- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (May 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300080123
- ISBN-13: 978-0300080124
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 29 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,488,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark Hardcover – May, 2000
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"MacDonald shows parallels between Homer and Mark so extensive that a relationship of dependence, conscious or unconscious, must be assumed. This is a radical thesis with great implications for the understanding of the gospels." William Hansen, Indiana University "MacDonald's conclusion that the author of the gospel of Mark in many significant places is imitating Homer poses a profound challenge to current scholarship on the history of early Christianity and the historical Jesus." Mary A. Tolbert, Pacific School of Religion
About the Author
Dennis R. MacDonald is John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Claremont School of Theology and co-director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at the Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of Christianizing Homer and The Legend and the Apostle.
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MacDonald calls this school of thought “mimesis criticism” and spends Chapter One establishing the background behind this concept and the various forms of criteria employed for discerning mimicking, namely: (1) Accessibility, (2) Analogy, (3) Density, (4) Order, (5) Distinctive Traits, and (6) Interpretability. According to MacDonald, Mark is mimicking The Odyssey and pairs Jesus with Odysseus, Jesus’s disciples with Odysseus’s crew, and the Jewish authorities with Penelope’s suitors. In looking at the parallels, MacDonald teases out these numerous similarities between the Gospel of Mark and The Odyssey within the following chapters. A selection of these parallels presented by MacDonald are: Jesus and Odysseus both being carpenters and kings who undergo much suffering; the stilling of the storm story with the story of Odysseus and Aeolus’s bag of winds; the exorcising of the Gerasene demoniac with the story of cyclops Polyphemus; the murder of John the Baptist with the murder of Agamemnon; the two feeding stories with the two feasts prepared for Telemachus; the response of Peter to the transfiguration of Jesus with Telemachus’s first meeting with his father Odysseus; and the figure of blind Bartimaeus with the blind Teiresias.
All throughout the The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark MacDonald matches up scenes from The Odyssey and the Gospel of Mark and demonstrates some of the striking common features within the stories, as well as their parallel language and imagery. However, while on the surface MacDonald’s thesis seems rather ingenious, the further one gets into studying The Odyssey, the more and more problems start to arise. Some of the comparisons come across as extremely forced and even far fetched at times. For example, MacDonald’s comparison of Odysseus’ “untriumphal entry” into the city of the Phaeacians with that of Jesus’s into Jerusalem are not remotely alike. Another example is the death of Jesus with the death of Hector in The Iliad, as Hector dies a hero in combat and Jesus dies a criminal on a cross. While the differences from Mark and Homer are the point at times, according to MacDonald, sometimes these differences are simply too great to be convincing. Of course, this is not to say that MacDonald’s thesis should not be taken seriously. There are some scenes within the Gospel of Mark that make perfect sense with MacDonald’s thesis. The ones that struck me the most was the behavior of the disciples, the calming of the storm on the sea of Galilee, and request of the body of Jesus by Joseph, and others. Some of the similarities these stories share with the writings of Homer are simply not coincidences, as MacDonald demonstrates with superb scholarship.
Though the thesis presented by MacDonald can be rather dense at times, the book itself is not very big and could be enjoyed by anyone with a working knowledge of Homer and Mark. MacDonald writes in a very approachable manner and each chapter provides enough details to understand his arguments but not allow the reader to get lost. While not always convincing, his presentation as a whole is very compelling. The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark adds another striking layer to the study of early Christianity, one which further fleshes out the wide and complex cultural matrix from which the Gospel tradition emerged. One cannot deny that MacDonald has presented a unique perspective, one that would completely transform the way New Testament scholars study the Gospel of Mark.
The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark is certainly a must read!
Honestly, I haven't read the entire book. Once I saw that there were excerpts where the author put the section from the Odyssey right next to the section of the Bible that was copied or adapted from it I just flipped through and looked at all those examples and was convinced.
I had already read Bart Ehrman's "Jesus, Interrupted" and just didn't want to waste anymore time reading about this crap (10 years is long enough)!
Some of the examples are debatable- that is to say that when you look at the Homeric excerpt and the Mark excerpt next to each other you think, well, "That one there is a bit of a reach- I'm not convinced- I'll flip ahead and look for more convincing examples."- and you do find them. Some are almost word for word (if I remember correctly, some are actually word for word).
Did you ever wonder how the little Sea (Lake) of Galilee could be so windy, rough and violent like an ocean?
The reason the "Sea" of Galilee was so rough and windy and violent like an ocean - and the reason the disciples were scared- is because it is a retelling from Homer's Odyssey where the men on the boat opened a "bag of wind" and it caused a storm and they were fearful.
I love how the author of Mark (who I suspect was probably a Roman writing in the Egyptian library of Alexandria) intentionally left clues for readers to show that he borrowed from Homer. The best example is "James and John- called "Boangeres (The Sons Of Thunder")"...
As all of us reading this know, the Bible was compiled by the Catholic church at the council of Nicea in 325 AD.
I think that teaching meekness and contentment in all things and crucifying your life's desires and your pride and aspirations is a GENIUS mind control program if you are the elite of Rome in 325AD and you want to keep all the serfs unified behind submissiveness and "contentment".
We know that Emperor Constantine wanted to unite his empire behind one religion- and he did.
He also remained a worshipper of his pagan sun gods and did not become a Christian.
I saw a youtbue video that claims that the Bible originally contained aspects of the spiritual teachings found in eastern religions, such as uniting your heart and mind with your faith and THEN you "can move mountains" (I believe it is the gospel of Thomas that contains that). That video also claimes that the council of Nicea edited and condensed 20 books of the Bible and completely removed 25. Also there is apparently a record of Jesus in India.
So there is much to investigate.
Also, I highly recommend Bart Ehrman's "Jesus, Interrupted". It will de-convert you from the (uninformed) belief in total inerrancy in the bible, but if you do get this Homeric Epics book that should de-convert you immediately in one dose from a belief that the Bible is literal and inerrant.
And it might de-convert you ALMOST all the way if you have a knee-jerk reaction like I did due to feeling duped into believing all this stuff for a lifetime. The completeness of your de-conversion will depend upon:
1. The intensity of your emotional reaction to being duped and lied to/programmed as a helpless child.
2. How deeply and thoroughly you have programmed your mind with the Bible (all that stuff sticks around in your mind and makes you wonder "What if I'm wrong", but this book helps A LOT with being able to rationalize all that old brainwashing away with facts).
I do not believe that disproving the inerrancy of the Bible disproves God.
It disproves the inerrancy/inspiration of much of the book of Mark and the Gospels based upon it.
See Bart Ehrman's book for proof that biblical scholars have known for 150 years that 5 or 6 of the 13 Pauline Letters are forged by unknown writers. This includes scholars who are Christians! The difference in writing styles is so obvious that they cannot deny it.
What is interesting is that Matthew and Luke are based on Mark, but they add sayings of Jesus from a lost source that Biblical Scholars call "Q" (which stands for a German word which means "Source")...
While this book gives convincing evidence that many parts of Mark appear to be based on Homer, I do wonder about those sayings from Q that are contained in Matthew and Luke. But then you've got the issue of Matthew and Luke disagreeing with each on the method of relocating Mary and Joseph... did they make that huge trek for a census or was it because Herod was killing infants (which there is no historical record of)?
Jesus thought that religion was a big fake hypocritical show.
Jesus hated empty heartless ritualistic religion so much that it was the one thing that made Him mad.