Do Parallels Only Work in One Direction?

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by Neil Godfrey

Daphnis and Chloe

I found the following slightly amusing:

I was really struck by the article in Bible History Daily about how the story of Daphnis and Chloe echoes the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis. Here’s an excerpt:

Written around 200 A.D. by the Greco-Roman author Longus, Daphnis and Chloe is a pagan pastoral romance that echoes the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Daphnis and Chloe are simple country-dwelling teenagers in love. They are the adopted children of pastoralists indentured to a far off Master. In a meadow where the couple often meet, there is an apple tree, completely bare except for one large and sweet apple hanging from the topmost twig. Daphnis climbs the tree and picks it for Chloe, to her dismay. Daphnis justifies himself, saying that if he did not pluck it, the apple would fall to the earth and be trampled by a beast or poisoned by a snake.

In spite of some variations, all the principal elements of the Genesis story of Adam and Eve are included in Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe. There are male and female counterparts, the tree and the fruit in the Edenic setting and even an ominous mention of a snake. It is likely that Longus knew some version of the Genesis story, whether by first or second hand. As Theodore Feder writes, Daphnis and Chloe is an example of how “stories of the Jews and early Christians were becoming part of the general cultural inventory of the time.”

Bringing Ravel . . . (my bolding throughout)

An Edenic setting, of course, for this biblical scholar, not a “pastoral setting” as any classicist would recognize. See previous posts where the Daphnis and Chloe novel has been discussed or referenced. (No-one should be allowed to read the Bible until they first read the ancient Greco-Roman literature, including what are technically called the “erotic novellas” — really just short love stories. Be prepared for lots of preparation for biblical motifs, like discovering baffling empty tombs, apparent resurrections, even heroes surviving crucifixions, and all sorts of other “miraculous” things.)

Read, now, the context of that scene about the apple and the serpent. I quote just one page of an almost 60 page story:

Quicker than thought, neither drinking nor eating, Daphnis ran to Chloe and found her doing the milking and making cheese. He told her the good news about the marriage and kissed her openly, as his future wife, and shared her work. He milked the ewes into the buckets, set the cheeses in the baskets to dry, put the lambs and kids underneath their mothers to feed. When all this was in order, they washed, fed, drank, and walked around, looking for ripe fruit. There was plenty available because it was the time of the year when everything is ripe. There were lots of wild pears and lots of cultivated ones; lots of apples, some of which had already fallen, some still on the trees. Those on the ground were more fragrant; those on the branches were fresher in color. The former smelt like wine; the latter shone like gold.

One apple tree had been stripped and had neither fruit nor leaves; all the branches were bare. But it still had one apple hanging at the very top of the highest branches—a big and beautiful one, and one that by itself had more fragrance than all the rest put together. The apple picker must have been frightened to climb up there and failed to take it down; also, perhaps, the lovely apple was being preserved for a shepherd in love.

When Daphnis saw this apple, he was eager to climb up and pick it and ignored Chloe when she wanted to stop him. She was annoyed at being ignored and went away to the flocks. Daphnis climbed quickly and achieved his goal of picking it and taking it to Chloe as a present; although she was angry, he spoke to her in this way.

“My dear girl, fine seasons gave birth to this apple, and a fine tree nursed it while the sun ripened it, and chance looked after it. As long as I had eyes, I wasn’t going to leave it to fall on the ground so that some herd of animals could trample it underfoot as they grazed, or some snake could poison it as it crawled along, or time could destroy it as it lay there, being looked at and praised. Aphrodite took this as a prize for her beauty; and I am giving it to you as a prize for your victory. You have the same kind of witness of your beauty as she did: he was a shepherd, while I’m a goatherd.”

Saying this, he put the apple in her lap, and as he came close, she kissed him, so that Daphnis did not regret having dared to climb so high; for he got a kiss that was better than an apple—even a golden one.60

That footnote #60 explains the origin of that apple prop. Surprisingly, it is not in Genesis where the word does not appear anyway:

60. Daphnis’s speech im plies an analogy between Chloe and the apple; both Chloe and the apple are too beautiful for Daphnis to abandon to an uncertain future. (In addition, Chloe, like the apple, had a nurse who was different from her parents, and was preserved by good fortune.) The apple’s erotic im plications have already been touched on in this novel (cf. note 16); Longus now pursues these implications in myth. Paris, when a shepherd (after being exposed by his parents, like Daphnis), gave an apple as the prize to Aphrodite, after “the judgment of  Paris” (that Aphrodite was more beautiful than Hera or Athena). The golden apple probably refers to those dropped by Atalanta to distract her suitors, who had to beat her at running to win her hand in marriage. Chloe’s kiss is better even than one of those golden apples — and in any case Chloe is not running away from her suitor but rewarding him for reaching his goal.

Mmmm… coulda been from Genesis, yes??

Amusing? Yes, when anyone suggests any other possibility of a parallel working in the other direction, from “pagan” literature to biblical, all stops come out to denounce the very thought:

It is striking that we see this in two very different streams of mythicist – on the one hand, in lists of alleged parallels between Jesus and Inanna or Horus or someone else, and on the other hand, in lists of alleged parallels between New Testament texts and the stories in the Jewish Scriptures from which some (e.g. Thomas Brodie) think they were drawn.

Jesus and Santa

. . .

All this may perhaps seem plausible to some. To me, it looks like a sort of Biblical connect the dots.

. . . .  The ability to see such patterns more vividly than others may be indicative of a beautiful mind – but whether it is a healthy one is another matter.


. . .

it is easy to imagine parallels are present where none are likely to have been intended by the author or perceived by ancient readers/hearers of the work.

. . . Pooh studies

. . .

Does the latching onto occasional related words in two texts really provide a method for determining literary dependence?

Work of Thomas Brodie

Parallelomania!!! Religion Prof even calls upon readers to read Sandmel’s article where the term was coined. I think they should. It may not be what every scholar, even professors of religion, seem to think it says. Everyone who reads it should hold to account anyone who claims it supports his or her particular argument.

Once again I’m reminded of Bob Price’s frustration over serious biblical scholars who would otherwise denounce any thought that Christianity borrowed from paganism seriously suggesting that paganism developed its “dying and rising gods” myths from Christianity!

Longus. 1989. “Daphnis and Chloe.” In Collected Ancient Greek Novels, edited by Bryan P. Reardon, translated by Christopher Gill, 285–348. Berkeley: University of California Press.



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Neil Godfrey

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9 thoughts on “Do Parallels Only Work in One Direction?”

  1. What is the source of the long block quote starting “It is striking that we see this in two very different streams of mythicist”?

    The source is not the McGrath post on “The Work of Thomas Brodie.”

  2. Good grief! The fruit in Genesis is not identified and apples are not native to the Middle East. It’d help if these folk would ask a botanist or consult someone fluent in Hebrew or Aramaic. Or if they paid attention in school.

  3. Covington, Nicholas (22 April 2019). “Mythodoxy’s Osiris Easter Special”. Hume’s Apprentice.

    D.N. Boswell over at Mythodoxy has done a yeomen’s job exploring the connections between Osiris and Jesus, especially in the resurrection narratoves. His source citation is superb, the topic is one that has little exposure, and it’s fascinating as can be. Check it out! Part 1 / Part 2

    I explored parallels between Aristeas’ resurrection and Jesus in my smackdown of Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ here.

    I explored parallels between Aristeas’ resurrection and Jesus in my smackdown of Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ here.

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