Irenaeus would have recognized Homeric tendencies in the Gospels

Irenaeus likened the ‘Gnostic’ use of Scripture to that of someone who takes Homeric verses and rearranges them to create a new poem on a totally different theme. This passage is strong evidence that Irenaeus was classically-educated — Homer was the backbone of ancient Greek education. Furthermore, in all likelihood, Irenaeus composed this little poem about Heracles himself. (Against Heresies, bk. 1 ch. 5–9)

via Irenaeus’ Homeric Poem | Read the Fathers.

So, Irenaeus was a classically trained author but could not recognize the supposed Homeric influences in Mark (and then Luke-Acts)? Come now…

Wonder if, in fact, there are no hidden Homeric hints in the Gospels…

Post By Joel Watts (9,925 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, working on the use of Deuteronomy in the Fourth Gospel. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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36 thoughts on Irenaeus would have recognized Homeric tendencies in the Gospels

  1. OK, off subject, but I can’t help but mention,
    “Irenaeus likened the ‘Gnostic’ use of Scripture…”
    I have great sympathy for gnostics. Because I can relate to, perhaps, their thought process. Picture a gentile Christian, sitting in Egypt, being told by the established clergy, that they must believe everything, word for word, in the OT, and people like Irenaeus’ interpretation. Yahweh killed your ancestor’s first born sons, exterminated the Medianites, and all others around the local area, and gave their land to the “chosen” Israelites. Bummer. No wonder they said that the Israelite God of the OT, Yahweh, was an evil creator mini-God. And they went out and tried to seek God within themselves. Of course, I am a heretic. But who cares? Not me. Maybe I am the only one that sees the utter ridiculousness of much of the OT. NT, I don’t have a problem with :-)

    • Gary,

      There is a major problem here. Literalism as a must did not come into being until 1600 years or so after the Gnostics. Unless one knows how to read the OT, one will get the wrong message.

  2. Joel,
    So does that mean that if you were a gentile Christian in Egypt in 300 AD, you were OK with Yahweh killing off most of the population in the Eastern Med for the benefit of the Israelites? Or does that mean that the established clergy like Irenaeus did not support the Pentateuch view of Yahweh? Either way, I see the Gnostics as rather sympathetic group of extinct people.

  3. If you were a gentile living in Egypt around 300ad other than being a Gnostic, you could have been a Marcionite or a Monarchian and may have rejected the whole OT as the sacred-text of a completely different and false religion.

  4. Monarchians did indeed reject the OT and the accusation that Marcion was a Gnostic is unfounded.

    • Monarchians used the OT to justify the oneness of God.

      Unfounded? hardly. Marcion, was pretty darn close to gnosticism, having been more influenced by them than the normative Jewish-Christian doctrines.

  5. Arians used the OT to.justify their Unitarian beliefs but Monarchians unreservedly regarded Christ as God and didn’t require the OT to justify it. To Monarchians Christ is the creator and the Father is transcendent. Theres no salvation by Gnosis in Marcionism and while Marcion used dualistic rhetoric it was not metaphysical. Both Monarchianism and Marcionism were examples of purely Hellenistic gentile Christianity. But like Gosticism they were not part of the Judaeo-Christian world- view shared by Arians and Catholic Christians.

  6. So a monk sitting in a monastery in Egypt in 300 AD could be any of the above “flavors” of Christian, gnostic, Marc/Mona, etc.. With such a wide, divergent set of texts floating around, but all considered “Christian” until the establishment lowered the hammer on views different from their own. So “Christian” was redefined by people at the top. So, is the basis for their decisions revelation, inspiration, their own logic system, or what, 300 years after Christ. I’m not trying to be a butthead, but seems interesting that our religion was defined by a group with self interest in maintaining the status quo of the clergy, and have come up with properties that are fairly hard to imagine, ie celibacy of priests, trinity, sacrament turns bread and wine to flesh and blood, Yahweh as good God (hard to buy from OT), etc. no wonder there are so many atheists.

  7. That’s how I see it Gary. They were charged with settling disputes in order to create a religion for the Empire. Christianity wasn’t in origin a Jewish sect, that’s what the official religion wants us to think, it was a Hellenistic sect, like Hermetism, Mithraism & etc. The problem was after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews, Christianity was flooded with Jews looking for their messiah. Jewish Christianity (Ebionites & etc), Arianism and our present Judaeo-Christianity was the result.

  8. These are the facts; We have no idea of the nature of Christianity prior to written accounts. The written accounts show that before the Nicaean Council Christianity was predominantly Monarchian. Marcion started his church because he thought Christianity was being Judaized. Marcions canon was the the first and consisted of one Gospel which has recently been identified by Markuz Vinzent prof Oxford Uni as the Q source for the synoptic gospels. I’ll leave the truth to you!

    • There is no Q source, no written accounts of Jesus before the Gospels. Paul is the earliest writing we have about a Jesus. Paul and the Gospel writers show a remarkable continuity with certain segments of Second Temple Judaism – you know, Jewish stuff.

      You need to reexamine your “facts”, Mike.

  9. I personally believe Christ is the truth but that doesn’t mean we can dodge the facts, however much we dislike them. Christianity as a ‘stand-alone’ religion was lost and replaced with Judaeo-Christianity.

    Deus Misereatur Nostri!!!

  10. I keep an open mind. But I don’t take as face value what is said or interpreted 1700 years ago based upon events 300 years earlier. Evolution and the Big Bang are facts. But theology is a rather “fuzzy” art, and some common sense and thoughtful questions have to be asked. And human motivation have to also be considered in evaluating what to believe. I am speaking of people like Irenaeus’ motivations.

    • True – but we do have some pretty good documented evidences of developing thought in the early days of Christianity and how it developed from Second Temple Judaism

  11. Its not wrong at all. All Hellenistic religions had a Greek and an indigenous component. The Greek component was philosophy, or theology, and the indigenous was the religious, or cultural. Hermetism for instance was Egyptian just as Christianity was Levantine. A comparison between Hermetism and Christianity shows a common Hellenistic base theology. The Levantine indigenous culture that Christianity emerged from was Jewish, Mandaean, Hypsistarian as well as Zoroastrian. The specific area Christianity came from was ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’ a Greek speaking multi-ethnic region.

  12. I’ve got a headache from reading the comments : ( Do you really think Christianity is similar to Mithraism? Which one, the persian? or the roman?

  13. Depends how close you are to the cutting edge of solid academic research you are. I’m reading the most recent publications from professors of Patristics at Kings College Oxford. If you’re just regurgitating the usual Judaeo-Christian trope you would think that I’m well off-base and I’m more than happy for you ;-)

    • Oh so that’s it. You just buy into the latest and greatest journal articles. Because no one has ever gone wrong using untested data before.

  14. Well that alone would be better than clinging to tired old lies but no. My beliefs come from my relationship with God :-)

  15. So you think the leaders in the field of patristics at one of the worlds leading academic institutions are not testing data and arriving at solid conclusions but are telling people things they want to hear. Excuse me while I just stitch my sides back together. Sorry Joel but this is my final post on the subject. God bless…

  16. I tried to send a iPhone mojo icon (a beer), but the Internet blog doesn’t speak Apple. Anyway, my conclusion, as the Dos Equis man would say, “Stay thirsty, my friends”. Of course, stay thirsty for knowledge. But then I’d be accused of being a gnostic. I’ll have a beer instead.

  17. He does make a point there Joel… Mike that is not gary… he is just trolling…

  18. Trolling? I consider it a valid discussion. At least I ask valid questions, instead of saying “great post”, or “bless you”, which is a waste of time. Adios.

    • Gary – I don’t think Daniel was talking about you.

      Real questions are valid questions. Therefore, you are not the troll.

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