Video Transcript: Genre and Historiography
Announcer - This is Dr. Craig Keener, and as teaching on the book of Acts, this is session number two, genre and historiography.
Dr. Keener - Scholars have proposed a number of genres or literary types for the book of Acts, and one that we've looked at is biography, and there are a number of useful elements in that proposal. Another proposal, and this one has been much more controversial, has been the proposal of Acts is a novel mainly proposed by Richard Pervo. Now, actually, Pervo today would say no, he was never really saying that Acts was a novel. He was just making comparisons with novels, and recognizing Acts as a is a popular level work rather than an elite historical work. So he saw it more as kind of novelistic historiography. But in any case, looking at the at the proposal of novel because a number of people have taken his original argument and if said, Well maybe Acts as a novel or we should read it as a novel. One of his arguments is that Luke caricatures his opponents, makes them look really bad. While some people do act really bad. But in any case, even if Luke is caricature, characterizing them that wouldn't make it a novel, because that was characteristic of all polemic. I mean, Tacitus, if anybody in antiquity was a historian, it was Tacitus. But you see how Tacitus treats Nero and Domitian. Anything bad that was rumored about Nero or Domitian ends up in Tacitus' work, people write from given perspectives Pervo sites, Rowdy mobs, says Those appear in novels. But they also appear all over the place. In ancient historiography, there were a lot of rowdy mobs in antiquity, and we have them in historical works no less than we have them in novels. Sometimes he appeals to leader Christian acts, the Acts of Paul and Thecla the Acts of Peter, the Acts of John which is my personal favorite, and a number of others. But these, that's derivative from the Acts of Luke, virtually everybody agrees that Luke's Acts is earlier. So we can't really read the later ones into that, in fact, those later ones come from the heyday of novels, the late second and really third centuries, the gospel of Luke does not and Richard Pervo himself does not need it that late. Moreover, ancient novels were usually romances. You can say, well, the Acts of John wasn't some of the others, often, some of these later Acts, Christian Acts, because writing in late antiquity, there was more of a valuing of celibacy than a romance in some circles. Looking at these later Acts, like the Acts of Paul and Thecla, the, the major female character there, leaves her husband and become celibate, rather than she follows Paul around but she doesn't become his, his, his bride or something like that. But ancient novels were usually romances. novels were only extremely rarely about historical characters, there are a few of them, Xenophon in Cyropaedia is one from an earlier period. And from a later period, we have a work by somebody we call pseudo Callisthenes, it wasn't really just Callisthenes, writing an Alexander romance that was written about somebody who lived 500 years earlier. It's not dependent on historical information at least 500 years earlier, but only rarely were they about historical characters. And never so far as I've ever seen, about any recent characters, when you're writing about recent characters, I mean, people didn't write novels about recent characters, past generation or two. So you wouldn't have a novel about Jesus from the first century you wouldn't have a novel about Paul from the first century or even if you want to date it that late from the early second century. In contrast to having history and biography, where history was considered best written by eyewitnesses or by contemporaries, not all of it was written that way but But history could be written about recent characters. novels were not novels would not include the vast correspondences with history that we find in the book of Acts. And seriously these are these are different genres. fictionalizing in narratives was limited to tales and novels, that was criticized in historians historians weren't allowed to do that. So Lukian Polybius, when he's criticizing Timaeus slam those who had a lot of error, even though many scholars today will say, Well, Timaeus wasn't actually as bad of a historian, when we read between the lines is Polybius, accused him of
being Polybius may have been trying to get rid of some of this competition. But in any case, that was that was criticized in historical works. Furthermore, you don't have in novels a historical prologue, historical preface, like you do in Luke one, one to four, or the the use of sources the way we have here, I know of one novel Apuleius' Metamorphosis, which seems to recycle an earlier storyline that's found in Lukian's Lucias. But that's the one example that I know of using sources. And it was freely very freely rewritten. And it was it was very obviously a novel that was very obviously not historical work. And in contrast to what we have in in Luke Acts, also, with regard to the Luke's drawing on a range of sources, he seems to be very careful in the way he puts his sources together. This isn't a course in the Gospel of Luke, but you can see using a synopsis of the Gospels, and if you if you made a synopsis of other ancient biographies, you'd see that the Synoptic Gospels are actually pretty close to one another by ancient standards, suggesting that they really did intend to draw on historical information. Now, in terms of historical preface, novels didn't didn't have those. Sometimes, some scholars have cited one exception. And that exception is a novel about by Longus, Daphnis and Chloe, but if you if you read the preface to that novel, it's not a historical preface at all. It says, This is how I made the story up. So very different genres. Richard Pervo is also pointed out you have many adventures, as in novels. Well, you have adventures also in histories. I mean, we read Josephus' autobiography, certainly it's full of adventure. Read Josephus' War, or Thucydides' account of the Peloponnesian War. Obviously, there are adventures there because it's writing about war. Now, admittedly, when I first tried reading Thucydides' Peloponnesian War, I think I was 14 years old. And I did not find it as interesting as as I do now. But I did find some other works. I found Tacitus quite interesting when I was 12. So his histories also could include interesting adventures. Maximus of Tyre, says that histories are pleasurable, and could even be read at banquets and lieu of other forms of entertainment, at least if there are intellectuals present. Now, this would be especially true in popular historiography. And here's where I think Richard Pervo has as a as a valuable insight, because it is written in a more adventuresome way, with less tedious other kinds of details than what you have in the elite historiographies. Historical monographs even had plots. So that, you know, they had a common theme, common story that they were telling. Aristotle talked about the value of plot for any kind of narrative. This interest in adventure was a trait of all ancient literary narratives, although you find it more in some kinds than in others. But how much should there have been an Acts? How much should there have been in recounting Paul's adventures? Well, if you read II Corinthians 11, if anything, Luke tones down Paul's adventures, because Paul had a whole lot more than Luke take space to recount he merely gives samples and one of the one of the key adventures in the book of Acts Paul is let down from a wall to escape. Paul mentions that in II Corinthians 11, Paul mentions shipwrecks that nowhere appear in Acts, Acts recounts one shipwreck later than II Corinthians was written But Paul talks about being shipwrecked multiple times he talks about being beaten in synagogues multiple times. He talks about being beaten with rods multiple times, even though Acts narrates only one of those. So Acts is not accentuating Paul's adventures. It's actually if anything recounting less of them, although it recounts some in greater detail than Paul would have reason to do. Richard Pervo talks about, well, there's a hero like you haven't Hellenistic Hellenistic novels. Well, you also have a hero in positive biographies. Biographies could be positive or negative. Usually they were mixed. They had positive and negative features. But if you were writing about somebody you really respected like when Tacitus writes about his father in law Agricola. Well, then it was very positive. But you had, you often had a hero, you certainly had a protagonist, and many biographies. There's a useful element in what Richard Pervo pointed out, and that is that Luke uses interesting storytelling techniques. But you can use similar narrative techniques and historiography, especially at a popular level. My wife was
a war refugee for 18 months. And we've written a book, it's not out yet. At the time that this has been filmed, it may be out by the time you're watching this, but we wrote a book about it. And the book has a lot of adventure, a lot of action, some romance, it's my wife, but none of it is fictitious. There were a few points where for the sake of space, just did a couple times I blended things that happened chronologically different points, they blended them together into one scene. That was just a few points. But I mean, these things were taken directly from her journal. And from my journal, these were actual events. But the way you tell them, I left out a whole lot of things that were in the journal, to focus on the things that readers would be most interested in. I mean, my journals, for some of that period, can fill up two drawers of file cabinet. And this book was supposed to be small, so it can be sold cheaply. That's what the publisher asked for. So only a very small amount of information is in there. But I could select the information based on our interest. Well, that doesn't make it a novel. It's still biographic. It's still historically true. But the interests shape the way it's written. And that was true in antiquity, no less than it's true today. In fact, it would have been, I could have written it in a much more or less popular historiographic style. We had all the dates and everything from the journals, but it's alright. Others have suggested that the book of Acts as an epic, Maryanne Bonz, suggested that it's a prose epic. The problem with comparing Acts to a prose Epic is that such a genre did not exist. epics were written in poetry, not in prose. And you don't have to read much of Luke Acts in Greek, before you recognize that as an English Acts is not written in poetic form. It's prose. Also, epics normally dealt with the distant past. Well, Acts is dealing with the recent past recent generations distant past would be centuries earlier. Often these were legends and sometimes they were pure myth. The epics in the Roman Empire, you do have like later in the first century, although this is not the primary appeal and Bonz's work she she appeals primarily to Virgil's Aeneid, but you do have some more recent wars, even civil wars, you have you have Lucan for example, or others putting putting a war into poetic form and then making it like an epic and exaggerated exaggerated features with you know, the war goddess, giant war goddess standing above the army and, and, and so on. But Acts is nothing like that. Acts again is not written in poetic form. There's a possibly useful element in Bonz's argument though, and that is that Acts is a foundation story. It it may not be about the distant past, but it is talking about the legacy that was left by these by these First Apostolic leaders. So, it's not to say we can't learn something from from that, but prose epic, didn't exist. We talked about, about the thesis that its biography. Maybe the closest parallel would be Theogenes' Laertes. Writing later, has biographies of a number of people, you also have Philostratus's Lives of the Sophists having biographies of a number of people strung together. You also have parallel lives where you have multiple volumes where one volume deals with one figure, another volume deals with another figure and to narrow down the information you were going to talk about. You would you would compare them with one another. So you have Jesus, Peter and Paul, what do you do then with Acts chapter six through eight, which focus on Stephen and Philip, or even nine through 12, where it's going back and forth between between Peter and Paul. So I've argued that it's really a biographic approach to history. History dealt with people's praxis or acts. That's where we get the word Acts from that from the title praxis. Some see this, so you have some of this with biography, but you also have it in history. And the exception would be pseudo Calisthenes written at least 500 years after Alexander the Great. So the majority view of scholars today is that Acts is historiography of some sort. That was held by Dibelius by Cadbury, by Eckhard Plumacher, by Luke Timothy Johnson at Emory by by Martin Hengel. History could get some details wrong. Yet still we convey historical events, as opposed to a novel where a person just made everything up. Here are reasons why scholars, these are scholars from a range of perspectives. These are not scholars who say some of the scholars would say, Luke was a
superb historian. Some would say, well, he's a so so historian. But the majority of scholars today realize that Luke is writing historiography. Reasons for that. One is that Luke includes set speeches, which appear very often in ancient historiography, it was characteristic of ancient historiography. When Josephus rewrites parts of the Old Testament and his antiquities, even adds in speeches to make it, you know, better historiography, sometimes it makes some Greco Roman speeches. He's, he's very interested in rhetorical historiography, Josephus is we'll talk more about that in another point. But you have these set speeches. Someone has objected, well, you know, set speeches, you have speeches in novels, too. Yes, you have discourse, you have people talking in novels. But it's not the same as having the set speeches the way you have. so dominant in historiography, although they're shorter and Acts because Acts is shorter, it's one volume. The historical preface, majority of scholars see the preface of Luke 1:1-4 as a historical preface. Loveday Alexander, argued at length, well, this looks more like the kind of preface you have in scientific treatises. But when she was critiqued by people saying, well, this is not a scientific treatise, she responded. I never was saying it was a scientific treatise, I agree that it's a it's a work of ancient historiography, but of the more scientific kind, the kind that maybe a physician or someone like that would write we have massive correspondences with known data. novelists did not care about that novelist did not go back and research things even when they were writing about historical characters. Occasionally, Luke includes synchronization, which was more characteristic of elite historiography, Luke couldn't have that much just that much synchronization with external history because for the most part, the reports he got didn't tell him and this happened in this year this happened in that year, but he has it he has it sometimes. Luke 2:1-2 and Luke chapter 3:1-2, name the rulers at the time that's these events were happening. Acts 18:12 mentions Gallio. Even Acts 11:28 talking about the the famine, period under Claudius also there's a focus on events. And you see that in the preface where it says, Now concerning the things that were fulfilled among us will focus on events. That was the focus you had in historiography. And, you know, the alternative to this historical novels is quite rare. Eduard Meyer, perhaps the 20th century's most famous historian of Greco Roman antiquity, concluded that Luke was a great historian. And that Acts in spite of its more restricted content, bears the same character as those of the greatest historians of Polybius, a Livy, and many others. Personally, I wouldn't put Luke in the same category as Polbius or Livy, or Livy. I don't think he would have wanted to have written as long as they wrote. But the point, nevertheless, is that Luke was writing historiography, well, what kind of historiography there there were different kinds of sources that we might group together is history. genealogy, mythography horography, which was local history or animals of a local place. chronography, which was trying to just arrange the events of world history, but usually we're talking about history, proper, history proper, was dealing with historical events. And it was in narrative form, unlike animals, and when I say historical events, and like mythography, which could be recycled, myths, sometimes they did use sources for that, but they're talking about people many, many centuries earlier, if people at all, by topic. Some people have said, Okay, well, this is history proper, but But what kind of history? Is it institutional history, writing the institution of the early church? Is it political history, viewing the church as kind of a political entity? Is it philosophic? By biographic? History The a focusing on teachers and sages? We have some of that, is it ethnographic the history of people have, you have that sometimes in antiquity as well, we can draw insights from each of these kinds. But most people who wrote historical monographs weren't trying to shove it into just one category. These are kind of artificial categories that we come up with. And so none of these have actually caught on and commanded a consensus among scholars. In terms of ethnographic history. When people did write ethnographic history, the history of the people. Often it was a minority group, who felt marginalized by the way that
history was normally being written by the Greeks who pioneered the the major form of historiography used in the Roman Empire. Greeks viewed other peoples through Greek lens, we were ethnocentric as peoples usually are. And so they were interested in things from a Greek view, they looked down, many of them look down and some other civilizations. Herodotus was a bit fair, but many of them looked down and non Greek civilizations non Roman civilizations. So you have the Babylonian, Babylonian Acha, which was written bras just wanted to show that the Babylonians had a noble history Manetho wanted to show in his Aegyptiaca Probably back then it would have been pronounced a gift, a good the aka that that Egyptians had a noble history, which in fact, they did. And Josephus does that, to some extent, with his Jewish antiquities, to show that the Jewish people had a noble history, a history that went back far earlier than Greek civilization. Greeks may not have liked that, but anyway, he was he was writing apologetic. And that brings us to another way of viewing Acts. And that is, by motive. You can have different topics, but what is the motive? What's the what are the driving forces behind writing, writing the historiography? Well, one possible motive for Luke Acts, is also one that we find for these ethnographic historiographies. These, these these ethnographic histories that were written about a particular people a minority group, within within the Empire or outside the Empire, and Gregory Sterling, who at the moment is the dean of Yale Divinity School, and at the time was at the University of Notre Dame Greg Gregory Sterling, has argued very, I think very strongly, very convincingly, based on ancient Jewish historiography, but much of this was written with an apologetic emphasis. And I think the parallels with with Acts are very informative. So, the Jewish people weren't responsible for these riots, these anti Jewish riots that took place and so on. Also, you can classify history from another perspective, I mean, these are not mutually exclusive. You can classify by topic and classify motive, or you can classify by form will inform its amount monograph, it's not a multivolume history. Eckerd Plumacher. And others have argued that it's a historical monograph, like, like, Sallust's historical monographs. But like Richard Pervo points out, it's on a popular level. It's, it's, it's, it's not on the elite level, with sometimes with the Gospels, there was a period when people were speaking of the Gospels as Kleinliteratur, as opposed to Volkliteratur about by which they meant the Gospels are Volkliteratur. They're common people's literature, as opposed to Kleinliteratur, as opposed to high level elite literature. Well, certainly, Luke Acts is not elite. But neither is it just Volkliteratur. It's not like something like the the Life of Aesop. So you've got to focus some intriguing narrative. But it's it's nonetheless history for that. Today. It depends on where you are in the world, what what things will, will appeal to you but just some of the things that that I've I've appreciated and read like The Hiding Place, The Cross and the Switchblade, Jackie, Jackie Pullinger story in Hong Kong, our book, Impossible Love, and other things like this, not trying to place us necessarily in the same category, but that you can have works that are genuinely true, but they're told in a popular level way. And I think that that is what we have with the book of Acts, apologetic ethnographic history. In this case, in a monograph form. Greeks tend to caricature others. So others often responded by producing works that showed, no we have a noble history. And Josephus does that. Some people have said Josephus tries to show that Judaism is a religio licita, a legal religion. It wasn't officially a legal religion, but it didn't need to be its antiquity. And the precedents of toleration that Josephus brings out and likes to emphasize, as opposed to maybe some other things he doesn't mention. Well, you know, we know that happens sometimes because there was a decree of Claudius, and he told the Greeks in Alexandria to stop persecuting the Jewish community. And he also told the Jewish community to stop agitating. And Josephus only reports the part where he reproved the Greeks, it's understandable, you know, he's writing from a particular perspective for a particular purpose. But in any case, he appeals to precedents for toleration, just like Acts does. He shows that the
church has an ancient history and ancient heritage goes back. Volume One, you can see, Jesus is embedded in history of Israel. There are all these allusions to mean. You have Zechariah and Elizabeth, moving back to Abraham and Sarah, and in some of the other things so his story embeds the story of the church in the ancient story of Israel. He also is full of, of precedents, favorable precedents that, you know, the church should not be persecuted, its mission should not be silenced, because this is this is not something that is against Roman law. Pilate, Jesus was really innocent. Sergius Paulus, Galio Festus, Felix just kept Paul in jail, but is because he wanted to bribe and so on. So Acts is, is doing something like what Josephus was doing with apologetic ethnographic history, not not just ethnography, apart from apologetic. He's actually not writing the history of the church. He's writing a history of the mission of the church. He's not even writing the Acts of the Apostles because he doesn't deal much with most of the apostles. halls. You've got Peter, John, and Paul. And then James, the Lord's brother who wasn't one of the 12. You have rhetorical sophistication in some ancient historiography that was demanded by elites. And especially in the heyday of the second sophistic, and afterwards by, by the, by the second century, in later, you had people who looked down in the New Testament because it wasn't rhetorically sophisticated enough. And certainly, they looked down even more on the Old Testament because it wasn't sophisticated by Greek rhetorical standards because it wasn't written for them. These historians allowed adjustments of detail. To make the narrative cohesive. They also emphasize vividness. And one of the ways that historians often emphasize vividness was through an exercise called ekphrasis. Where they would describe something in detail it goes back to rhetoricians look back, especially to Homer. Homer was sort of the rhetorical canon of the Greeks, just like the Old Testament was the canon of the Jewish people in the Christian movement. So they looked back to a whole long description of Ajax's shield just giving you every possible elaboration. So that was common among rhetorically oriented historians, Luke lacks that. I mean, he could have you know, is Paul and Silas are leaving Philippi he could have described the aching of their wounds. He could have described the 100 peddled flowers that the hills were on Philippi were famous for he could have described the gold mines near Philippi. He could have could have described the river Strymṓn and he could have described the, the the ancient lion statue that was outside on the road that they undoubtedly passed by. Luke doesn't describe any of these things. That's not his interest. Luke is writing on a more popular level that is fairly popular but higher literary level than Mark, literate, but not as sophisticated as Paul, not elite but closer to the elite than he was to the papyrii. Now, Luke also has speeches. rhetoric was important in history, especially for the elite. Less so for Luke. You see the narrative cohesiveness of Luke Acts. It's a whole story it fits together. Golder, Talbert and Tannehill all emphasize this Golder, in 1960s kind of overdid the parallels. But Talbert and Tannehill, have done it from a much more sober literary narrative critical perspective. And so we see how it all fits together. We see. We see patterns and Luke Acts. Now, the patterns don't mean it's on historical historians believed the Providence created these patterns. And so they would highlight things that looked to them like parallels, you have that Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who appeals to Providence. You have it in Josephus, you have it in, in the Roman historian Appian. It's not uncommon, they believe that Providence created those patterns. And so you may say, well, they were in the eyes of the beholder. But anyway, they weren't inventing the details. In those cases, parallel lives. Plutarch tells us that he he looked for existing parallels. That's why not everything is parallel. But he looked for existing parallels when he wrote his parallel lives. He didn't obliterate the differences and doing so. In biography, you could have an element of praise and blame. But according to Polybius it had to be assigned according to just merit. That is, you couldn't just make up stories you had to use the stories that were actually there and assigning praise and blame is is distinct from say
a funeral speech where you just say nice things about the person. Some historians, although Polybius attack this viciously Some historians were sensationalistic and the examples Polybius sites of sensationalism were historians really played on pathos you even have an Tacitus playing on pathos. But what he's what he's talking about, are when, you know a city is conquered, and people are being led out as slaves, the history, he says, Well, this historian is a bad historian because he describes all the women lamenting and weeping and so forth. Well, my guess is, that is is They were being led out of slaves, they probably were lamenting and weeping and so forth. What Polybius doesn't like is is focusing on that, not all historians agreed with him. Luke has some pathos, but he doesn't have much in fact he may have less than Tacitus does. And the pathos that he has is not like inventing events. It's like people weeping as Paul leaves, which shows so much that they love Paul, elite historians with elaborate scenes, as we mentioned, it's not in in Luke Acts, Josephus does that. Those kinds of things were considered necessary for a book to sell among people who could afford to buy it. But on a more popular level, they were just interested not in all these elite rhetorical techniques, but they were interested in good storytelling. And, again, you can do that without without inventing things. Did historians have ancient biases? Well, from what we've already said, you, you know that they did. ancient historians did have biases or what what scholars call tendents, they had certain tendencies, certain perspectives, not necessarily, when we use the term bias in this way, not necessarily negative. But they had certain perspectives modernist story and said the same thing. postmodernists do like to point this out, everybody writes from our perspective, which non postmodernist will say that doesn't justify distorting things. But in any case, I won't get into all that debate. But you can, you can contrast biographies on Lincoln or Churchill, some are more positive, some are more negative. Also, there can be an explicit focus. You can write on church history, that doesn't mean you're making things up, it means that your focus is on the history of the church, although Western historians have tended to focus on western church history. And more recently, scholars have been pointing out well, actually, what about the history of the church in East Africa? What about the history of the church in Asia? And in some other places? Actually, those things are coming more to the fore now. So there was certain perspective from which people were writing certain interests that dictated what they what they primarily covered. But church history, political history, women's history, so your interests will also dictate your focus. But that doesn't mean it's not history. But this was more overt and antiquity. Sometimes they would give explicit narrative asides. Well, this person did this because they're a jerk. Sometimes, you would have often you would have very clear nationalistic biases. You have a lot of people writing from a very pro Roman tendents. And that may be one reason those histories have survived. Plutarch really did not like Herodotus. Thus, he had an whole essay on the malice of Herodotus, what did he have against Herodotus? Herodotus said something negative about Boeotia, where Plutarch was from, you know, you don't you don't mess with my town. I'm gonna write something bad about you if you write something bad in my town. So Plutarch took on Herodotus this and called him malicious. People had various nationalistic biases, although sometimes, some of them wrote. So objectively, that historians today debate which side they were really on more lessons, responsible historians believed that you didn't just put the history out there and let people do what they want with it. You gave them some direction. They knew that people were going to use these historical examples and speeches, they would use them, and political arguments and so forth. So the question was, well, if people are going to use these, we want to make sure they use them rightly. So often, in the beginning of their work, they would say, I'm, I'm writing this to provide this for moral examples. So you can look for good and bad examples from the past, when we try to persuade people in the present. Now, they didn't always tell you which examples were good in which examples were
bad, because sometimes that was taken for granted in the culture. But you do have that also in the gospels, certain. In the book of Acts, you have certain morals communicated by the behavior of the people, you have certain groups that are focused on positively or negatively. The selection of facts, for a purpose is not the same as fabricating facts. It's just the way history is written. And certainly the way ancient historiography was written. theological perspectives also appeared. Historians looked for the divine hand in history, they look for patterns in history, as we've mentioned enough parallels. And that's not just Greek historians, I mean, you, you look at I Samuel, chapters, chapter one and you have the comparison between Hannah and elite Eli, you have the comparison that goes on in the next chapter between Samuel and Eli sons, often Phineas, you have the comparisons between Saul and David. That was that was that was just characteristic of a lot of the way historiography was written. And it was formalized in Greek rhetoric. Divine Providence do Eunius of Halicarnassus and Josephus looked for this in history. They mentioned that this was done by providence, Jewish writers, when they were updating biblical history, like the book of Jubilees has particular theological emphases, even though Jubilee sticks fairly close to the information that we have in Genesis, augment and get some with some subsequent Jewish tradition. Josephus, even, you know, he's using the same story so that you can you can see his slant. Sometimes the slant is just to make it palatable for Hellenistic audience by by using proper biographic narration techniques. Well, what about accuracy in ancient historiography, not varied, some by historian Tacitus, Thucydides, Polybius were more accurate than Harodotus, Strabo or Plutarch. Josephus is unreliable on population estimates, and distances. But then again, he probably didn't count the people. And nor do we expect that he paced out the distances from one place to another. You didn't actually measure them, but smaller things that he could measure like pillars, like monuments, like the architecture in the harbor at Caesarea and Maritima. He often was quite precise in those measurements. He was reliable on most architectural data. And so far as we can tell him most events, sometimes he would forget things. Where was Herod Antipas banished, he was banished to Gaul but in another place and Josephus, he's, he's banished somewhere else. Well, at least we know he was banished. But Josephus, he is not the most careful of ancient historians. But sometimes his information is so precise that archaeologists are astonished by it. Historians had a wide degree of latitude and details, they had to get the bulk of the story, right. Insofar as their sources were accurate. They use the criterion of coherence with historical setting. They preferred writers closer in time to the events, especially eyewitnesses, their goal was was objectivity. And they could be very, very critical in how they handle their data. So that at one point, I believe it was, I believe it was Thucydides, perhaps, who's who criticizes the stories of the great Akkadian Empire, and the stories that you have in Homer. Because if you go back to Mycenae there's just ruins there. And it doesn't look like it was a very large place. Well, excavations have shown it was larger than he thought. But he was being a critical historian he was, he was trying to look at the data available to him. And today, we have more available, more data available to us. And actually, you know, we're not saying that the Iliad or the Odyssey are historical, but some of the things that they presupposed, actually do go back to some some information, more than maybe Thucydides even thought objectivity was the goal. And sometimes it was achieved to such a degree that scholars debate which way Sallust for example, in this historical monographs leaned chronology was not always available. You have chronology used in in Polybius, Thucydides and Tacitus. Because they have military sources available to them. They have annals that were written, because that's the kind of thing that they're writing about. When you don't have that with oral sources. People are not always going to be able to tell you this happened at this date, and this happened this date. And you may not always have things in the precise sequence even. And that wasn't expected. Certainly in biography, it wasn't
expected in historiography, you were to get it as close as possible. But even there, sometimes they had to make compromises because do you follow something geographically from one year to the next? Even if some other events are happening over here before these later events at the site, or do you switch over to here because it happened? The same year, and then switch back geographically. And different historians had different techniques on that. And some of them criticized some of the others techniques. The use of sources. rarely did historians have omniscient narrators, usually they cited varying sources, sometimes you'd have seven on one side and four on the other. And the historian would say, seven said this, but the majority of historians say this, and they cite four letting you know that there were more than seven, but they just gave you the names of a few of them. The exceptions, they didn't always cite the varying sources, but they cited them especially where they disagreed. So when you're talking about recent sources, they were less likely to name their sources because they didn't have so much disagreement among them. In the case of Arrian Arrian writes, a very respected biography of Alexander the Great, but Arrian is writing toward the end of the first early second century. And Alexander the Great died in 323 BCE, with 356 to 323 BCE. So centuries have passed. But in this case, Arrian has a lot of works that have been lost to us today. He had a number of early works about Alexander the Great, and he could draw on those and some scholars really respect this because he had early sources to work with. But sometimes the sources contradicted one another. And he had to say, well, here are the different views. Normally, if you're writing in the first or second generation, you don't have as much contradiction among the witnesses. You may have a little bit. But what's the case of, of, of Luke? Well, Luke was meticulously careful with his sources that were available to him in the Gospels. How do we know just compare Luke and Mark? For one thing, my observation from working through ancient histories is that ancient historians covering the same period retold the same events. They often filled in detailed scenes where they lacked access to information, especially where you have private scenes, and none of the people had survived. They all died from it. Just effects does that sometimes even Tacitus does on occasion. But the substance had to be correct. But they rounded out scenes for good storytelling. So we've got a couple of dangers in the way people approaches ancient historiography. One is to assume that ancient historiography is the same as modern historiography. So you judge it by modern rules. You are judging, ancient historiography by a genre that technically didn't exist yet, namely, modern historiography. And so you have ultra conservatives. And you have some skeptics complaining? Well, you know, by our very strict standards, we're going to throw out any reliability in this. But ancient historians normally valued accuracy and substance and events, but not necessarily an all fleshed out details like conversations that you got exactly the wording or anything like that. The other danger is assuming that ancient historiography had nothing to do with historical information. I mean, modern historiography did develop from ancient historiography. Many of the rules we use today were composed by Polybius, who wrote before the New Testament was written. So assuming, trying to separate each historiography from historical information, and say, well, it's virtually the same as a novel that's throwing out the baby with the bathwater. novels in history, were quite distinct genres and antiquity. Lucian pointed out the good biographers avoid flattery with falsifies events, and only bad historians and bent data. Pliny the Younger, who's both of these are writing in the second century, although Pliny is writing earlier in the second century. Pliny the Younger says that What's distinctive about history is its concern for accurate facts. Also, Pliny said history's primary goal was truth and accuracy, not rhetorical display. Sometimes people say well, of course historians will tell you that they wanted to write accurately but no, that was just a convention. They didn't really mean it. Pliny is not a historian. Pliny is an orator and a statesman. But he recognizes that history had to be accurate. And you could use rhetoric
provided your basis was facts. He writes to his friends Tacitus and Suetonius, who were historians. Suetonius was more a biographer, but he writes to Tacitus. And, and he says, No, I know you're writing a history now of the Roman Empire and I want to make sure that you don't leave out this very important prosecution, this very important case that I prosecuted. We don't know if Tacitus listened to him or not, because that particular part of Tacitus is missing. But it was barely worth recounting by the standards that Tacitus normally used. However, what Pliny says is Now, I know that you can only include the exact truth, but this is exact truth. And he also gave an account from his father. Sorry, no his father's Uncle Pliny the Elder, who died with the eruption of Vesuvius very, he wrote natural history, he was very interested in lots of encyclopedic information about nature, and so on. And while everybody else was fleeing Pompeii, he wanted to go find out more about what was going on there. And that was the end of him. But there were some survivors who were able to talk about what happened. And Pliny the Younger, provides that information, very happily, for Tacitus. But it's it's true information. And they, they said, you know, it has to be true information. Aristotle, writing, he was a tutor of Alexander, the great student of Plato, long before Aristotle, the difference between poetry and history is not the form because one could write history and verse. And that was proved later on. But their content, history must deal with what happened, not just with what might happen. So there was a heavy emphasis history is supposed to deal with real events. And people are mixing them up today. Novels and historiography take some of the take basically some historical novels, or some very poorly written histories. But those were again very, very minute number of them, you still have the the mainstream of both genres being very separate. Critical historiography contrary to modern ethnocentric bias. ancients did practice critical historiography. Much of the modern practice I said was from Polybius as he was critiquing Timaeus, probably just because Timaeus was a rival and he wanted his own history to survive and not that of Timaeus he succeeded in that, not very politely. Historians often questioned their sources, they would examine writer's biases. They tested consistency with geography, ruins, internal consistency, and so on. They the sources they preferred were the earliest sources nearest the events, especially eye witnesses, the preferred those least apt to be biased, they compared multiple sources. In other words, ancient historians did care about getting the facts straight. Even Josephus, Josephus rewrites biblical narratives. Sometimes, as I mentioned, he creates new speeches for these narratives. he elaborates rhetorically, he admits the golden calf, you know, I mean, you can understand some apologetics for the golden calf. But now he just he just doesn't even want to talk about it. But he retains the basic substance of the biblical stories. And again, in his own period, archaeology confirms him in great detail. So Josephus wasn't the most accurate historian he was one of the more careless of them. And yet, we get so much information from Josephus. And if you have to take his word for it, or assume that he's wrong, I, for one would be more apt to take his word for it unless they have good reason not to. Most importantly, historians on ancient events, admitted that must much of the ancient past was shrouded in fiction. But when historians are writing but recent events, they valued eyewitness testimony, they gathered oral reports, just like Luke talks about eyewitnesses and Luke chapter one and verse two. We know Suetonius and others, they consulted witnesses, sometimes they mentioned them. The witnesses that they consulted sometimes they mentioned, works that were written almost immediately after the events and on which they depend. They they recognize that they had to be reliable on events. Is Acts entertaining. Yes, but historian sought to write in entertaining ways. The difference again, between novels and histories was not that only one sought to entertain, but that only one also sought to inform. ancients believed that one could use truth to teach moral lessons and entertain as well. You test Luke's own case, what was Luke's method? Well, Luke actually makes that available to us in his preface to his first volume, and we also can test
Luke by comparing what he does with Mark. So Luke's method in his preface, a preface was supposed to announce What is the follow Luke's promised content? Luke 1:1 and 3 speaks of an orderly narrative of the things fulfilled among us. And he writes a coin to restore to confirm
what Theophilus had learned about such events. So, what Luke is telling us is, is that he's going to be writing about historical information. And he's going to be writing about it to confirm things that Theophilus already knew about. What I'm going to be covering soon. We're going to look at this preface in somewhat more detail. Luke 1:1-4, it tells us a lot about the sources available to Luke, written sources, oral sources, going back to eyewitnesses. Luke, having thorough knowledge, or confirming this with his own investigations, verse three, and also Luke couldn't fudge. Luke couldn't just be making things up. Certainly not on a on a on a very large level, since the material was already known in the early church and he was simply confirming what members of his audience already knew. In the next session, we will look at each of these points in detail.
Announcer - This is Dr. Craig Keener in his teaching and the book of Acts. This is session number two, Genre and Historiography.