Over at The Catholic Weekly, we continue taking a look at the use of names in Scripture:
Last time in this space we looked at the spiritual meaning of names in Scripture. But there is another aspect to names, particularly in the gospels, that I find equally fascinating: their ability to bring the gospels alive as living memories of real witnesses to the life of Christ.
It is common these days to run into people who treat the gospels like myths or legends. C.S. Lewis met the leading edge of this sort of thinking head-on sixty years ago. He criticised biblical scholars who call John a poetic, spiritual “romance” in these words: “I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like.” Very sensibly, he said that, if somebody “tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavor; not how many years he has spent on that Gospel.” He said, “Either this is reportage or else some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic, narrative.”
New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham agrees and argues that the gospels, so far from conforming to the genre of myth, in fact take pains to conform to ancient Greco-Roman standards of historical reportage, complete with the use of various eyewitness sources.
Ancient word processors did not have a footnote function. So the way you cited your sources, whenever you could, was to name the source. This explains the curious mention of various figures in the gospels who otherwise play no part in the story and are socially insignificant figures.