In my previous post I quoted John Taylor where he referenced chapter 5 of Dionysus: Myth and Cult by Walter Friedrich Otto. That chapter is titled “The God Who Comes”. It is about this distinctive characteristic of the god Dionysus — that, unlike other gods, he comes to mankind visibly, that is, “in the flesh”. That post pointed to a strong theological or religious meaning that such a “historic presence” promised for ongoing and future intimate relations (even entering into the persons of devotees now) in the cults of both Dionysus and Jesus.
For those who are too impatient to read that chapter online (it is available in its entirety on Google books) here are a few excerpts.
One could almost substitute “Jesus” and “Gospel of Mark’ or such for Dionysus and his narrative in the following discussion and one would continue to nod in assent with all that is said. Jesus is far from the violent figure towards humans that Dionysus is, but one reads commentaries on Mark speaking of the “violence” with which Jesus enters “history”, with his overpowering of demons and in other ways suddenly turning the world upside down. The same commentators speak of the urgency with which Jesus acts and demands responses from those he encounters. Continue reading “The God Who Comes”
Theologians draw out spiritual lessons from the tale of God sending his Son in the flesh, performing miracles and teaching truths incomprehensible to most, and then dying and returning once again to heaven so he can be with many more followers here and now who do understand and appreciate his fleshly advent. The same theologians even explain history in terms of this theological drama. Followers of Jesus were so shocked by the unexpected demise of their hero on the cross that they feverishly set about fabricating this spiritually meaningful tale to compensate for their disillusionment by restoring among themselves a new faith and hope for a future life.
The possibility that that spiritually meaningful story might have been the original source of the tale of the historical advent of Jesus seems not to occur to them. (No, I am not saying the story was fabricated overnight ex nihilo. All stories and genres have their antecedents, and such antecedents to the Gospel story and genre are a lot more in evidence in the record than we are conditioned to quickly acknowledge.)
Here is another snippet here from classicist scholar John Taylor’s book, Classics and the Bible: Hospitality and Recognition. This time it is from a decontextualized comparison between Jesus and Socrates. I have only extracted those elements that relate most directly to Jesus as found in the Gospels themselves, and left behind those that relate to a more generic image of Jesus that embraces the descriptions of various Church Fathers and the apostle Paul.
I have not included discussion of any of these points of comparison. I have simply listed them as dot-points, so do with them what you will. I had once hoped to discuss them more meaningfully, but can see that I will not have an opportunity (given my balance of interests) to do that for at least twenty years.
I have given more online references to Socrates than to Jesus because I assume that most interested in such a topic would already know more about Jesus, and sources for references to Jesus, than Socrates.
The comparison falls in two parts, though these may seem contrived to many. The first is comparing Jesus and Socrates per se; the second list compares the sources of each, or as each is found particularized in specific sources, and scholarly reactions to each.
The comparisons of the deaths of each in the second bracket (#5, accounts of the last days or each) probably should really go in the first set of comparisons, but I have kept Taylor’s sequence to save time, even though Taylor makes this a part of a larger discussion about scholarly reactions to same.
I thought I had nailed the reason for Luke’s choice of Emmaus (Luke 24:23-35) as the destination of the two disciples after the crucifixion when I posted on The Origin and Meaning of the Emmaus Road Narrative in Luke. That explanation hinged on Codex Bezae containing the original word, Oulammaus, and that led to the link with the place where God appeared to Jacob when he was traveling away from his home.
But now there is another possible explanation for the choice of the placename that I have come across in Classics and the Bible by John Taylor.
Firstly, he suggests the location in Luke 24:13 is “strongly probably” to be identified with the place of that name in 1 Maccabees 3:40 and Josephus in Jewish War 2.71. This places the town 160 stades distant from Jerusalem rather than the 60 in most manuscripts, though some manuscripts do say 160.
It is however much more likely that Luke intends a symbolic point than that he is preoccupied with the minutiae of geography of that there were two places of the same name.
There should be nothing controversial in the title of this post. I understand “critical scholars” generally agree that the Gospel narratives of Jesus are largely fictitious, exaggerations, theological metaphors, expressing what Jesus “meant to the authors” rather than what he historically did or said. Many scholars agree that there are a few core events that really do lie behind the Gospel narratives, but except for one or two (the crucifixion and baptism) they do not all agree on what these were.