Richard Burridge on the Gospels as Biographies


The Jesus Memoirs

Richard Burridge’s What are the Gospels: A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography (Cambridge University Press, 1992) is probably the main reason why the majority opinion of New Testament scholars think that the Gospels were ancient bibliographies. He begins by lamenting the lack of consensus in his day about the type of literature the Gospels embody: are they examples of a philosopher-vita, Socratic Dialogues, historical monograph, dramatic history, novel, tragi-comedy, or biographies (22-24). He admits, “as someone with a classical background, I was unimpressed with the arguments put forward by New Testament scholars, especially in America, to demonstrate the biographical genre of the gospels. Therefore a negative result was expected, exposing the biographical hypothesis as untenable. However, as the work has developed, I have become increasingly convinced that… it is indeed the right one and that the gospels are part of the genre of ancient βίος [Life] literature” (105-6).

In his preliminary work on genre, he…

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