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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Alexander

The opening to Plutarch's description of Alexander includes this.
I should not by way of apology forewarn my reader that I have chosen rather to epitomize the most celebrated parts of their story, than to insist at large on every particular circumstance of it. It must be borne in mind that my design is not to write histories, but lives. And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever. Therefore as portrait-painters are more exact in the lines and features of the face, in which the character is seen, than in the other parts of the body, so I must be allowed to give my more particular attention to the marks and indications of the souls of men, and while I endeavour by these to portray their lives, may be free to leave more weighty matters and great battles to be treated of by others.
Full selection. Plutarch then proceeds to recount how Alexander was descended from Hercules and the miraculous circumstances of his conception. It seems to me that the Gospels were not "histories, but lives." Recognizing how common in was for authors of this period to write like portrait-painters rather than news photographers comforts me. It comforts me because it justifies my understanding of what the Biblical authors were trying to accomplish.

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