Christianizing Homer

Christianizing Homer : The Odyssey, Plato, and The Acts of Andrew

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Description

This study focuses on the apocryphal Acts of Andrew (c. 200 CE), which purports to tell the story of the travels, miracles, and martyrdom of the apostle Andrew. Traditional scholarship has looked for the background of such writings in Jewish and Christian scriptures. MacDonald, however, breaks with that model and looks to classic literature for the sources of this story. Specifically, he argues that the Acts represent an attempt to transform Greco-Roman myth into Christian narrative categories by telling the story of Andrew in terms of Homeric epic, in particular the Odyssey. MacDonald presents a point-by-point comparison of the two works, finding the resemblances so strong, numerous, and tendentious that they virtually compel the reader to consider the Acts a transformative "rewriting" of the epic. This discovery not only sheds valuable light on the uses of Homer in the early church but also significantly contributes to our understanding of the reception of Homer in the empire as a whole.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 160 x 226 x 34mm | 680.39g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195087224
  • 9780195087222

Back cover copy

Amidst heightened scholarly interest in the extra-canonical New Testament, Dennis MacDonald presents a fresh and original study of one such apocryphal text. Christianizing Homer focuses on the Acts of Andrew (c. 200 CE), which chronicles the travels, miracles, and martyrdom of the apostle Andrew. While traditional scholarship has looked to Jewish and Christian scriptures for the background of such writings, MacDonald turns instead to Greek classics for the literary inspirations of this story. He argues that the Acts represent an attempt to transform Greco-Roman myth into Christian legends that substitute Christian virtues for the vices of characters in classical Greek literature, in particular the Odyssey. Presenting a point-by-point comparison of the two works, he finds the resemblances so strong, numerous, and tendentious that they virtually compel the reader to consider the Acts a transformative "rewriting" of the epic. The author found justification for this transformation in Plato's denunciations of Homer - at the end of the work, Andrew plays the role of a Christianized Socrates. The result of this transformation of Greek epic is a remarkable disclosure of Christian attitudes toward classical Greek mythology, literature, and philosophy. This discovery not only sheds valuable light on the uses of Homer in the early church but also significantly contributes to our understanding of the reception of Homer in the empire as a whole.show more

Review quote

Gracefully and graciously crafted....Will be of equal interest to scholars of the classics, ancient history, and early Christianity....This stimulating work is also accessible to upper-division undergraduates and interested members of the general public. * Choice *show more

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6 ratings
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4 50% (3)
3 17% (1)
2 0% (0)
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