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Reading Acts

Various explanations of the possible literary genre of the four gospels have been offered.  Most Christians approach the gospels as biographies of Jesus.  The do have some biography-like elements, but they are not biographies by the standards of the modern world. Only two show any interest in his birth, only one story occurs before his public ministry, and the majority of the material comes from the last week of Jesus’ life.  Most biographical questions are left unanswered.

A few scholars have suggested that the gospels are patterned after Greco-Roman Aretalogies.   This is a “divine man” biography, the history of a famous hero that has been built up to make him a god-like person (a biography of a god-like person, Julius Caesar, for example.) The Greek word aretai means “mighty deeds.”  Aretalogies are the records of the mighty deeds of a god or hero.  An example from the second century is…

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