The Gospels deliberately portray themselves as historical works, specifically ones aiming to accurately relay facts grounded in eyewitness testimony.
• Lk 1:1 explicitly says Lk is witness-based.,
• E.g. Gospel traditions appeal-cite witness names.
• Lk, Mt etc. endorsed Mk & Q etc. as witness-based.
• ECs circulated the gospels (popular lit).
• Greco-Roman histories self-identify as witness grounded.
• The Gospels are witness-based.
The Gospels implicitly self-identify as information-based biographies, comparable to Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars etc.
• Ancient bios and letters predominated.
• Gospels internally match ancient bios.
• Gospels are honest historical accounts of Jesus’ life.
• Gospel authors strove to relay only witness testimony.
• Gospel Jesus-bio content is early/sourced.
• David Aune: “…the very fact that [the Gospels] chose to adapt Greco-Roman biographical conventions to tell us the story of Jesus indicates that they were centrally concerned to communicate what they thought really happened”. [“Greco-Roman Biography.” in Greco-Roman Literature and the New Testament. Ed. Aune, SBLSBC 21. (Scholars Press, 1988), 125.]
The Gospel authors strive to learn and relay all and only true Jesus-biography.
• The Gospels claimed to investigate.
• The Gospel authors travelled to gather info.
• Historians critically examined claims/sources.
• Gospels strove to relay only witness-based testimony.
AD 30-70 Christians prized the proliferation and personal acquirement of true biographical knowledge of Jesus.
• Christians prized understanding the Gospel.
• Christians strove to vet and kill errors.
• Christians prized witness-attested Jesus-bio.
• Christians prize Jesus-bio traditions.
• Gospels were early empire bios.
• Christians didn’t invent Jesus-bio.
• Gospel traditions abound in content Christians disfavored.
• They strove to faithfully relay it.
• Christians would suffer/die for their faith.
• Christians strove to know/learn it.
This is relevant because true non-fictional accounts of Jesus would then be in demand. By contrast, they would have little interest in a fictional novel about Jesus or anything of the sort. (It is extra significant than that we have no competing “true histories” of Jesus’s life in competition with the gospels; it is almost as if these were the true biographies.) Moreover, the authors themselves would want the truth disseminated, far more than a random fiction or novel.1
Rather than inventing Jesus-biography, the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—as editors/redactors—were honest in writing their Gospel reports.
• 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.