Start of main content.

The Art of Biography in Antiquity

Article title: The Art of Biography in Antiquity: A review

Journal title: Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 37/4

Pages: 474-79

ISSN: 0142-064X (print) 1745-5294 (online)

Publication date: 6 June 2015

The Art of Biography in Antiquity

Abstract: This review article discusses Tomas Hägg’s final book, The Art of Biography in Antiquity, completed just before his death from cancer in 2011. Following on from his important The Novel in Antiquity (1983), this beautifully produced and comprehensive book seeks to introduce examples of Greek and Roman biography from 400 BC to AD 300, looking at its origins, Hellenistic examples, popular heroes, the Gospels, Roman political biography, ethical biography (Plutarch) and later accounts of philosophers and holy men.

While the book’s easy style is appreciated for the general reader, Hägg’s decision not to provide any theory of biography or its genre, or any overall historical thread unfortunately weakens its usefulness for more experienced readers. His decision to include the gospels makes it interesting for New Testament scholars, and this review responds to his criticisms of proponents of the biographical genre of the gospels such as Burridge and Frickenschmidt.

Image: Wikimedia Commons