Ancient biographies, history, and the Gospels

This new book (Biographies and Jesus, edited by Edward T. Wright and myself) provides essays analyzing ancient biographies’ use of sources, etc., showing that biographers saw their genre as requiring dependence on prior information. Biographies written within a few generations normally preserved considerable information about their subjects, a matter with relevance for the Gospels. It is somewhat technical (so it is not for everybody), but it provides serious research and documentation for subsequent work on which I and others will be able to build.


“This collection deserves a wide circulation.”—Richard Burridge

“… a great book that will go a long way toward setting the record straight.”—Craig A. Evans

“Keener’s collection is to be praised.”—James H. Charlesworth

“The implications of these findings demand careful consideration by scholars of the Gospels and the Historical Jesus alike.”—Helen K. Bond

“Keener, Wright, Walton et al. have moved the needle forward in advancing our knowledge of the Jesus of the Gospels”—David P. Moessner

Does much learning make you mad? Or: dangers of academics?

Recently Aaron Ross interviewed Craig on a blog and asked whether higher learning should cause Christians to lose their faith … or something like that … One could address this in various ways (Craig actually did wrestle with this in some early years, given his former atheism), but this is how he answered it now:

The Madness of Learning

Nonspeculative redactional analysis

Recently, in 2311, archaeologists discovered this ancient letter from the early 21st century. Happily, our ingenious biblical scholars have been able to isolate the various redactional layers of this letter.

Jan. 14, 2018


Dear Harry, { This name is currently unattested in the 21st century and should be understood allegorically with reference to the recipient’s hair length}


I regret {inconsistent with the narratorial voice, this was added by the 2nd redactor} that we cannot {polite addition by 2nd redactor} grant your requested extension {21st-century writers applied “extension” to added fake hair, obviously the original subject of this correspondence}. You should be aware {3rd redactional layer} that you should apply {allusion to a hair-cutting appliance} for extensions before the deadline {note etymological root “dead,” subtly threatening penalties if hair is not cut}, as clearly {3rd redactor, wrongly thinking hair color at issue} specified both in the syllabus and in the student handbook {2nd redactor; no original author would include two prepositional phrases}. If I may step aside from the usual professional language for a moment, applying for an extension six weeks after the close of the semester is irresponsible behavior characteristic only of immature, preadolescent {2nd redactor, who thinks the recipient too young to grow hair}, whining brats. Are you aware that our institution {3rd redactor envisions here a barbershop} provides basic counseling services at no cost to the student? I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity, and also, if your counselor so advises, to check yourself into a psychiatric institution. {3rd redactor, wrongly thinking barber scissors cause brain damage}


Your Advisor {3rd redactor, alluding to helmet visors, which can prevent brain damage}