Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Richard Bauckham on "The Gospels as Histories" (2013 Julius Brown Gay Lectures at SBTS)
I recently finished listening (grabbing a few moments when traveling here and there) to the four-part Julius Brown Gay lectures which NT scholar Richard Bauckham presented in April 2013 at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The series was titled "The Gospels as Histories: What Sort of History Are They?"
In the first lecture, Bauckham rehearses a lot of the material from his celebrated book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Eerdmans, 2006), which challenged the assumptions of modern form criticism and argued that the canonical Gospels are reliant on eyewitness testimony. He notes in particular the ancient literary use of the testimony of eyewitnesses who were contemporary participants in the events described. This was part of the "best practices" of ancient historiography. He notes that he would still classify the Gospels as being of the genre of ancient biography but that they are close to ancient historiography especially in their use of "testimony" (listen starting c. 40.00 for his discussion of this).
In the second and third lectures, Bauckham discusses the Gospels as "History from Below," making application of the contemporary historical "history from below" ("people's history") method popularized in the 1960s by E. P. Thompson and others. Here he notes, in particular, how unlike most works of ancient biography (like Apollonius of Tyana) and history the Gospels give great attention to characters from the lower classes and common people.
In the final lecture, "The Gospels as Micro-History and Perspectival History," he applies another modern historical method (the "micro-history") to the Gospels, noting again the tendency of the Gospels to focus on the lives of ordinary people, rather than on macro-events. He also interacts in this lecture with post-modern approaches to the Gospels.