What Are the Gospels?

What Are the Gospels?: A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography
by Richard A. Burridge 2020

About the Author
The Revd Canon Professor Richard A. Burridge is an internationally recognised biblical scholar, ethicist, theologian and social commentator. During his career, he has been a schoolmaster, parish priest, university chaplain, academic, and professor, and he served as Dean of King’s College London for over 25 years from 1993 to 2019. He is the author of several books, including the groundbreaking What are the Gospels? He was awarded the 2013 Ratzinger Prize by Pope Francis, the first non-Roman Catholic to receive this prize for academic scholarship.

About the Book
The publication of Richard Burridge’s What Are the Gospels? in 1992 inaugurated a transformation in Gospel studies by overturning the previous consensus about Gospel uniqueness. Burridge argued convincingly for an understanding of the Gospels as biographies, a ubiquitous genre in the Graeco-Roman world. To establish this claim, Burridge compared each of the four canonical Gospels to the many extant Graeco-Roman biographies. Drawing on insights from literary theory, he demonstrated that the previously widespread view of the Gospels as unique compositions was false. Burridge went on to discuss what a properly “biographical” perspective might mean for Gospel interpretation, which was amply demonstrated in the revised second edition reflecting on how his view had become the new consensus. This third, twenty-fifth anniversary edition not only celebrates the continuing influence of What Are the Gospels?, but also features a major new contribution in which Burridge analyzes recent debates and scholarship about the Gospels. Burridge both answers his critics and reflects upon the new directions now being taken by those who accept the biographical approach. This new edition also features as an appendix a significant article in which he tackles the related problem of the genre of Acts. A proven book with lasting staying power, What Are the Gospels? is not only still as relevant and instructive as it was when first published, but will also doubtlessly inspire new research and scholarship in the years ahead.

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A paradigm shift within a field…implications of the paradigm shift he has initiated will continue to be debated for many years to come.
— Louise Lawrence ― Conversations in Religion and Theology

I suspect that biblical scholarship might well divide into pre-Burridge and post-Burridge, such is the significance of his work.
— Ian Markham ― First Things

The most comprehensive and lucid discussion of the genre of the Gospels yet undertaken…It is a truly astonishing tour de force―interdisciplinary biblical scholarship at its very best.
— Mark W.G. Stibbe ― Biblical Interpretation

Burridge’s book is a standard and exemplary resource for historical research on the Gospels.
— Ben Witherington III

Richard Burridge set out to disprove the claim that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography. In the process, the data compelled him to change his mind and write What Are The Gospels? This is a watershed book, primarily responsible for moving the majority of New Testament scholarship to a place where it either regards the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies or as being closely affiliated with that genre. For New Testament scholarship, it is one of the most important books of the twentieth century. This 25th Anniversary Edition contains more than one hundred new pages in which Burridge interacts with critics who have taken issue with his thesis and summarizes the findings of other scholars who have built upon his work, teasing out important implications of the Gospels being of a biographical genre.
— Michael R. Licona, Associate Professor of Theology, Houston Baptist University