September 21, 2019

Gospels as Biographies

Two high profile monographs on the Gospels as Biography are approaching. At first glance, Craig Keener's Christobiography (available now) seems to focus on the categorical implications, by which (and also via Nijay Gupta's blog interview with Keener) I gather this means another defense of the Gospels' reliability, because apparently Christian believers need another 743 pages to decide they can trust holy scripture. Hopefully there will be more to it than that; either way, I'm looking forward to the IBR panel in San Diego this November.

The more promising title is Helen Bond's The First Biography of Jesus: Genre and Meaning in Mark's Gospel (due in April), a focused analysis of Mark as a Biography. For Bond, the issue is how to understand what Mark is saying and also what Mark is doing. I'm anticipating a great leap forward, building on Richard Burridge. I also note gleefully that Bond's ToC eschews "plot" in favor of "structure," which is a far more appropriate description for the storyline of a biographical narrative.

Incidentally, this is something the early narrative critics completely overlooked, which explains why some efforts to discern a single "plot" for each Gospel amounted to creative mash-ups of various thematic elements (e.g., Powell, Moloney). That later narrative critics stopped focusing on Plot (amidst the explosion of interest around studies of Character) may indicate that they had found some awareness of this. The Gospels don't have plots, per se. OF COURSE THEY DON'T. They are Biographies.

On that note, I do hope Keener and/or Bond might mention something about the episodic nature of biographical narrative, specifically in refuting the old "pearls on a string" criticism, which would have been equally absurd if levied against Suetonius or Plutarch. Reliability or truthiness of content aside, if one should not judge a fish on its ability to climb trees, then one should not assess ancient bioi by the qualities of Aristotelian tragedy.

Without specific regard to the Gospels, I wrote about plots versus biographical storylines in the series I called Remembering Life Stories:
1 - Character Development (Introduction) (posted May, 2015) 2 - Temporal Content (posted June, 2015) 3 - Biographical Temporality (posted July, 2015) 4 - Familiar Serial Patterns (posted April, 2016) 5 - Biographical Expertise (posted April, 2016) 6 - Narrative Redundancy (posted May, 2016) 7 - Biographical Redundancy (posted April, 2017) 8Teleological Reconstruction (posted August, 2017)
Look for more here on these topics if and when I complete my graduate studies. Sigh. Heavy sigh.

Anon, then...

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