Richard A. Burridge, What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography
Reviewed by James V. Morrison
There's an interesting first line, "It is possible to receive a Ph.D. in Classics today without ever having read the New Testament in Greek." I had to read that twice because I thought at first it was saying that it is possible to receive a PhD in New Testament today without having read the NT in Greek. I sincerely hope that that is not the case! But Morrison returns to the point in an interesting conclusion to a very positive review:
For much of the twentieth century the study of Classics concerned particular authors (Homer, Plato, Sophocles, Vergil, Cicero, and Tacitus) while the study of the Bible and early Christianity "belonged" to other academic departments (or seminaries) associated with Oriental studies and religion. First- or second-year Greek courses might consist of reading Xenophon, Plato, or Homer, but not the gospel of Mark or Revelation. I will only mention my own success in offering selections from the gospels, the book of Acts, and Revelation during the final eight weeks of first-year Greek (we read significant continuous passages before the summer and leave the optative to the second year). But the larger point is whether the academic distinction between biblical and classical makes sense. In the past few decades, not only have Roman historians made extensive use of the Church Fathers, but graduate programs have now been redesigned to embrace "Ancient Mediterranean Studies," "Classical and Near Eastern Studies," and "Ancient Mediterranean Culture and Society." One of our recent APA presidents asked the question: What is the future of Classics? The inevitable answer, in my view, is that we will move toward the study of the ancient world with a broader focus beyond the "canonical" works written in Greek and Latin. B.'s work blazes this path in admirable fashion, for its valuable methodology allows us to approach works traditionally outside the "classical" canon with an appreciation of their origins in a world under the influence of Graeco-Roman literature and culture.