Date of Defense

4-26-2012

Date of Graduation

4-28-2012

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Timothy McGrew

Second Advisor

Marion Gray, History

Abstract

This paper explores the genre of ancient biography and its connection to the gospels. The work is also a case study that examines Suetonius’s and Plutarch’s biographies of Julius Caesar in comparison to Mark’s and Luke’s lives of Jesus. Suetonius’s, Plutarch’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s biographies have many similarities and may be considered in the same sub-categories of political biography, philosophical biography, and holy man biography. In What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography, Richard Burridge writes about the characteristics and features that determine genre. Burridge was the first person to publish a thorough, systematic analysis of the genre of Graeco-Roman biography and to compare the results of that analysis with the Gospels. According to Burridge, if the works are similar in most areas and diverge only slightly, they can be said to have the same genre of biography or βίοι. Some, such as Joseph Lynch, would contest Burridge’s thesis by stating that the gospels should not be considered biography but instead should be understood as works of theology presented in narrative form. However, this thesis shows the commonalities in both Suetonius and Plutarch and Mark and Luke; this includes the ancestry in the opening of the work, the use of songs, the relative length, the extended treatment of death, the display of a character’s virtues through deeds and words, and the occurrence of supernatural events. If this thesis is correct, then the gospels should be viewed with the same level of historicity as Suetonius and Plutarch.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

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