What is it about?

Was Jesus a hero to those who first wrote about him in the New Testament gospels? It has been proposed that these gospels are like the biographies of other contemporary heroes. However, this linguistic study of the way that Jesus is appraised in the Gospel of John suggests that this might not be the case. It compares the presentation of Jesus with that of a military/political leader in Plutarch’s Cato the Younger and a philosopher in Lucian’s Demonax. Although, as we might expect, the way Jesus is evaluated in almost entirely positive, it is done in quite a different way from that of the other heroes. Maybe the author of the Gospel of John thought that Jesus was in some way beyond human evaluation?

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Why is it important?

This study is a collaboration between specialists in two different disciplines, New Testament Studies and Linguistics. It provides an example of how new insights into the language of ancient written documents can be made using recent linguistic methodologies. It also asks whether the gospels in the New Testament can be considered as biographies in the same way as other writings of the time.


"I am an honorary research fellow in New Testament Studies with a particular interest in sociolinguistics. I had the opportunity of doing a year's research as a Visiting Scholar in the department of linguistics at the University of Bangor under the guidance of Professor Thora Tenbrink. I believe that such collaboration between different disciplines – and different institutes – can lead to exciting new insights.” David A. Lamb University of Manchester

David Lamb
University of Manchester

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Evaluating Jesus and other “heroes”, Language Context and Text The Social Semiotics Forum, September 2022, John Benjamins,
DOI: 10.1075/langct.21015.lam.
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