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The purpose of this book is to show why and how (what later became) the four canonical gospels take on a historical cast, a history-like “feel” that remains vitally important for many Christians today. This aim is worked out by in-depth comparisons with other Greco-Roman stories that have been made to seem like history (mythic historiography). Instead of using these comparisons to justify genetic links between texts, Litwa uses them to show how the evangelists dynamically interacted with Greco-Roman literary culture, felt the pressures of its structures of plausibility, and responded by using well-known historiographical tropes. These include the mention of famous rulers and kings, geographical notices, the introduction of eyewitnesses, vivid presentation, alternative reports, staged skepticism, and so on. This study is the most sustained and thorough comparison of the gospels and Greco-Roman mythology (not just Homer and Euripides) of the past fifty years. Its innovation is to show that the gospels were not perceived as myths (or mythoi), but as histories (records of actual events).


Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

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