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Does the New Testament Imitate Homer?: Four Cases from the Acts of the Apostles Hardcover – December 1, 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In this original, carefully argued book MacDonald offers a radical thesis, locating the book of Acts squarely in the ancient Greek literary tradition."

From the Back Cover

"In this original, carefully argued book MacDonald offers a radical thesis, locating the book of Acts squarely in the ancient Greek literary tradition."-William Hansen, Indiana University
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300097700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300097702
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,590,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. Hudson on December 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
MacDonald transformed the field of New Testament interpretation in 2000 with his 'The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark'. Of the various recent books doing a close reading of the New Testament and finding influences from Greek and Roman writings, this was the most rigorous.
Since then MacDonald has applied his same technique to the Book of Tobit and the Acts of Andrew, and he has already published 4 articles in Journals re The Acts of the Apostles. The book is not much more than four more articles published as a book. It would have been more of a convenience to the reader if he had put all 8 articles in the book (especially given the high price of his books and the fact that his more recent books don't seem to come out in paperback).
There are alternate readings, especially of Mark, finding parallels to hagiographies of Julius Caesar (Gary Courtney) and the campaigns of Titus as told in Josephus (Joe Atwill). Admittedly, neither Courtney nor Atwill are as rigorous as MacDonald is, nor do they have his command of ancient Greek. However, as their parallels translate more strongly into English and are less dependant on Greek philology, they do demand attention. MacDonald ignores them. He does however discuss Bonz' 'The Past as Legacy: Luke-Acts and Ancient Epic' which finds parallels mainly in Virgil's Aeneid.
Nor does he engage with the question: If the author of Luke and Acts are the same, why are all the Homer parallels in the second book. Given the influence of Homer at the time as MacDonald describes it (with which I have no argument) it can hardly be the case that "Luke" read Homer between book 1 and book2. It is a question that deserves comment.
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Format: Hardcover
I will not pretend to speak for MacDonald, but in my opinion, Luke's gospel does use Homer: the Parable of the Prodigal Son is based on the episode of Penelope's Suitors and the return of Odysseus and Telemachus, with the elements reshuffled. See my essay in A Feminist Companion to the Acts of the Apostles ("Penelope and Rhoda: Two More Cases of Luke's Suppression of Women").

Of course, as MacDonald amply attests elsewhere, Mark made use of Homer, too. Anyone could. But as to why Homer is not used on the same scale in the Gospel as in Acts, my guess is that the author of Acts merely added to the Third Gospel, which already existed in a shorter form like Marcion's. See Knox, Marcion and the New Testament for a compelling rehabilitation of the old Tubingen theory.
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By JayB on September 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read the reviews here and I find interesting how some just brush off these 4 comparisons. Considering how Luke claims that there is continuity between Judaism and Christianity why are there parallels in the first place with a work that was already considered mythical and immoral by Luke's time? The parallels do not stop at 4. MacDonald may have missed out on a few also. I have written to the Professor to see if the ascension of Jesus in the beginning of Acts also borrows from the Iliad. Strangely enough it has been shown that ascension scenes borrow from other ascension scenes, like Marks Gospel with Elijah but why should there be similarities with Acts 1 and the Iliad? Whoever calls these parallels vague are incorrect. When the Greeks received the portent at Aulis they marveled at how the serpent became stone just like the disciples marveled at Jesus flying to heaven out of their sight. Calchus then asks why so mute you Achaeans like in acts when two angels ask why the disciples are staring into heaven. Also Calchus interprets the vision saying the same way the serpent attacked they too would take Troy, in Acts the angels interpret the ascension saying the same way Jesus went up he would come down. This lead Calchus to command the Greeks to stay put until they sacked Troy. But wait! Just a coincidence that a few versus earlier in Acts Jesus commands the disciples to stay put in Jerusalem until they receive the promise of the Father? Also in both stories there is a preoccupation with conquering. The disciples ask if the time has come for the kingdom to return to Israel while that is the same issue in the Iliad, the taking of Troy.Read more ›
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