Mythic mosaics and the lack of a theological crisis

No, this is not the book this post is about, but it is an important one nevertheless and seems to go along with a newly published work:

Luz Neira was in charge of the co-ordination and publication of Civilización y barbarie: el mito como argumento en los mosaicos romanos (Civilization and Barbarism: Myths as plots in Roman Mosaics).

A number of specialists in Roman mosaics collaborated on the book, which offers a new perspective in the approach to mythology and its re-use throughout history, which was a result of “a conscious and self-interested phenomenon of re-semantization.”

Here’s the deal. Dennis MacDonald has suggested (pdf) that a theological crisis involving Homer plagued Mark’s tiny proto-Christian community. Yet, in several recent works, it has become apparent that by the time of the high Empire, the Greek and many of the Roman myths had been lost only to be recovered by the mythographer. Yes, we see Homer (or Aeneid) on mosaics; however, this is little more than patriotic artwork defined not by an acute sense of the meaning of the myth but by the borrowing of the myth to the point that it had become a shadow on the wall. No, Homer does not present the necessary theological crisis for Mark.

As a matter of fact, Homer doesn’t present a theological crisis to anyone – especially since Vergil.

Joel L. Watts
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, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. 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).

One thought on “Mythic mosaics and the lack of a theological crisis

  1. Reminds me of the forthcoming English translation of Zanker and Ewald “Living with Myths:The Imagery of Roman Sarcophagi”.

    Also, I may be misunderstanding you, but you aren’t suggesting that Homer’s myths weren’t anything but ubiquitous in classical antiquity during the 1st centuries BC/AD are you?

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