What difference does it make to identify Mark’s gospel as an ancient biography?
Reading the gospels as ancient biographies makes a profound difference to the way that we interpret them. Biography immortalizes the memory of the subject, creating a literary monument to the person’s life and teaching. Yet it is also a bid to legitimize a specific view of that figure and to position an author and his audience as appropriate “gatekeepers” of that memory. Biography was well suited to the articulation of shared values and commitments, the formation of group identity, and the binding together of a past story, present concerns, and future hopes.
Helen Bond argues that Mark’s author used the genre of biography to extend the gospel from an earlier narrow focus on the death and resurrection of Jesus so that it included the way of life of its founding figure. Situating Jesus at the heart of a biography was a bold step in outlining a radical form of Christian discipleship patterned on the life—and death—of Jesus.