Continuing from my previous post . . . .
Resurrection — ἀνάστασις — in both Acts and Eumenides
A number of scholars have remarked upon the reference to the resurrection in Eumenides by Aeschylus when commenting on the reference to the resurrection in connection with Paul’s appearance in the Areopagus before the Athenians.
F. F. Bruce, in The Book of Acts, p. 343, when commenting on the scoffing Paul received after mentioning the resurrection, recalled the scene in Aeschylus’ play that likewise mentioned the resurrection in connection with a hero appearing before the Areopagus. Most Athenians, Bruce said, would, on hearing of Paul’s mention of the resurrection, have agreed with the sentiments expressed in the play by
the god Apollo, . . . on the occasion when that very court of the Areopagus was founded by the city’s patron goddess Athene: “Once a man dies and the earth drinks up his blood, there is no resurrection.” Some of them, therefore, ridiculed a statement which seemed so absurd.
The footnote supplied points to Aeschylus, Eumenides, lines 647-8, where the same Greek word, ἀνάστασις, is used in both the play and Acts 17:18, 32.
Similarly Charles H. Talbert in Reading Acts, p. 157, makes note of the same observation:
Scoffing is a typical response to speeches by fringe figures . . . Given the assumptions of Paul’s auditors, scoffing is an entirely appropriate response. Aeschylus, Eumenides 647-48, relates how, on the occasion of the inauguration of the court of the Areopagus, the god Apollo says, “When the dust hath drained the blood of man, once he is slain, there is no return to life.”
Lynn Kauppi sees more in the link between Aeschylus and Acts than a background pointer to a common belief among Athenians of the day. He suggests that the way “Luke” weaves the allusions into the scene of Acts 17:16-34 gives reason to think that his audience “may have observed an allusion to the Athenian literary tradition.” (The Greek text is from Perseus and the English translation from Kauppi’s manuscript.)
The word ἀνάστασις appears in both Aeschylus and Acts when the central character is about to appear before the Areopagus.
ὦ παντομισῆ κνώδαλα, στύγη θεῶν,
πέδας μὲν ἂν λύσειεν, ἔστι τοῦδ᾽ ἄκος
καὶ κάρτα πολλὴ μηχανὴ λυτήριος:
ἀνδρὸς δ᾽ ἐπειδὰν αἷμ᾽ ἀνασπάσῃ κόνις
ἅπαξ θανόντος, οὔτις ἔστ᾽ ἀνάστασις.
τούτων ἐπῳδὰς οὐκ ἐποίησεν πατὴρ
οὑμός, τὰ δ᾽ ἄλλα πάντ᾽ ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω
στρέφων τίθησιν οὐδὲν ἀσθμαίνων μένει.
You foul animals, from whom the gods turn in disgust,
Zeus could undo shackles, such hurt can be made good,
and there is every kind of way to get out. But once
the dust has drained down all a man’s blood, once the man
has died, there is no raising [ἀνάστασις] of him up again.
This is a thing for which my father never made
curative spells. All other states, without effort
of hard breath, he can completely rearrange.
The god Apollo is defending Orestes before the Areopagus by declaring that if he dies he can never be raised back up — resurrected. Apollo pleads that Orestes deserves to live because in murdering his mother he was obeying the god’s command and had since been ritually purified. There is no resurrection, Apollo reminds everyone, and this is why death is too harsh a penalty for one who acted on the command of (a) god. (Apollo earlier testified that when he commanded Orestes to avenge his father’s death he did so on the orders of Zeus himself.)
“Luke” brackets Paul’s Areopagus defence with the word ἀνάστασις, resurrection: Acts 17:18 and 32
But some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers attacked him. And some said, What would this chatterer say? and some, He seems to be an announcer of foreign demons, because he announced the glad tidings of Jesus and the resurrection to them. . . . .
Because he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in equity, by the man whom he hath appointed; giving faith to all, by raising him up from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, and some said, We will hear thee again also concerning this.
The common ancient literary technique of inclusio is used. Mark uses the same technique applied to narratives when he so often draws attention to a framing idea/idea contained within the framing words such as his episode of the cleansing of the temple being bracketed by the cursing of the fig-tree. Kauppi draws attention to “Luke’s” use of “resurrection” as an inclusio for Paul’s Areopagus speech. The inclusio is not just in the form of the one word, though. In each case the reference to the resurrection is embedded in mocking scenes.
Aeschylus pointedly writes that Orestes can never be resurrected. When he does speak of Orestes acting in the afterlife he portrays him as a spirit wreaking judgment upon armies who would dare in the future attack Athens.
Aeschylus portrays Orestes as having only a shadowy post-mortem existence as a vengeful spirit. In Acts, an attentive reader would notice a reiteration of the importance of Jesus’ resurrection as the proof of God’s impending judgment upon the world (17:31).
By noting this possible allusion to Eumenides, a Graeco-Roman reader may have contrasted the emphasis on the resurrection in Acts to the blunt finality of the Athenian classical literary heritage, “there is no resurrection” (Eum. 647) (leaf 165)
Notice that Lynn Kauppi does not say that the reader would have recalled his or her memorized lines from Aeschylus, but may well have recalled the “classical literary heritage” that had bequeathed the cultural-literary idea from Aeschylus.
Time. Had fully (well, almost) expected to complete this post last night. Just now I really fully expected to finish it “just now”. But see that the next two segments, (a) the Areopagus, social order and the innocence of Paul and Orestes; and (b) the introduction of new gods — are as long as the longest snake in the world so I now fully expect to finish doing them tomorrow instead.
Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)
- I’m interviewed on Harmonic Atheist - 2021-07-07 01:52:20 GMT+0000
- a little break - 2021-07-01 10:35:02 GMT+0000
- The Incarnation of The Name – Continuing Nanine Charbonnel’s Sublime Paper Figure Jesus Christ - 2021-06-22 02:14:39 GMT+0000
If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!