From Jewish Teacher to Epic Hero
By (author) Dennis R. MacDonald
Publication date:07 May 2015
Length of book:178 pages
PublisherRowman & Littlefield Publishers
Our culture is well-populated with superheroes: Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and more. Superheroes are not a modern invention; in fact, they are prehistoric. The gods and goddesses of the Greeks, for example, walked on water, flew, visited the land of the dead, and lived forever. Ancient Christians told similar stories about Jesus, their primary superhero—he possessed incredible powers of healing, walked on water, rose from the dead, and more. Dennis R. MacDonald shows how the stories told in the Gospels parallel many in Greek and Roman epics with the aim of compelling their readers into life-changing decisions to follow Jesus. MacDonald doesn’t call into question the existence of Jesus but rather asks readers to examine the biblical stories about him through a new, mythological lens.
The Christian scriptures took shape within a rich literary landscape, as the gnostic gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls make clear. But MacDonald, a biblical studies professor at Claremont Graduate School and Claremont School of Theology, sheds light on a different dimension of literary dependence: Homeric material, especially the epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey. MacDonald (author of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark, to which he directs interested readers for more scholarly treatments) aims here to distill his findings and present a cogent comparison of Homeric tropes with the Christian gospels of Mark and Luke. To that end, in brief chapters, the author shows some 24 major parallels explored chapter by chapter, from 'Born Divine and Human' to 'Disappearing into the Sky.' . . . The evidence certainly seems to demonstrate . . . dependence by the gospel writers on their masterful Greek predecessor in their stories about and portrayals of Jesus.