Fiction in ancient biographies, histories and gospels

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by Neil Godfrey

the Gelati Gospels MSS
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If the Gospels were written as “biographies” of Jesus, or were meant to be read as “history”, does this mean that we can expect to find only factual details in them? Or if not entirely factual, must we give the benefit of the doubt that beneath a certain amount of exaggeration there must have been some kernel of literal truth?

It ain’t necessarily so.

Dale C. Allison M. Grable Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Early Christianity at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In his recent book, Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History, he includes a discussion of recent scholarship on the genre of the gospels and what genre means for the question of whether we can expect to find fictional tales in the gospels.

The question has force, says Allison, because the gospel authors appear to have been “far more interested in the practical and theological meanings of their stories than in literal facticity.” (p. 442) Continue reading “Fiction in ancient biographies, histories and gospels”