2019-11-06

Once More — Homer, History and the Gospels-Acts

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by Neil Godfrey

I know some readers find it difficult to accept that our canonical gospels and Acts were seriously influenced by the epics of Homer, the Iliad and Odyssey.

Here is something (two things, actually) to think about.

Thomas Rosenmeyer

We think of “history” as a genre of literature that is meant to convey the idea of facts, truth, “what essentially happened”. But after reading an essay by classicist Thomas Rosenmeyer I suspect that that notion is not applicable to those we think of as historians in the ancient Greco-Roman world. Rather, what ancient authors were attuned to was emulation of a forefather — e.g. Homer — who set the standard.

Finally, there is one factor that I am inclined to think doomed any genre thinking from the start. This is the ancient critical commitment to the operation of zelos, aemulatio. I suspect that if one were to ask an ancient dramatist or a writer of epic why he was working in his medium and not in another, and which model he was following, he would cite his allegiance to the protos heuretes, the founder of the fine in which he was engaged. . . . Instead of genre criticism, the ancients practiced model criticism. Their allegiances and affiliations connect, not with a mode or a kind, but with a father, a personal guide. If they ally themselves with a work, it is identified as the work of a revered author, the precipitation of a literary act, not a fatherless text or a textual segment or a generic idea. Like the Pythian priestess inspired by her god, writers and critics are inspired by the effluences, aporroai, that stream into their souls from the sacred mouths of great models (Longinus, On the Sublime 13. 2). Where genre thinking is scientific, inferred from a sufficient sampling of texts and their properties, model thinking is, as it were, moral, and triggered by predecessors.

(Rosenmeyer, 435-36)

John Marincola

But Homer? What does Homer have to do with history? Here we scan an article by John Marincola in The Homer Encyclopedia

As in other areas of ancient literature, the influence of Homer on the Greek and Roman historians was profound and abiding. . . . 

The Odyssey exerted a strong influence on early investigators into other cultures (Montiglio 2005, 118–146), and the figure of Odysseus himself was important in many foundation myths of Greek colonies (Malkin 1998). . . . 

The other important area of Homeric influence was on the historians themselves. The developed genre of historiography took from the Homeric poems many features of epic: a mimetic, largely third-person narrative of deeds, interspersed with the speeches of historical characters in direct discourse; a concern to articulate the causes of actions and to pinpoint responsibility; an elevated style appropriate to “great” deeds; and a concern to immortalize those deeds for posterity and to draw from them important lessons about life and human action. The historians were also influenced by Homer in their choice of “suitable” subject matter: from the Iliad, the story of great deeds and struggles . . . from the Odyssey, an interest in foreign lands and places, in the guile and cunning of leaders, and in the pleasures of narrative itself. . . . 

The early historians were particularly influenced by and engaged with Homer. Herodotus plays a key role here, and was recognized already in antiquity as “most like Homer” . . . [I]t was Homer who offered him an intelligible model for the presentation of those enquiries: how to construct a large-scale narrative, with (sometimes expansive) shifts in time and space; how to subordinate individual episodes and digressions within a larger, unified narrative structure; and how to present the events of the past with immediacy and clarity. Herodotus unites both epics within his work, since his thematic conception – a great war between East and West – is indebted to the Iliad, while his own travel, enquiry, interest in marvels, and preoccupation with reversals of fortune owe much to the Odyssey. . . . 

Yet even while imitating Homer, Herodotus challenged him . . . “correcting” and “improving” him . . . 

Even Thucydides followed Homer’s trail:

This twin legacy – emulation and challenge – was bequeathed to Thucydides, who maintains the general epic features imported into historiography by Herodotus. . . . Thucydides’ narrative technique follows Homer more closely than Herodotus, especially in the suppression of the ubiquitous “I” of Herodotus work in favor of a more “unintrusive” Homeric narrator (Rengakos 2005, 2006). And ancient critics saw Thucydides too as one who “vied with Homer” (Marcellinus, Vit. Thuc. 35–37): Thucydides’ consistent emphasis on the magnitude of the sufferings in war is thoroughly Homeric (Woodman 1988, 28–34).

Historians thereafter continued to look to Homer for inspiration. . . . .

In the Hellenistic world, Polybius shows great respect for Homer . . . , and argues at length that Homer even cre ated a figure of the ideal historian: Odysseus, who united in his person both the practical skill of a general and leader of men, and the intellectual interest of the explorer and traveler . . . .

Ancient historians, Greek and Roman, consistently looked to Homer to infuse their narratives with an elevated tone and a “heroic” cast. . . . Thucydides’ narrative of the Sicilian Expedition in Books 6–7 is suffused with Homeric motifs and themes . . . . as is Livy’s account of the battle of Lake Regillus, where several incidents are modeled directly on Homer . . . . Likewise, speeches of generals before battle show a long tradition of Homeric influence . . . . Although scholars frequently refer to a “contamination” of history by epic, we cannot forget that the Homeric poems and characters were present to the ancients in an immediate and profound way, often serving as exempla, and it is perhaps just as likely that some, if not many, of the reminiscences of Homer in the Greek and Roman historians reflect the enormous influence that the Iliad and Odyssey actually had in the real world.

(Marincola, 357-59)

All of that would lead one to expect a priori Homeric influence in the Gospels and Acts, yes?


Marincola, John. 2011. “Historians and Homer.” In The Homer Encyclopedia, 2:357–59. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Rosenmeyer, Thomas G. 2005. “Ancient Literary Genres: A Mirage?” In Oxford Readings in Ancient Literary Criticism, edited by Andrew Laird, 321–439. Oxford Readings In Classical Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

 

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21 Comments

  • 2019-11-06 23:38:19 GMT+0000 - 23:38 | Permalink

    “All of that would lead one to expect a priori Homeric influence in the Gospels and Acts, yes?”
    Yes.

  • 2019-11-06 23:47:29 GMT+0000 - 23:47 | Permalink

    Yeah, Homeric influence was certainly widespread. Most education in Greek writing involved the copying of Homer at some point even up through the Roman period, this is true. So of course it would be standard if the writers of the Gospels had all copied the Iliad and Odyssey at some point in their education, even if they were Jewish. So I agree that finding traces of this style, which was basically the standard is to be expected.

    However, what I would say is that the Gospels so no more Homeric influence than was typical, so it doesn’t really stand out as anything of significance.

    When you look at a story like The Aeneid, this shows clear strong Homeric emulation and patterning. With Mark, however, IMO, its more like a style than a conscious emulation.

    To me its like the difference between Stevie Ray Vaughn and Zakk Wylde in regard to the influence of Jimi Hendrix. I mean obviously SRV is consciously emulating Hendrix, whereas Zakk may certainly have been influenced by Hendrix, as almost all post 1969 rock guitarists have been, but its not an issue of conscious emulation. You may be able to identify certain techniques that Zakk has in common with Jimi, but many of these will be shared among many rock guitarists. And Zakk may in fact have grown up learning Hendrix songs (I know he did) and playing many of them, but we can’t really say that a song like No More Tears exhibits any particular Hendrix influence beyond what all typical post-Hendrix rocks songs do.

    So to me, when I read Mark, it doesn’t appear to me that the author of Mark was consciously emulating Homer, whereas Virgil certainly was in The Aeneid. But also, The Aeneid is a good example to support your point that Homeric influence was significant and still relevant at the time that the Gospels were written, because of course Virgil was very much emulating Homer and writing around the same time as the Gospels.

    • Peter Grullemans
      2019-11-07 12:46:13 GMT+0000 - 12:46 | Permalink

      I like the music style analogies thanks RGP. It make me as if you are in real life the anonymous TRUTH SURGE? Or have you seen his series “Excavating the Empty Tomb” ? Or have you seen some of his guitar jams ? I too am a guitarist – it’s interesting to self-examine one’s enjoyment of musical nonsense / fantasy while not believing or identifying with the words to the song. e.g. there are some powerful love songs and blues music that we sing for entertainment, while we don’t identify with the words in real life. It’s just fun, part of our culture to enjoy, mimic and perform and daydream on the themes and marvel at good musicianship. That brings us back to the non-historical genre stories of the Bible days, which, in times of no TV, radio, phones, computers or internet must have been an even more widely enjoyed way of relaxing and escaping the dreary reality of life. Especially for the cultures oppressed and displaced by the Romans. Here’s me on lead guitar with my friend on rhythm and vocals who wrote “Australia the Land of Sunshine” in 2011. Hope you enjoy it
      .

    • Brad McAdon
      2019-11-07 14:35:26 GMT+0000 - 14:35 | Permalink

      I agree with Robert Price’s statement that the Aeneid, “shows clear strong Homeric emulation and patterning” but I am not sure what he means with his suggestion that “With Mark, however, IMO, it’s more like a style than a conscious emulation”. Maybe you can elaborate a bit more?

      Knauer identified about 4,800 passages in the Aeneid that are dependent upon the Homeric epics (Die Aeneis und Homer, 371-431) and notes that “the complete structure of the Homeric epics, not simply occasional quotations, was no doubt the basis for Virgil’s poem . . . Virgil must have intensively studied the structure of the Homeric epics before he drafted in prose his famous first plan for the whole of the Aeneid” (“Vergil and Homer” 888). Brodie is more succinct: Virgil “swallowed Homer whole” (Birthing the NT 74), echoing Seneca the Younger’s and Quintilian’s metaphor of thoroughly absorbing and digesting one’s source material prior to imitating it.

      It is this mimetic compositional practice that is especially evident in Mark’s use of many passages from the Septuagint (i.e., Jesus’s calming of the storm via LXX Jonah) and (arguably) Josephus (his John the Baptist character via Antiquities 18), Matthew’s mimetic use of Mark (structural organization, narrative content, and verbatim borrowing) and the Septuagint (especially within Mt 1-2), the author of Luke’s mimetic use of 1) Matthew’s so-called birth narrative and 2) many passages from the LXX to create his own birth-narrative, and the author of Acts’ compositional technique (identical to the author of Luke’s mimetic technique in Lk 1-2) of mimetically transforming material from Galatians 1-2 in crafting Acts 8:1-chpt 15.

      IMO, just as we can say that Virgil’s Aeneid would not have existed without the Iliad and the Odyssey, so we can say that our Mark would not exist if it were not for the LXX and Josephus; our Matthew would not exist without Mark and the LXX; our Luke would not exist without Mark, Matthew, and the LXX; and our Acts 8-15 would not exist without Galatians 1-2. These NT authors—trained in Greco-Roman mimesis—“swallowed their sources whole” and consciously and thoughtfully imitated and mimetically transformed their source material in compositional ways similar (if not identical) to Virgil’s compositional imitation of the Homeric epics. Like Virgil, they intensively studied their source material and then mimetically transformed their source material so as to engage or challenge it and to “make it their own”—two other objectives of Greco-Roman mimesis/imitatio.

      It may be that because the compositional practice of mimesis challenges the historicity of many of the narratives in the gospels and Acts that mimesis in these texts is not as widely acknowledged as it should be?

      (If I can plug my own work, I elaborate upon much of the above in my Rhetorical Mimesis and the Mitigation of Early Christian Conflicts: Examining the Influence that Greco-Roman Mimesis May Have in the Composition of Matthew, Luke, and Acts https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Greco-Roman+Mimesis+and+the+Mitigation+of&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss .)

      • Justin
        2019-11-08 00:24:28 GMT+0000 - 00:24 | Permalink

        Fascinating. I bought your book!

      • 2019-11-08 17:03:41 GMT+0000 - 17:03 | Permalink

        What I mean is that Virgil clearly had studied the Homeric epics and was consciously mimicking them and building on them. Mark, on the other hand, was not doing this I don’t believe. Mark may well have studied the Homeric epics and known them, and some similarities may exist in his work, but, IMO, any similarities aren’t conscious expressions, but rather just a product of learned style. And I only think this because I think Mark was consciously building off the LXX and Paul’s letters and I find it difficult to reconcile that someone would be consciously working in so many different references (however I do have a caveat to this that I’ll discuss below).

        To go back to the music analogy. (BTW, I pay guitar and I’m not sure if these examples make sense to everyone, but anyway). I know that both Zakk Wylde and Stevie Ray Vaughn grew up on Jimi Hendrix and learned to play a lot of Hendrix. I’ve heard Zakk play Voodoo Child, which is almost cannon among rock guitarists. So certainly we can say that Zakk has been influenced by Hendrix. Yet, if one looks at Zakk’s portfolio of work it doesn’t scream Hendrix. If you take Zakk’s playing on Ozzy’s No More Tears album, you may be able to identify some similarities between Zakk’s playing and Hendrix, but its nothing overt and I would venture that and such cases weren’t conscious attempts on Zakk’s part to imitate Hendrix but would simply be a part of Zakk’s style that he developed, part of which developed as he learned to play Hendrix songs.

        On the other hand, if we take SRV, almost everything SRV does is directly influenced by Hendrix, and when he’s not doing Hendrix covers he’s paying homage to him in virtually every lick he plays. Everything SRV plays sounds like Hendrix. When SRV covers someone like Buddy Guy, he plays Buddy Guy with a Hendrix flare, etc.

        So, IMO, the relationship between the Homeric epics and Mark is like that of Hendrix to Zakk Wylde, while the Homeric epics to The Aeneid is like SRV to Hendrix. I have no doubt at all that whoever wrote Mark had studied “Homer”, since virtually all writers in Greek had done so and Mark is clearly an accomplished writer and storyteller (despite claims to the contrary). I just think that many of the things that are called out as “Homeric influences” are either at that point in literature just common tropes or are better explained by other influences such as the LXX, etc.

        Now as for my caveat. I actually think Mark may have been influenced by The Aeneid. I’m not sure about conscious emulation, but more along the idea of themes. And this does also get at the appearance of Homeric influence because any themes from The Aeneid will appear Homeric anyway. But the reason I think Mark may have been influenced by The Aeneid is because of how Virgil uses prophecy and signs in The Aeneid, which I think bears some resemblance to how they are used in Mark.

        In The Aeneid, Virgil uses his knowledge of augury to litter the narrative with omens that one can interpret to better understand the story if one has a knowledge of augury. Mark does the same thing in his story, except he uses the Jewish scriptures in the same way that Virgil uses augury. I’m not proposing this as any kind of solid theory, and I haven’t laid out any compilation of evidence, and I never may, but this just comes from my reading of the two stories. To me, if anything, Mark is more like The Aeneid than like the Iliad and Odyssey. But still Mark is far more like the books of Kings than anything.

        Also, BTW, your book looks really interesting. Looks like it’s one more I’ll need to read before I finish my own.

        • Brad McAdon
          2019-11-09 15:48:22 GMT+0000 - 15:48 | Permalink

          I think that you are correct when you write, “Virgil clearly had studied the Homeric epics and was consciously mimicking them and building on them. Mark, on the other hand, was not doing this I don’t believe. Mark may well have studied the Homeric epics and known them, and some similarities may exist in his work, but, IMO, any similarities aren’t conscious expressions, but rather just a product of learned style,” and I agree with this. In my view, MacDonald’s (and others who follow his lead) attempts at identifying Markan and Homeric parallels are, for the most part, overstated, forced, or farfetched.

          As for your caveat that—Mark may have been influenced by The Aeneid. I’m not sure about conscious emulation, but more along the idea of themes. And this does also get at the appearance of Homeric influence because any themes from The Aeneid will appear Homeric anyway. But the reason I think Mark may have been influenced by The Aeneid is because of how Virgil uses prophecy and signs in The Aeneid, which I think bears some resemblance to how they are used in Mark”—this is interesting to me, as I have not considered the prophetic aspect. Thanks.

          As I was working through Virgil’s mimetic transformation of Homeric material and how au Mark was using his sources in seemingly very mimetically similar ways, I began to look into whether Mark could have known (read) Virgil’s Aeneid. A few of the primary issues here are 1) whether au Mark would have known Latin, 2) whether the Aeneid was available in Greek, and 3) whether Virgil’s mimetic practice (or style/technique?) as evident in the Aeneid was taught in Greco-Roman schools. As for 1, while many were bilingual in Greek and Latin, we just don’t know if au Mark was one of them. As for 2, there is some evidence that the Aeneid was available in a Greek translation by the middle of the first century (Polybius’s prose translation or paraphrase, as Seneca the Younger seems to suggest, cited by Bonz, The Past as Legacy, 25). But if such a translation or paraphrase was in circulation, we have no way of knowing what it included or omitted from the Latin version. As for 3), Bonner notes, that the Aeneid attracted the attention of the grammatici shortly after Virgil’s death and that Virgil “became the Latin school-text par excellence, and remained so through the centuries” and that “making the assessment of the degree of Virgil’s success in ‘borrowing’ or echoing lines and passages from Homer, the Greek tragedians, and earlier Latin poets, such as Ennius and Lucretius” was one of their favorite occupations (Education in Ancient Rome, 213-14). Quintilian, writing at the end of the first century CE, also included Virgil in his reading lists, noting that “Virgil most nearly approaches Homer”—that “Virgil comes second [to Homer], but is nearer first than third” (Institutes 10.1.85-86). Thus it seems as though the evidence does at least allow for the possibility that au Mark knew/read/studied the Aeneid and, thus, would have become familiar with Virgil’s compositional technique?? (It is really unfortunate that the author of Mark is anonymous or pseudonymous, for if we knew who actually wrote it, we may be able to trace that author’s educational background like we can those authors whom we actually do know.) Bonz, btw, contends that the author of Luke-Acts knew and used the Aeneid as a structural source for Luke-Acts, a view that MacDonald also adopts (Luke and Vergil).

          • 2019-11-09 16:18:22 GMT+0000 - 16:18 | Permalink

            Very interesting. Also, BTW, what I’m working on now has a lot to do with Sibylline literature and the influence of that. Now interestingly, Virgil was clearly aware of Sibylline literature and makes use of Sibylline lore in The Aeneid. But also Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue is based on Sibylline literature and the Sibylline scholar H.W. Parke argues that Fourth Eclogue is a pastoral homage to Sibylline literature.

            The interesting thing here, is that Parke also argues that Virgil at this point may have been reading the Jewish Sibylline Oracles, which are basically second and first century BCE “forgeries” by Jews, and later by Christians, of Sibylline prophecies. Parke makes this argument because most Sibylline literature was oriented toward doom, but the Jewish Sibylline Oracles are messianic in nature and talk about a coming promised age. And interestingly, at this time Romans themselves were more worried about a coming end of the Roman rule with the end of the Roman age, not a new promised age. It was the Jews who were envisioning the new promised age, because the Jews saw the end of the current Roman age as the promise of a new Jewish age.

            So Fourth Eclogue actually seems more Jewish in inspiration because Fourth Eclogue is looking forward to a new Golden Age. Thus, Parke suggests that Virgil had perhaps unwittingly mixed Greek Sibylline writings with Jewish ones, which became his inspiration for Fourth Eclogue. This is interesting because this is showing the infiltration of these ideas into Roman culture ahead of Christianity, and of course as we know Fourth Eclogue was seen by later Roman Christians as a prophecy for Christ and had begun infusing these ideas into Roman culture ahead of the Gospel narratives, which opened the door to accepting the Gospel narratives.

            Anyway, I explore this much more in the book I’m working on now.

  • 2019-11-07 00:43:30 GMT+0000 - 00:43 | Permalink

    Thanks for posting the Rosenmeyer excerpt, very interesting. There were no universities, so no “genre police” who could make a living critiquing writers for crossing genre boundaries. (One can imagine some disdainful gossip in the lunchroom of the Library of Alexandria, though…) How refreshing to imagine a world in which the only criterion for literary success was “does it work?”.

  • another scott
    2019-11-07 01:41:49 GMT+0000 - 01:41 | Permalink

    Carrier’s review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Dennis R. MacDonald shows briefly how conscious of Homer that Mark really was, much like SRV/Hendrix than Zakk/Hendrix 🙂
    https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/homerandmark.html

    • db
      2019-11-07 02:32:32 GMT+0000 - 02:32 | Permalink

      It is also the case that Mark used both Homer and OT scripture, e.g. Jesus is the new superior Moses and Jesus is also superior to Odysseus.

      • MacDonald, Dennis R. (2000). The Homeric epics and the Gospel of Mark. Yale University Press. pp. 6, 96. ISBN 978-0-300-08012-4. “[Per Seneca] Skilled authors were bees that took the best nectar from many blossoms to produce textual honey. […] Like the proverbial bee of ancient rhetoric, Mark harvested nectar from several blossoms — some Jewish and some Greek — and transformed them into gospel honey.”

      If MacDonald would get up to date with other scholars who see Mark allegorizing the teachings of Paul. He would have an even more forceful argument. Such as the inexplicable phrase “Sea of Galilee” used by Mark, given that no other writer before Mark ever referred to this lake as a sea. Is in fact explicable as symbolic of the Mediterranean Sea as an allusion to the greater Pauline mission throughout the Roman Empire.

    • 2019-11-07 11:04:49 GMT+0000 - 11:04 | Permalink

      Yeah, I don’t buy Carrier’s review. And the reason is as it is with many such claims – there are just too many other things going on and other explanations.

      “this book will revolutionize the field of Gospel studies and profoundly affect our understanding of the origins of Christianity”

      But he had just said, correctly, that everyone who wrote Greek emulated Homer to some degree, so why would this be revolutionary? If emulating Homer is typical (it was) then what’s the big deal? The author of Mark was doing what was typical and what anyone should expect (assuming he was emulating Homer).

      “The Odyssey is rife with the theme of the suffering hero”

      Yes, but so are the Jewish scriptures, and so are the letters of Paul. Paul himself was suffering hero. Jesus is modeled on the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Elijah was a suffering hero. Virtually every Jewish prophet suffered. Moses suffered. The figures of Jewish apocalypses suffered.

      “Both [men] faced supernatural opposition….”

      Yeah, but so did virtually every figure in every story.

      “Each traveled with companions unable to endure the hardships of the journey”

      But this is actually better explained, or is necessitated by, the fact that the story is a polemic against the companions as based on the letters of Paul. And they don’t so much appear to be unable to endure hardships as they do to simply be traitors.

      “and each returned to a home infested with rivals who would attempt to kill him as soon as they recognized him,”

      Returned home? The attempts to kill him are in Jerusalem, not his home. I see no rivals in Galilee.

      “both heroes returned from Hades alive”

      Stretch. And anyway, that Jesus returns from the dead is again a pre-developed idea that came from, if nowhere else, Paul’s letters.

      I’m not going to go into detail on everything, but I’ll pick some low hanging fruit:

      “Why does Mark invent a false story about John the Baptist’s execution, one that implicates women?”

      Because he’s following the story of Elijah/Elisha, patterning the plot to kill JtB’s on Jezebel’s plot to kill Elijah.

      “Why does Jesus curse a fig tree for not bearing fruit out of season?”

      This is a literary allusion to the Jewish scriptures.

      “What is the meaning of the mysterious naked boy at Jesus’ arrest?”

      This is a literary allusion to the Jewish scriptures.

      “Why does Jesus, knowing full well God’s plan, still ask why God forsook him on the cross?”

      This is a literary allusion to the Jewish scriptures.

      And this is the issue. So many of the features of Mark are better explained in other ways. I think the writer of Mark was a literary genius, but the idea that he can simultaneously be writing in chiasmus, following Elijah/Elisha, basing scenes on additional scriptures, developing Jesus from Paul, AND doing this all while blatantly emulating Homer too much of a stretch. But the thing is, the evidence for the use of all these other things is concrete, and many of them directly compete with the claims of Homeric influence just as I pointed out above.

      So, again, I say that while the writer of Mark may have made use of some Homeric tropes, like every single Greek writer did, he wasn’t directly patterning his story on Homer. When I envision how “Mark” wrote his story, it was with a copy of the Septuagint and the letters of Paul in hand, spread out on his table of floor, building references and likewise referencing and paralleling his own work. It would have been a complex task. I don’t think he had a copy of the Odyssey spread out building references to in in addition.

      The references to Paul and the LXX are overt and intentional. Any Homeric influence, I imagine, was instinctive at best.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-11-07 18:23:27 GMT+0000 - 18:23 | Permalink

        “this book will revolutionize the field of Gospel studies and profoundly affect our understanding of the origins of Christianity”

        But he had just said, correctly, that everyone who wrote Greek emulated Homer to some degree, so why would this be revolutionary? If emulating Homer is typical (it was) then what’s the big deal? The author of Mark was doing what was typical and what anyone should expect (assuming he was emulating Homer).

        It’s a potentially “big deal” for “the field of Gospel studies” because that field was unaware of Homeric influence. As we have been pointing out here with numerous examples many biblical scholars work in a bubble, unaware of how things are done in History and Classics departments, sometimes even quite erroneously declaring they are no different in their methods.

      • Jonathan Rutherford
        2019-11-07 23:17:28 GMT+0000 - 23:17 | Permalink

        Thanks RG. I just want to make a quick comment without providing evidence – but might get back to it when I have time. I largely agree with you that Mark was far more influenced by OT and Paul rather than Homer. But, I remember from reading Carrier’s review and a skimming McDonald’s actual book, being impressed by a few examples of direct literary influence that had no direct OT/Paul reference that I have seen. Again, I can’t remember what they were but I do distinctly remember this – and, as you know, I am very aware of your case and find it totally persuasive etc.

        One other unrelated point I would like to make about Litwa’s argument. Disclaimer: I am basing this solely off a podcast interview I listened to with him; have not read the book. This may be unfair, but I have a strong sense that this he is doing a kind of sophisticated liberal apologetics for biblical studies. On the one hand, he rejects the entire that the traditional/conservative claim that the gospels are based on history etc – the central argument, after all, is that the gospel writers used widespread Greco-Roman historiographic ‘tropes’ to make their narrative seem plausible. But at the same time, (in the interview), he was very clearly dismissive of the ‘mythicists’ and idea of jesus non-existence. Its almost as if he wants biblical studies to (very conveniently) put the question of historicity aside – because it is all literary construction etc etc – but nevertheless forcefully assume/assert Jesus existence, on faith, without even presenting a plausible case (let alone a rebuttle to the mythicsts). All that said, I am sure his book has many important and valid insights, so not saying we should not read and engage with it, as Neil is helpfully doing here. I just sense a (maybe unconscious) agenda to divert the field away from interrogating Jesus historicity…just when the mythicist challenge is starting to impact (a little bit!).

        J

        • db
          2019-11-08 00:24:19 GMT+0000 - 00:24 | Permalink

          Jonathan Rutherford, What is the citation year for your, “Understanding the Gospel of Mark (Sea of Faith Talk)”.

        • db
          2019-11-08 04:40:21 GMT+0000 - 04:40 | Permalink

          Its almost as if he wants biblical studies to (very conveniently) put the question of historicity aside…

          • Litwa and Heilig do not want to be rejected out of hand as mythophiles.

          Comment by Christoph Heilig—14 May 2019—per Godfrey, Neil (12 May 2019). “The Questions We Permit Ourselves to Ask”. Vridar.

          I then adduced Carrier in a footnote because I was afraid that somebody might have taken a look at his work, disliked it, and might now think that he or she also had to reject my approach.

  • James Barlow
    2019-11-07 10:22:56 GMT+0000 - 10:22 | Permalink

    “The developed genre of historiography took from the Homeric poems many features of epic: a mimetic, largely third-person narrative of deeds, interspersed with the speeches of historical characters in direct discourse; a concern to articulate the causes of actions and to pinpoint responsibility; an elevated style appropriate to ‘great’ deeds; and a concern to immortalize those deeds for posterity and to draw from them important lessons about life and human action.”
    Indeed! And how could the tale of the DE facto salvation of humanity NOT have been expressed with appropriate concision of epic proportions!

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-11-08 01:29:33 GMT+0000 - 01:29 | Permalink

    I set out the Homeric influences on the Gospel of Mark according to Dennis MacDonald at http://vridar.info/xorigins/homermark/mkhmrfiles/index.htm

  • Pingback: Review, part 3a (Homer and the Gospels) : How the Gospels Became History / Litwa |

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