The Gospel of Mark in the context of ancient biography

Author/s: Francis Aldo Rouvinez, PhD
Availability: Open Access
Type: Thesis
Year: 2018
Category: Biography

Abstract: This thesis argues that the Gospel of Mark reflects the assumptions, purposes, and conventions of ancient Jewish biographical writing rather than those of Greco-Roman biography. It offers a sustained critique of the view that the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies and argues that it is based on an exaggeration of the flexibility of the genre, insufficient attention to its most fundamental and distinctive characteristics, and an inadequate evaluation of the significance of resemblances and differences. It also seeks to remedy the hereto lack of adequate assessment of and comparison to the manner in which life and career stories are told in ancient Jewish literary traditions. Chapter 1 offers a review of the conditions that have proved favourable to the emergence and endurance of the current consensus. Chapter 2 proposes a fresh analysis of Greco-Roman biography between 200 BCE and 100 CE. It gives close attention to the modes of representation of the genre, as well as its philosophical and cultural underpinnings, with relevant substantiation from the works of the main authors of the period. Chapters 3 and 4 bring to light the strong Jewish biographical tradition that exists both in the Jewish Scriptures and Second Temple literature. A typology of these biographies is proposed which delineates their conventions, topoi, and lines of development. An analysis of later Jewish adaptations to the cultural expectations of Greco-Roman audiences and the conventions of Greco-Roman biography is also included. Chapter 5 demonstrates that the ethos, narration, and style of Mark conform to those of Jewish biography. Finally, chapters 6, 7, and 8 evaluate leading interpretations of Mark’s introduction, main narrative, and Passion Narrative through the lens of Greco-Roman biography. Each of these chapters then demonstrates Mark’s use of modes of representation and categories of content typical of Jewish biography to present Jesus as the fusion of biblical prototypical figures and the embodiment of messianically-interpreted texts from the Jewish Scriptures.

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