Now the wheels suddenly go back on the bus. This was (by far) the most interesting lecture in this series, making me glad I stuck with it.
Dr. Bauckham focuses on two examples for similarity to the Gospels—the Biography of Appollonius of Tyana and Life of Homer
Appollonius, allegedly lived during the 1st century, and would therefore be a contemporary of Christ. He was a philosopher, miracle-worker and holy man who defied the Roman Emperors. Not surprisingly, his story has been compared to Christ—indeed the reason we even know of Appollonius is that later writers attempted to differentiate Appollonius from Christ.
Dr. Bauckham focused on a few issues:
1) He noted Appollonius was an elite. Although he did give up his wealth.
2) Appollonius focused more on the elite. Two examples given were Appollonius finding a treasure to help a wealthy person avoid debts, and him providing a dower for a girl he raised from the dead.
[Bauckham did not mention these works, but it was interesting to me the similarities to Acts of Paul & Acts of Peter. Which also had interaction with the elites in town by the apostles. And people dying and reuniting for marriage.]
Eventually Dr. Bauckham differentiated it from Christ as the Gospels were more “bottom up” (from the common person perspective) and Appollonius was an elite catering to elite.
The second work was even more fascinating to me—Life of Homer.
One must remember how influential The Odyssey and the Iliad were within this culture. These works were seen as THE way to write. They were performed for the common people, utilized for teaching and the characters were well-known types exemplified throughout contemporary writing.
Not surprisingly, people were interested in the author—Homer. (Who lived 100’s of years earlier.) This first century work was Homer’s biography, explaining how he was an illegitimate child, raised by a hard-working single mom who eventually married a school teacher. Homer goes blind (of course) within the story, and becomes a vagrant, scraping out a living, but generally receiving charity.
Homer finally becomes a schoolteacher, establishing some secure income. Many of the persons he meets along his journey become the characters within his epic works.
Bauckham differentiates Life of Homer, as this was written about a person long dead, rather than a contemporary. He puts it as a biographical genre, closer to novel then historical.
The thing I found so intriguing was how Bauckham attempted to differentiate these works by specifics when talking about genre. If I wrote a biography about George Washington, it would (by necessity) be about a person who existed 200 years ago. If I wrote a biography about Oprah, it would be about a contemporary. While the sourcing may (or may not!) be more substantial—doesn’t the genre stay the same? Aren’t they both biographies?
Whether I write about kings or paupers—aren’t they both biographies?
I found this interesting because when talking about what qualifies as a bios Dr. Bauckham found strength in the generality of the definition, to encompass a great many possibilities. Yet here he dismisses works from being the same genre because of specifics.
A question arising through this discussion—did the Gospels develop a unique genre? I think these two works, as presented by Dr. Bauckham greatly diminish such an argument. We have other works within the same time frame that would appear to be the same genre.
Finally, Dr. Bauckham mentioned “agency” to demonstrate this was a “bottom up” work. He indicated the “agency” of Christ’s death was the crowd. (The common people.) I found this to be a bit hair-splitting. Didn’t the Chief priests stir up the crowd? Arguably they were the agents. Pilate was convinced and gave the order. He was the agent, right? Actually, Christ had to die for all our sins—do the stories indicate we are the agents? Yet this was God’s plan—was Christ the agent?
It seemed to me, one could bend the “agent” for Christ’s death to about any entity one desired.