Have you ever been reading through the Gospels and noticed that a specific event or particular parable happened at a different chronological time in another Gospel? Take, for example, the cleansing of the temple. Did it happen towards the end of Jesus’s ministry? Like it’s stated in the Synoptics. Or, early in his ministry, as portrayed by the Gospel of John? Did Jesus cleanse the temple once or twice in His life?
It all boils down to Genre, which is nothing more than a literary category. The Gospels in the Second Temple Period fall under the Greco-Roman literary convention of Bios, or plural Bioi, which roughly means biography.
Although, in a broad sense, the Gospels are a biography. The rules of the genre have changed from Greco-Roman times to modern times. In modern biographies, the biography is chronological. The subject’s story is told from birth through their life to death.
The Greco-Roman conventions for writing a biography or Bios were different. The author of Bios was not concerned with chronological order. Nor did they intend to give a sequential account of the subject’s life from birth to death. They were interested in arranging the material in topical order—trying to explain the most transparent picture of the subject’s personality through anecdotes. Similarly, a Bios had no interest in recording the subject’s words verbatim; it was perfectly acceptable to employ a paraphrase or summary that preserved the sense of the subject’s speech.
Now a couple of questions to contemplate. Did Jesus cleanse the temple twice? If only once. Was it early or late in his ministry?
– Johnnie Kirk
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