Comparing Ancient Historical Biographies with the Gospels

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by Neil Godfrey

Matthew Ferguson assess the claim that the gospels are comparable in reliability to Suetonius’s biographies of Roman emperors. The title pretty well sums it all up:

Numismatic Evidence that Corroborates Suetonius’ Life of Otho and Contradicts the Gospels

I’ve addressed some of Craig Keener’s use of evidence in occasional comments before but have not yet got around to more systematic reviews as Matthew has done. He begins

To follow up on my previous review of Christian scholar Craig Keener’s “Otho: A Targeted Comparison” in Biographies and Jesus, I’d like to briefly discuss the relevance of numismatic evidence in evaluating Suetonius’ Life of Otho in comparison to the NT Gospels.

A detail of Suetonius’s description is confirmed by the numismatic evidence. (Otho really did wear a wig as Suetonius claims.)

But the archaeological evidence is against a Roman silver denarius being a coin that a Jerusalem crowd could pull out on request when Jesus asked them to note Caesar’s inscription on the currency to be paid in taxes to the Romans.

Matthew further concludes with a telling footnote about Paul’s teaching in comparison with Jesus on taxes and Roman authorities.


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Neil Godfrey

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One thought on “Comparing Ancient Historical Biographies with the Gospels”

  1. And critical scholars tacitly know this sort of thing, even if they, to use Husserl’s expression, “bracket” it during their publication endeavors (since otherwise there would be nothing historical to write about). Why else would Critical Scholars cling so desperately to their Criteria of Authenticity? The Wikipedia page on the Historical Jesus identifies the (i) Baptism by John and the (ii) Crucifixion as the two nuggets of universally agreed upon historical bedrock, but any disinterested observer can easily and quickly deconstruct these two points by mimesis appeal to the Elijah/Elisha narrative for the Baptism (2 Kings 2, among other sources about John/Elijah from the Hebrew Scriptures), and Deuteronomy 21:23 for Paul’s understanding of the crucifixion (referred to in Galatians 3:13)

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