Does the New Testament Imitate Homer?

Four Cases from the Acts of the Apostles

Dennis R. MacDonald

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November 10, 2003
240 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300097702
Cloth

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In this provocative challenge to prevailing views of New Testament sources, Dennis R. MacDonald argues that the origins of passages in the book of Acts are to be found not in early Christian legends but in the epics of Homer. MacDonald focuses on four passages in the book of Acts, examines their potential parallels in the Iliad, and concludes that the author of Acts composed them using famous scenes in Homer’s work as a model.
Tracing the influence of passages from the Iliad on subsequent ancient literature, MacDonald shows how the story generated a vibrant, mimetic literary tradition long before Luke composed the Acts. Luke could have expected educated readers to recognize his transformation of these tales and to see that the Christian God and heroes were superior to Homeric gods and heroes. Building upon and extending the analytic methods of his earlier book, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark, MacDonald opens an original and promising appreciation not only of Acts but also of the composition of early Christian narrative in general.

Dennis R. MacDonald is John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Claremont School of Theology, and director of the Institute of Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate University.

“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

"Dennis R. MacDonald has provided a book based upon meticulous research, documentation, and argumentation that challenges the standard approach to the narrative texts of the NT [New Testament] and should stimulate debate, not only in the study of Acts and its narrative texts, but throughout the broader analysis of the NT as well."—Stan Harstine, Journal of Biblical Literature

"MacDonald's efforts provide for scholars an unsuspected insight into an overlooked aspect of the social and literary world of New Testament times."—Religious Studies Review