Thursday, August 04, 2005

Gospels and biography

As you may have gathered I am reading New Testament History by Ben Witherington at the moment, which I am cheerfully ploughing through at break neck speed. It has started well, with the 'Prolegomenon' containing an interesting point. That I choose to blog on this point may reveal my ignorance to some, but I am not trying to impress anyone, just record my thoughts.

BW briefly but convincingly shows how Matthew, Mark and John should be considered a examples of ancient biography. Ancient biography has many different concerns to modern biography and he outlines these differences. Summing up the aim of ancient biography to be a description of a person (their character and identity), not a description of the events surrounding their lives. So Matthew, Mark and John primarily seek to answer the question 'Who is Jesus?'.

Most interesting to me though was that BW did not think of Luke as ancient biography but (along with Acts) a ancient historical monograph! 'Ancient historiography' BW asserts 'by comparison to ancient biography, focused more on events than on persons and personalities'. Like ancient biography it still wanted to teach something of moral importance, not just record bare facts, but it did it in a different way.

I am not sure how all this should affect my bible study, but I am sure it should affect it somewhat. I mean, Luke a different genre to Mark! That seems to me quite a big deal, I'll have to think some more. Its just another indication of the poverty of my knowledge of the Gospels.


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