. Accordingly when we find one or two false statements in a book and they prove to have been deliberately made, we know that we can no longer treat anything that is said by such an author as reliable or trustworthy.[10.25a]
With all his passion for accurate reconstruction, Thucydides had no use for history as the object of intellectual contemplation. With all his passion for accuracy, he never aimed at a simple reconstruction of what actually happened but joined the other ancient historians in holding fast to a public purpose for the study of the past.
HAMM:20 points out that Hecataeus of Miletus (549bc-486bc) had tried to separate the "historical" Hercules from the "legendary" one [hmmm....I wonder he if started "The Hercules Seminar"? ;>) ]
Fornara [NHAGR:99]
Of the various principles laid down by the ancients, none is more fundamental than the honest and impartial presentation of the facts, and it is entirely consistent with their clarity of vision and intellectual emancipation that the Greeks gave it to the world. The principle was a natural, indeed, reflexive inheritance from the ethnographic-scientific Ionian school: historia, unless accurate, is a contradiction in terms.

In line with above, Aune writes that while ancient biographies placed an emphasis on "plausibility rather than truth" [Aune.NTLE, 64-5], this was a result of concern for the truth, which was the first priority in writing - anything implausible was thus to be discarded! And while usefulness and entertainment value were also considered (ibid., 95), truth could not be compromised for the sake of entertainment!

Burridge [Burr.4GJ, 167] cites another example from Tacitus' Agricola. The speech of a Caledonian chieftain is recorded there, one that is obviously "fabricated" - inasmuch as no Caledonian chieftain would be as familiar with Roman behavior as this one, "let alone be able to denounce it in beautifully balanced Latin rhetoric". Yet Tacitus is not here perpetrating a fiction, but revealing a higher level of truth, which tells more truth about Roman behavior than about what a chieftain would say about Rome.

Miller shows how these criteria were applied to the genre of bioi, into which the Gospels fit with great precision:

Biographical writing for the ancients was a much wider venue, ranging from sketches in Herodotus to "Paid-Commercials" by court writers. The category of Bioi, however, had a somewhat more restricted focus, and had substantial overlap with a number of genres--esp. history. There were sub-genres under bios, such as political biography or philosophical biography (categorized by teaching and doctrine) [Burr.WAG, 247].
Aune draws attention to one of the main differences between history and bios [Aune.NTLE:30]:
Plutarch and Nepos did not want to write complete accounts of the deeds of their subjects (that would be history), but wished to selectively emphasize sayings that reveal character (which is biography)... Distinctions between history and biography, however, were more theoretical than practical. During the late Hellenistic period history and biography moved closer together with the increasing emphasis on character in historiography. Biography and history became more and more difficult to distinguish; encomium (TN: "eulogy or praise") could and did pervade both.
(For a detailed discussion of the overlap of the genres, see the excellent discussion by the classicist Burridge in Burr.WAG, 65-69.)
In keeping with this closeness of genre, Bioi, while giving an author a little more artistic room to paint his character-canvas (BLOM:238), nonetheless was fact-and-accuracy oriented enough for writers to accuse OTHER writers of 'fraud'(!) or misrepresentation.
For example, Grant [GRH:81ff] gives examples of where Lucian called a Bioi fraudulent and where Cicero urged his readers to watch out for "mere inventions of fact" in such writings.
In short, since Bioi had an element of characterization, that was often best related by 'telling a story about the person', the elaboration of contextual elements was less "controlled." Vividness was important, but still, since the piece was generally historical (rather than rhetorical) the canons of accuracy and fidelity were still operative. (Indeed, the canons of 'detail' was actually heightened--due to the need for painting the picture...)

The above is elaborated upon by Cox [Cox.BLAnt, xi], who points out that:

For Plutarch and the ancient biographical tradition generally, a man's actions, whether illustrious or ignominious, were significant insofar as they revealed his character; as Plutarch says, biography was revelatory discourse, aimed at disclosing a man's inner self. The biographer's task was to capture the gesture which laid bare the soul.

Miller goes on to demonstrate that the ancient historians had the means to achieve high standards of reliability in their writing:

...not only was accuracy in the genre MANDATORY, it was also ACHIEVABLE--cf. the statement by the outstanding historical scholar Momigliano,in EAMH:162-163:
Methods had existed since the fifth century B.C.--that is, since the beginning of historiography in Greece--of getting correct information about the remote past. These methods were critical, in the sense that the user, after reflection and study, was satisfied as to their reliability. The first Greek historian, Hecataeus (end of the sixth century), had developed methods of correcting and rationalizing many mythical stories. Herodotus knew how to go about Egypt and other countries and to ask about their antiquities. Even Thucydides used ancient poetry and archaeological and epigraphical evidence to formulate conclusions about the state of archaic Greek society and about specific events of the past. Chronological problems were systematically dealt with by Hippias and Hellanicus at the end of the first century. Later, the practice of consulting ancient texts and of criticizing ancient traditions was vigorously pursued by Hellenistic scholars. The Romans themselves--as their antiquarian tradition shows, from Varro in the first century B.C. to Virgil's commentator Servious at the beginning of the first century A.D.--knew very well how to collect reliable facts about the past.
In other words, they had both the attitude and ability for accuracy . They were "on the whole much more reliable than is usually supposed, and that, despite our pretensions, the principle difference between them and us is that most of them wrote a good deal better." [Robin Seager, review comment on back cover of NHAGR]

In his next section Miller addresses the matter of "invented" speeches -- such as those called upon by Burton Mack in his own hypotheses, and the matter of amplifying and adorning historical accounts. Again, for brevity, we present only Miller's conclusions (use the link above to see the detailed research):

On "invented" speeches:

In summary: "The fact does not seem to have been sufficiently appreciated that the ancients unfailingly endorsed the convention that speeches must be reported accurately. Furthermore, as we shall see, where the evidence allows us to form a judgment, it is clear that within certain definable limits, they proved faithful to the doctrine." [NHAGR:143] .

And, on invented material:

The NET of this is that development/amplification of a scene from WITHIN that scene (i.e. from within the historical datum) is legit, and that correspondingly, the introduction of 'foreign' elements--regardless of motive--was inappropriate, incorrect, anti-historical, and against the historiographical norms of the day.

We shall now briefly consider Miller's evidence for classifying the Gospels in the category Bioi, drawn from the work of Burridge:

(Burridge) examines examples (i.e. actual documents called "bioi" by the ancients) to critically arrive at some description/concept of the genre 'bioi'. He uses five examples from early lit, and five from later (chapters 6 and 7). These are:
  1. Isocrates (436-338bc) Evagoras
  2. Xenophon (427-354bc) Agesilaus
  3. Satyrus (2nd century BC) Euripides
  4. Nepos (99bc-24bc) Atticus
  5. Philo (30bc-45ad) Moses
  6. Tacitus (56ad-113) Agricola
  7. Plutarch (45ad-120ad) Cato Minor
  8. Suetonius (69ad-122?) Lives of the Caesars
  9. Lucian (120ad-180+) Demonax
  10. Philostratus (170ad-250) Apollonius of Tyrana

SPECIAL NOTE: We see that Apollonius of Tyana is in this category...this will be important for this article. Apollonius' "bioi", we may add here, was written at a time when several biographies were written in a spirit of rivalry, with writers trying to top one another in showing off their subjects - Cox.BLAnt, xiv

(Burridge) then examines the gospels for these features and concludes:
Thus, there is a high degree of correlation between the generic features of Graeco-Roman Bioi and those of the synoptic gospels; in fact, they exhibit more of the features than are shown by works at the edges of the genre, such as those of Isocrates, Xenophon and Philostratus. This is surely a sufficient number of shared features for the genre of the synoptic gospels to be clear; while they may well form their own subgenre because of their shared content, the synoptic gospels belong within the overall genre of Bioi. [WAG:218f.]
These results place the Fourth Gospel clearly in the same genre as the synoptic gospels, namely Bioi. [WAG:239]
Thus, the four gospels fall squarely into this genre--and all the conventions of accuracy and truth-commitments.

Finally, we note some additional data by Miller indicating Mark's and Luke's orientation, relative to "facts and accuracy":

1.The recent study of the preface of Luke's Gospel by Loveday Alexander(PLG) concluded that it fits into the genre of prefaces of scientific/philosophical/medical treatises of the time. This genre distinguishes itself by a very deliberate lack of rhetoric, even in the writing...
...EVEN IF rhetoric had corrupted history significantly by Luke's time (which I demonstrated above was NOT the case), Luke's orientation is even MORE PURE--it has NO concern for artistic/rhetorical excellence--a "Just the facts, ma'am" kinda approach. This makes sense for Luke the physician, of course, and also fits his stated intention "so that you may know the certainty of the things you have learned"--and express statement of fact and accuracy.
2.Also, the general identification of the gospels with Bioi of great individuals, and the "school" orientation of Luke's in particular, finds an interesting confirmation in the writings of Galen (Roman, 130ad-200ad). "For Galen, Christians were neither dangerous conspirators nor abominable cannibals, but they were rather adherents of a philosophical school..." [PREC:144]. Galen actually calls the Christians a "school" (meaning a philosophical school) [CRST:72-74]. This characterization fits well with the gospels as Bioi of a philosophical/religious leader.
3.It is interesting that in the Papias story about Mark being Peter's interpreter, he makes a specific point that Mark did so in a VERY "Thucydidean" way: "For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them" (In Eusebius, HE 3.39.14f). There is no emphasis on rhetoric or vividness--just 'fact and accuracy'!
4.Mark was a Hellenistic Jew, well educated and a resident of Palestine. Martin Hengel has identified that Mark conforms very closely to Greek standards of historie--especially in accordance with the notion of ornare, as developed above:
Mark certainly does not deal with his material more freely than, say, Plutarch. He selects examples from the tradition and shapes it, and of course he has a theological bias, but he does not simply have to invent things out of thin air. [GAG:221]
Mark does not narrate events and traditions simply by chance: what he selects and describes has a deeper significance, as a "typical ideal," from the call of the disciples up to Gethsemane and the crucifixion of Jesus as king of the Jews. However, this strictness in his overall plan does not simply dispense with historicity; Mark only reports history which has undergone the deliberate reflection of faith. Even apparent incidental remarks like 7:3f; 13:10, 14b; 14.9 and so on are significant as theological reflection. He does not create new narratives and sayings of Jesus in order to develop his own christology and soteriology, but uses a very deliberate process of selecting and ordering material in which hardly anything is left to chance. [GAG:219]
These two quotes from a German biblical scholar sound like they were pulled right out of Thucydides or Polybius! Mark has ordered his document in true historie style, and, in contrast to the 'rhetoricizing historian' movement that was nascent at the time, MINIMIZES the number of Jesus' speeches in his gospel! He is emulating (as a well-educated Hellenistic Jew) the best of the traditional Hellenic historiographical heritage.

To this, we would add that the Gospels avoided at least one of the questionable practices of ancient biography: The use of physiognomy, or examination of physical characteristics to determine inner character [Cox.BLAnt, 14]. Although used by a historian as reliable as Suetonius, it was NOT used by the Gospel writers.

Miller concludes:

1.The ancient history-writers WERE VERY concerned over 'fact and accuracy.'
2.They consistently attacked one another for use of a-historical "poetic license."
3.This "passion for accuracy" manifested itself in the difficult areas of historiographical method such as speech-reporting and setting-development/elaboration, and the discussion was so intense, because the foundation of fidelity was so firm.
4.This convention of truthfulness in event and character was also reflected in the genre of Bioi.
5.The 'relaxation' of standards in later antiquity was NOT a majority movement, and was not as methodologically 'deep' as might appear. {Note: On this subject, relative especially to bioi, see Cox.BLAnt]
6.The Gospel literature prove to be "members" of the Bioi genre, and hence partake of the general conventions of that genre, relative to accuracy and ornare.
7.Additional data for Mark and Luke is available to suggest that their standards were in fact somewhat HIGHER than the prevailing norms.
"Fact and Accuracy" WAS treasured (and sought after) both by the secular ancients and by the gospel writers.

At this point, with the background established, we may now provide a general, analogical reply, in modern terms, to the implication that because the gospels are in the format of kerygma and "propaganda," that they may not be taken as reliable history.

A biography written as a simple listing of facts is a biography headed for the trash heap. I ask the reader if they would even bother reading a biography that went on like this in its entirety:

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. He was born on a log-cabin farm on the south fork of Nolin Creek in Kentucky. His parents named him Abraham after his paternal grandfather. Lincoln could never remember much about his childhood.

A few lines of this would have most people reading something else. But try this excerpt from a biography that I became VERY familiar with in the last quarter of 1996: [Oat.MalN, 5]

Try as he might, (Lincoln) could not remember much about Kentucky - and nothing at all about the log-cabin farm on the south fork of Nolin Creek, a hardscrabble place where "A." was born on February 12, 1809, christened Abraham after his grandfather.

This excerpt reports the same facts as the previous one, but in the style of readable fiction - one that gives a "homey" and personified feel to the man that was Lincoln, so that we can see a picture of that "hardscrabble" farm, smell the wood of the log cabin, and experience Lincoln being "christened" in the name of his grandfather, in our own minds.

This is standard practice for most modern biographies, especially those that care to do more than just sit on the bookstore shelves collecting dust; yet few would argue that because a modern biography is written in the form of a narrative, or in the same way that a historical novel is written, it is therefore unreliable. That must be determined by examination of the claims within the biography, according to the evidence - not by the genre and format of the biography.

Genre is only one of many tools for transmission. A responsible student of literature will also consider style, vocabulary, form, and purpose - and beyond that are questions of historical confirmation that need to be discussed as well. This, we will discuss by framing the matter in terms of a comparison and contrast.

Bioi: A Comparison and Contrast

In ancient times there was once a Teacher. This Teacher was a lofty idealist who represented the highest consciousness and intelligence his society had to offer; he regarded himself as appointed by God for his task, and he operated a ministry with an eye towards revolutionizing conduct. His methods were simple and direct: He went straight to the public, offering his direction at no charge; at the same time, he shunned official institutions.

In time, this Teacher gathered followers who absorbed his message, so that he would eventually be recognized as the founder of a movement. However, he angered the authorities of his day, was put on trial, and condemned to death.

After his execution, the Teacher's followers were dismayed for a time; yet the inspiration their Teacher had given them lived on in their hearts. Wishing to restore the Teachers' reputation, which had been injured by his trial and execution, they published - as much as 20 to 30 years later; how long exactly we cannot be certain - the Teachers' sayings and deeds, and an accounting of his personal traits; for the Teacher himself had written nothing of his own volition to remember him by.

In our modern times, the view of the Teacher has been, at times, skeptical. Many recognized his genius, and accepted what his followers reported as absolutely true; but still others maintained that his followers were so dedicated to him that his true sayings and personality could not be recovered from their texts. His life was said to be so dramatized, idealized, and pragmatized that there was no way to reach the original Teacher; some even went as far as to say that the Teacher never actually existed and was a construct of his followers.

Thankfully, however, more moderate forms of criticism have prevailed, and it is recognized that while each of the Teacher's biographers were in their own way painting a portrait of the Teacher, they did report the Teachers' life and sayings with a good measure of fulness and accuracy. They did not, to be sure, report the Teachers' exact words - as of course would never be possible under the circumstances - but they did accurately report the Voice of the Teacher in their writings.

By now, of course, you realize that my diversion above describes Jesus - and yet, as you know from my previous diversion, that is not who I am talking about. In fact, these are the very descriptions applied to none other than Socrates [Vot.GCB, 30-34; Vlas.Soc; Xeno.Mem]; his followers were Plato and Xenophon, who each wrote a biography of their master.

Were Socrates' students faithful to his memory? Overall, the answer is yes. In 1923, a critic wrote that these disciples of their master had in some places created a "literary Socrates" - a "figure that retained much, doubtless, of the historical man, but was not identical with him, and might be variously represented by the different authors, and even by the same author in different works." [Xeno.Mem, viii]

Skepticism of this sort, with its attendant accusations of the creations of "imaginary conversations" [ibid, xiv] and the like, are highly reminiscent of that found in certain critical NT circles; but in the Socratic circles, such skepticism is on the wane. More current study suggests that Xenophon should be accounted as having been very faithful to the memory of Socrates, as was Aristotle, a student of Plato who questioned those who had listened to Socrates. [Vlas.Soc, 106] Extended speeches are not considered to be "authentic reproductions" but are recognized as "a distillation of the best of Socrates' thought." [Cox.BLAnt, 7-8]

Plato, in contrast, is said to have created two Socrates - one based on the real Teacher, the other a mouthpiece for Plato's own ideas. Indeed, the two Platonian Socrates are said to be "so different that they could not have been depicted as cohabiting the same brain throughout unless it had been the brain of a schizophrenic". [Vlas.Soc, 46] One can see how this sort of reasoning is often used to unassign words of Jesus in the Gospels; but there critics must struggle, for example by turning Jesus into a "Cynic sage," in order to do the same thing.

Our point in bringing this up is: There are standard ways to determine if the writer of a biography has "tampered" with the life of his subject and presented us with a "false" biography. The Socratic scholars observe that Plato has Socrates asserting different, even contradictory points of view - points of view in some cases that sound strangely like those of Plato.

Critics of the NT assert in the same vein that anything said by Jesus that sounds like the kerygma of the Church is probably invented. But there is a big problem: Eliminate the "kerygmatic" and you end up with: The Jesus of the Jesus Seminar, a "Talking Head" (as Witherington puts it) who said less than 20% of what was attributed to Him; and worse: The question of how such a large body of material, created by who knows who, when, and why, was attributed to Jesus.

The picture of Jesus, we assert, is consistent throughout the Four Gospels. There are no contradictory elements, as with Plato's Socrates. And yet, we have an obvious reason why critics are dividing the Gospels into phantom sources like Q, and then even sub-dividing THAT hypothetical document. They are seeking the smoking gun, our version of Plato: The "original" Jesus upon which our "Plato" layered so much material.

Add to this the reliability of oral tradition, the memory-enhancing techniques apparent in much of what is attributed to Jesus, and the special Jewish respect for teachers, and we have a one-two combination that practically sinks the critical views.

It is why, also, there was an attempt by the late Morton Smith to create a biographical sub-genre called the "aretalogy" which was supposedly something of a legendary/biographical category. Smith wanted the Gospels in that category, but there is no grounds for creating such a sub-genre. Much less is there any suggestion that "an aretalogy was ever written to divinize a human being." [Cox.BLAnt, 47] Classical scholars recognize Smith's mishandling of the bioi genre.


Having already seen the conclusions of Miller on the topic, here are the points that we wish to make by asserting that the Gospels belong in the ancient biographical genre:

  1. Ancient biography is not different from modern biography. There is no cause to treat the Gospels any differently than any other document. Only be giving them "special" treatment can one suppose that there is some mortal, undemanding Jesus standing behind the curtain.
  2. Ancient biographies, because they were not strictly history, arranged material either chronologically or topically, depending on the author's purpose. [Cox.BLAnt, 56] Hence the scattering and re-organizing of the Gospel material is recognizable as a normal process. Matthew and Mark had the "right" within their genre to order material as they pleased.
  3. Ancient biographies were composed of selected "slices" out of the subjects' life. The excess Bultmaniann heartburn caused over "pericopes" and supposed sources, seeking Sitz em Lebens for each given event recorded in the life of Jesus, failed to realize that the "pericopes," far from being units of oral tradition that were clumsily strung together by the evangelists, in fact were the bones of ancient biography. In light of this, the form critical techniques so precious to our modern critics need to be seriously examined and perhaps disposed of.



  1. Aune.NTLE - Aune, David. The New Testament and Its Literary Environment. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1987.
  2. Burr.4GJ - Burridge, Richard. Four Gospels, One Jesus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.
  3. Burr.WAG - Burridge, Richard. What are the Gospels? Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1992.
  4. Cox.BLAnt - Cox, Patricia. Biography in Late Antiquity. U. of California Press, 1993.
  5. Oat.BioH - Oates, Stephen B. Biography as History. Waco: Markham Press Fund, 1991.
  6. Oat.MalN - Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None. New York: New American Library, 1977.
  7. Talb.WIG - Talbert, Charles H. What Is A Gospel? Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977.
  8. Vlas.Soc - Vlastos, Gregory. Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher. New York: Cornell U. Press, 1991.
  9. Vot.GCB - Votaw, Clyde W. The Gospels and Contemporary Biographies in the Greco-Roman World. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970
  10. Xeno.Mem - Xenophon. Memorabilia and Deconomicus. Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1923.