Tag Archives: Mimesis

Jesus Potter Harry Christ The Bible & A Scholar

How Is Harry Potter Different Than the Bible? — that’s a recent post by Christian-believing scholar James McGrath, and as one might expect from the title by such faithful convert the post is in effect an exhortation for people to read the Bible more seriously and diligently than they do their Harry Potter novels.

The majority of Harry Potter fans actually READ Harry Potter.

James McGrath continues:

In fact, they read it all the way through, paying close attention to detail, on more than one occasion.

Mmm, yeh, well . . . I happen to know many apologist jerks who can boast just that — having read the Bible right through, close attention to detail, several times.
Yes, yes, of course we all know the next line,

many Christians who claim to take the Bible seriously actually merely pay lip service to it

But isn’t there one little detail being missed here?
The Bible is NOT a single book by a single author like any Harry Potter novel. Unless one believes a supernatural mind was using human scribes to write it all in 66 chapters.
So what motivates a biblical scholar, a professional scholar, to compare the Harry Potter novels with a texts composed across centuries and cultures and compiled some time around the fourth century by a warring church council?
One does not get the feeling that one would be able to engage in a serious non-partisan academic discussion with such a scholar.
But to see the real relationship between Harry Potter and Jesus Christ one can’t go past Derek Murphy’s analogies in Jesus Potter Harry Christ.

Discovering the Sources for the First Gospel, 3 — Criteria

This post concludes the series of notes from Adam Winn’s Mark and the Elijah-Elisha narrative : considering the practice of Greco-Roman imitation in the search for Markan source material. Winn concludes his first chapter with six criteria he hopes will help us determine literary dependence between two texts. He has derived these criteria from his study of the way we can see Virgil imitated Homer’s epics.

One question that interests me here is whether Winn’s analysis can be usefully applied to the question of whether the Gospel of John was based on the Gospel of Mark, and if so, to what extent. Does our knowledge that an author would sometimes radically restructure his source material offer us a window into observing the fourth gospel’s author moving the Gospel of Mark’s “temple cleansing” episode from the last stages of the narrative to its beginning?

Another question: is it possible the techniques of “imitation” can help us decide whether the Gospel of Luke was the last Gospel that in part drew upon the Gospel of John, or whether the Gospel of John imitated, in part, Luke?

There are several others, but let’s keep our feet on the floor in these early days. read more »

Odysseus, Moses and Jesus in Gethsemane

The Jesus in Gethsemane story has always been one of the most moving episodes in religious movies. It is also a literary motif that has a long pedigree and would have been well known to any author who had learned to read and write Greek and who knew Jewish writings.

The basic structure and thematic units of the story are prominent in both “classical” Greek and Hebrew literature. It is quite likely one of those stories that may have fallen easily into place in an author’s mind without necessarily consciously imitating another — like a modern superhero drama can be unconsciously built on the motif of a Jesus-like saviour figure.

There are approx ten or more significant sequential parts that make up this motif: read more »

3 criteria lists for literary borrowing

Following are the different criteria lists used by three authors who have studied literary borrowings within the gospels and Acts: Allison, Clark and MacDonald.

Included are two extracts that discuss the ancient literary expectations and customs of authors borrowing from past masters.

Names and titles are hyperlinked: read more »

Dennis MacDonald’s ‘Turn’ to reply to critics of his Mark-Homer work

I have been absent from web discussions for some time now and may be the last one to notice Dennis MacDonald’s reply to critics of “mimesis criticism” — his work arguing that the Gospel of Mark is as much an imitation and transvaluation of Homeric characters as it is of those from the Jewish scriptures.

It is well worth reading. Not least his concluding pages suggesting a more subtle reason for many of the objections raised against his work.

If anyone else apart from me is also late to this reply, check it out at DRM’s website — look for the article there titled My Turn.

(I’ve discussed aspects of MacDonald’s work elsewhere on this blog some time back.)

Acts 27-28 an eyewitness account? (Part 2)

Why does the Christian author of Acts bother to tell readers (in 28.11) that Paul’s ship had the figurehead of two pagan gods?

Why does the author of Acts use words that are only elsewhere found in fictional shipwreck stories in Homer?

Is there anything truly distinctive about Paul’s shipwreck to set it apart from fiction? Is Paul’s adventure at sea anything other than stereotypical? read more »

Jesus, the ideal Greek-Roman hero? (No embarrassment criterion here)

I pulled out again my copy of “Mimesis and Intertextuality in Antiquity and Christianity” (ed. by Dennis R. MacDonald) thinking to write a layman’s review of its collection of contributions but got sidetracked (again) on re-reading Gregory J. Riley’s chapter, “Mimesis of Classical Ideals in the Second Century”. Some of Riley’s work totally rivets me with comments that provoke new thoughts; some of it leaves me totally flat. This chapter is one of the former. I will have to do a fuller discussion of this asap.

Till asap comes along, I am currently rethinking possibly the earliest surviving literary episode in the life of Jesus, his baptism as told in the Gospel of Mark. John the Baptist there is portrayed as someone of utmost “greatness”: he functions way out in the wilderness, yet despite that “all the land of Judea” went out to see him and submit to him in baptism. Now that is a graphic scene. It is no doubt fictional, or some might wish to say it contains a core of historical truth in that the exaggeration hints at least “lots” of people went out to the wilderness to be baptized. But Mark is telling the story and he creates a picture of the “whole land of Judea” coming out to John in the wilderness, to a man standing outside and in opposition to the city life (“and those from Jerusalem”) with his camel cloak and wild honey diet.

But his message escalates this scene of a truly remarkable man.– His message is about one “who is even greater” who is yet to follow after him! He underscores the point: he, such a great man, will not even be worthy to stoop to loose the sandal of the super-great one to come.

And that even greater one is, of course, the one we know will be from the beginning, from heaven itself even, declared the beloved Son of God himself.

What does all this have to do with a Greek-Roman classical ideal?

Riley writes, “a righteous and powerful Son of God is persecuted by unjust authorities, divine and human, faces his own horrible death with courage, and overcomes. This is not an Israelite story, but it is the oldest and most inspiring plot-line in Greco-Roman literature.” (p.95)

Dare we see the opening scene in Mark as yet another one of “the oldest and most inspiring plot-lines in Greco-Roman literature”? The opening scene of the Iliad was about a son of a goddess (a man-god), Achilles, whose refusal to submit, despite repeated pleas, to the greatest king, Agamemnon, one greater in authority despite Achilles being the far greater in parentage and ultimate personal worth and nobility of (Greek classical) character.

If so, then surely the “criteria of embarrassment” arguments in the literature that attach themselves to the baptism of Jesus beg for re-evaluation at least. Mark demonstrates NO such embarrassment at all. In fact he pushes as hard as he can into the readers/hearers’ faces that the Greater is submitting to the Lesser here!

There is so much to elaborate on here. I know, I have tossed out idle spec on this scene elsewhere, but I would love to do up a much fuller exploration of this and the other ideals expressed in the Christian myth that clearly repackaged and presented anew some of the highest ideals of classical antiquity. (As Burton Mack and others have written, it also included in that package much that was ruinous, too.) But I’m keen to follow through Riley’s argument in this and other aspects of the founding myth of Christianity.


(P.S. It seems almost flippant to comment (i know, again) here that that opening book in the Iliad, iirc, concludes with Agamemnon ordering the ritual washing of all his armed followers — the only one who removes himself from the camp and does not comply is, of course, Achilles.)

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Mark and Homer

One more catch-up link for this new trial blog: notes I made from Dennis MacDonald’s book on the Gospel of Mark and Homeric epics. One plan for the future would be to go have checkboxes against each comparison indicating which criteria are met, and to what extent. I’m not confident that all of my own comparisons would go very far — I’m sure some are way “out there” but hey, why not push an idea to its limits and see what happens? It would be interesting to checkbox each one against the criteria some time.

Book details

Neil Godfrey

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