Are the Gospels ancient early-empire histories/biographies of Jesus?

“Yes, after all…
  • Ancient bios and letters predominated

    Among the various kinds of literature that circulated, Greco-Roman biographies was fairly dominant.1 This is relevant because, even absent their resembling biographies so much, it would recommend for us to take the gospels as biography as a matter of default, provided they are not letters.

    1. Craig Keener: “[b]iographies, like letters, were among antiquity’s most common genres…” [Christobiography, 41.]
  • The Gospels internally match ancient bios

    The Gospels fit as biographies, internally exemplifying the quintessential family characteristics.

    This page analyzes 11 arguments:

    • Bios are around 10-25k words long.
    • Bios continually focus on a main character.
    • Bios focused on an influential figure.
    • Bios gave a telling sample of the character’s life.
    • Bios illuminate via narrating key words & deeds.
    • Bios consist of, anecdotes, and speeches.
    • Content-Arrangement prioritizes character-illumination.
    • Bios don’t opine on the words & deeds.
    • Bios on miracle-working sages were hot.
    • The gospels claim to be histories.
    • The Gospels internally match ‘histories’.

    This is relevant because they specifically super-resemble early empire biographies, and were written in the early empire. And of course, absent word of the author's own explicit testimony, super-resemblance and bearing of the relevant features is the most you can ask for in determining a work's genre.

    But no...

    • Gospels are not literarily sophisticated.
    • Mt and Lk borrowed much from Mk.
    • Gospels didn’t discuss their sources.
    • Gospels were Jewish documents.
    • The Gospels include propaganda.
    • Gospel’s main character was flawless.
  • Gospels are honest historical accounts of Jesus’ life

    person writing at table with a speech bubble of jesus and a thought bubble of jesus

    Rather than inventing Jesus-biography, the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—as editors/redactors—were honest in writing their Gospel reports.

    This page analyzes 8 arguments:

    • The originating Gospel/NT content seems honest.
    • Gospel authors faithfully copied their sources.
    • Gospels relayed Jesus-bio info (didn’t create it).
    • Readers took them as bios.
    • Gospel authors wouldn’t lie-invent Jesus-bio.
    • Mt/Mk/Lk/Jn are accurate where checked (trend).
    • Gospels display sacrificially honest restraint.
    • Gospel authors strove for witness-based Jesus-bio.

    This is relevant because biographies are histories, and being a history was in fact the defining characteristic biographies (along with its emphases).

  • Gospel authors strove to relay only witness testimony

    A man holds a microphone up to another man whose head is an eyeball. The interviewer simultaneously holds his hand up to the face of a third person who is trying to talk to him.

    The gospels strove to be witness-based, recording witness testimony as closely as possible.

    A full page will analyze 6 arguments:

    • Gospel claims are all inherited/sourced.
    • Early Empire biography self-identifies as witness-based.
    • Gospels did check with witnesses.
    • Esteemed Christians’d hate to be exposed.
    • Gospels authors prized witness testimony.
    • Gospels were big projects (honor).

    This is relevant because historiography in general labored to be witness-based. (Relatedly, the gospels prized witness testimony, as did histories.)

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