Koine (koy-NAY) is the dialect of Greek that superceded the classical Greek and flourished during the Roman period.



As remarks by Papias and Justin Martyr imply. See the discussion in David E. Aune, The New Testament in Its Literary Environment (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1987), pp. 66–67.


This position was proposed in 1915 by Clyde Webber Votaw (and largely ignored by his contemporaries) in two articles entitled “The Gospels and Contemporary Biographies,” American Journal of Theology 19 (1915), pp. 45–73 and 217–249; later published together as The Gospels and Contemporary Biographies in the Greco-Roman World (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970). More recent proposals include Charles H. Talbert, What is a Gospel? The Genre of the Canonical Gospels (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), and Philip L. Shuler, A Genre for the Gospels: The Biographical Character of Matthew (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982). For a more recent discussion see Aune, The New Testament, pp. 17–76.


Dan O. Via, Jr., Kerygma and Comedy in the New Testament: A Structuralist Approach to Hermeneutic (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975), pp. 99–101.


Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, tr. John Marsh (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), p. 373.


Van A. Harvey, The Historian and the Believer (New York: Macmillan, 1966), p. 249. This dictum has been called “Lessing’s ugly ditch,” because its effect has been to separate faith from reason, and it was accepted by the philosophers Lessing and Kierkegaard, by the late-19th-century Christian theologians Wilhelm Hermann and Martin Kahler and by such diverse dialectical theologians as Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann.


See Franz Overbeck, “Uber die Anfange der patristischen Literatur,” Historische Zeitschrift 48 (1882), pp. 417–472, who did not use these precise terms, however.


Karl Ludwig Schmidt, “Die Stellung der Evangelien in der allgemeinen Literaturgeschichte,” in Neues Testament, Judentum, Kirche: Kleine Schriften, ed. Gerhard Sauter (Munich: Kaiser Verlag, 1981), pp. 37–147. This article was originally published in EUCHARISTERION: Studien zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments. Hermann Gunkel zum 60. Geburtstag. (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1923), vol. 2, pp. 50–134.


Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, p. 373.


A number of scholars still emphasize the unique character of the Gospels: Robert A. Guelich, “The Gospel Genre,” in Das Evangelium und die Evangelien, ed. P. Stuhlmacher (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1983), pp. 183–219; Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), p. 169: “Thus, with his Gospel, Mark created a genre of literature.”


Two helpful recent introductions to some of these apocryphal gospels are by Marvin W. Meyer, The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1984), and John Dominic Crossan, Four Other Gospels: Shadows on the Contours of the Canon (Minneapolis: Seabury, 1985).


A new English translation and analysis of this anonymous biography is now available: Aune, “Greco-Roman Biography,” in Greco-Roman Literature and the New Testament, ed. Aune (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988), pp. 107–126.


F. Gerald Downing, “A bas les aristos. The Relevance of Higher Literature for the Understanding of the Earliest Christian Writings,” Novum Testamentum 30 (1988), pp. 212–230, who argues that “There is no sign of a culture-gap between the highly literate aristocracy and the masses.”


Burke O. Long, 1 Kings with an Introduction to Historical Literature, The Forms of the Old Testament Literature, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), p. 245.


Klaus Baltzer, Die Biographie der Propheten (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1975).


See Raymond Brown, “Jesus and Elijah,” Perspective 12 (1971), pp. 85–104.


Louis H. Feldman, “Josephus as an Apologist of the Greco-Roman World: His Portrait of Solomon,” in Aspects of Religious Propaganda in Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. E. Schussler Fiorenza (Notre Dame: Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1976), pp. 68–98; Feldman, “Josephus’ Portrait of Saul,” Hebrew Union College Annual 53 (1982), pp. 45–99.


Philip S. Alexander, “Rabbinic Biography and the Biography of Jesus: A Survey of the Evidence,” in Synoptic Studies: The Ampleforth Conferences of 1982 and 1983, ed. C.M. Tuckett (Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1984), p. 40. Two other important studies in this area are those by William Scott Green, “What’s in a Name?—The Problematic of Rabbinic ‘Biography,’ ” in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and Practice, ed. W.S. Green (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1978), pp. 77–96; and Jacob Neusner, In Search of Talmudic Biography: The Problem of the Attributed Saying (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984).


Schmidt, Der Rahmen der Geschiche Jesu (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1969 [1919]).


According to an ancient Greek conception, a person’s life could be evaluated only when completed by death; see Herodotus 1.30–32.


Gaius Fannius wrote about the deaths of famous men executed under Nero (Pliny, Letters 5.5.1–3), and Titinius Capito wrote Exitus illustrium virorum (Departure of Famous Men), which focused on death scenes. The same fashion was followed by Tacitus (see his narratives of the final days of Seneca [Annals 16.21–35], and of Thrasea and Soramus [Annals 16.21–35]).


Martin Kahler, The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic Biblical Christ, tr. C.E. Braaten (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1964), p. 80, note 11.


In Mark the interpretation of Jesus’ death as an act of atonement occurs just once (10:45), a saying reproduced in Matthew 20:28, but omitted by Luke.


Kahler, The So-Called Historical Jesus, p. 48.