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Another Way to Organize Ancient Biographies

In past posts, we have looked at how Charles H. Talbert organized different types of bibliographies according to function (e.g. do they aim to inform about, polemicize against, or defend a particular subject) and how Richard Burridge evaluated the typical but not universal traits of the bios genre. At the website Bible and Interpretation, Justin Marc Smith has a post about the relationship of the Gospels’ genre to the their intended readership and proposes a new typology. He asks whether a biography is contemporary open, contemporary focused, non-contemporary open, or non-contemporary focused. What he means is whether the biographer was writing within the lifetime of direct eyewitnesses to a subject or not (i.e. contemporary) and whether the biographer envisioned a limited readership in a specific locale or intended his or her work to be published far and wide (i.e. open or focused). His own view is that the Gospels were contemporary open biographies will have to be judged based on the case that he builds in his larger study Why Bios? On the Relationship Between Gospel Genre and Implied Audience(LTS 518, London: T. & T. Clark, 2015). I should also mention that another work I would like to get a hold of someday is Thomas Hägg’s The Art of Biography in Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2012) as I would be interested in how he organizes the biographical literature in antiquity and defends the classification of the Gospels as bioi.

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