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Assumptions in Historical-Jesus Research: Using Ancient Biographies and Disciples' Traditioning as a Control

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Presuppositions of one sort or another are inevitable, but one way to control our assumptions in the interest of common dialogue is to consider how we would read the Gospels if they were not texts used by a current world religion. The majority of Gospels scholars see the Gospels as ancient biographies. Although ancient biographies varied in their historiographic practice, in the early Empire biographies about figures who lived in the generation or two before the biographer included substantial historical information about the figure. This observation may be particularly relevant for biographies about sages. Schools often preserved considerable information about their founders' teachings; ancient memory practices exceeded what is typical today, and disciples often preserved and passed on considerable information. Researchers should neither treat the Gospels more skeptically nor demand from them greater precision than we would from comparable works of their era.


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