In my last post on Burridge’s “What Are the Gospels” we looked at what Burridge describes as the problems surrounding the genre of the Gospels. As we recall, this problem was trying to define what genre(s) of Graeco-Roman literature the Gospels fit into. In the second part of “What Are the Gospels?”, Burridge offers us his solution for the situating the Gospels into the genre of βίος.
Thus far I have only made it through chapter seven, but Burridge has laid a very good foundation for us to begin to understand how βίος was used in the Graeco-Roman world. Chapter 5 on Generic Features of βίος is a foundational chapter in the book. It it, he outlines the main feature of βίος: Opening Features (title, prologue, preface, etc.), Subject of the βίος, External Features (size, metre, length, etc.) and Internal Features (setting, topic(s), style, mood, etc.). With the foundation laid, we now have a basic outline or structure we can use as a guide as we begin to analyze βίος literature of the ancient world.
Before the Gospels are tackled, Burridge offers us a few samples of what may be considered βίος from the ancient world, both Greek and Latin sources. What is helpful is that the sources which Burridge chooses vary in date and geographical location, thus allowing us a greater look into the usage of βίος in the ancient world.
My only complaint (I am not sure you can call it that really) is that while the examples are plentiful, the reader who is not versed in Graeco-Roman literature may get lost in the very examples used to illuminate βίος. There is a bit of primary source overload at times, but if the reader is diligent and determined, the payoff will be extremely valuable later.
So, now I enter the Synoptics and John’s Gospel next. I am greatly enjoying this work so far. It is clear, concise (at times it may be too much info.), informative, and overall a pleasure to read.