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Hellenistic Commentary to the New Testament


Joe Weaks
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The Hellenistic Commentary to the New Testament by Boring/Berger/Colpe would make a great reference tool in Accordance. It is a scripture-reference tool that as you look at NT texts, you can see portions of Hellenistic literature that have intertextual similarities to what you're studying. For each NT story or section, it provides in English translation snippets from Hellenistic literature that directly illustrate the religious worlld into which Christianity was born.

So for instance, lets say you're studying Jesus' birth stories. Several examples show other birth stories in the literature, such as this snippent from the book:

 

3.  Matthew 1:1-25/ Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-7

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 9.1-10 (1 cent. B. C. E.)

"This, then is the story as it has been given us:  Perseus was the son of Danaê, the daughter of Acrisius, and Zeus.  Now Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus, lay with him and bore Electryon, and then Eurydicê, the daughter of Pelops, married him and gave birth to Alcmenê, who in turn was wooed by Zeus, who deceived her, and bore Heracles.  Consequently the sources of his descent, in their entirety, lead back, as is claimed, through both his parents to the greatest of the gods, in the manner we have shown.  The prowess which was found in him was not only to be seen in his deeds, but was also recognized even before his birth.  For when Zeus lay with Alcmenê he made the night three times its normal length and by the magnitude of the time expended on the procreation he presaged the exceptional might of the child which would be begotten.  And, in general, he did not effect this union from the desire of love, as he did in the case of other women, but rather only for the sake of procreation.  Consequently, desiring to give legality to his embraces, he did not choose to offer violence to Alcmenê, and yet he could not hope to persuade her because of her chastity; and so, deciding to use deception, he deceived Alcmenê by assuming in every respect the shape of Amphitryon.
            When the natural time of pregnancy had passed, Zeus, whose mind was fixed upon the birth of Heracles, announced in advance in the presence of all the gods that it was his intention to make the child who should be born that day king over the descendants of Perseus; whereupon Hera, who was filled with jealousy, using as her helper Eileithyia her daughter, checked the birth-pains of Alcmenê and brought Eurystheus forth to the light before his full time.  Zeus, however, though he had been outgeneralled, wished both to fulfill his promise and to take thought for the future fame of Heracles; consequently, they say, he persuaded Hera to agree that Eurystheus should be king as he had promised, but that Heracles should serve Eurystheus and perform twelve Labours, these to be whatever Eurystheus should prescribe, and that after he had done so he should receive the gift of immortality.  After Alcmenê had brought forth the babe, fearful of Hera's jealousy she exposed it at a place which to this time is called after him the Field of Heracles.  Now at this very time Athena, approaching the spot in the company of Hera and being amazed at the natural vigor of the child, persuaded Hera to offer it the breast.  But when the boy tugged upon her breast with greater violence than would be expected at his age, Hera was unable to endure the pain and cast the babe from her, whereupon Athena took it to its mother and urged her to rear it.  And anyone may well be surprised at the unexpected turn of the affair; for the mother whose duty it was to love her own offspring was trying to destroy it, while she who cherished towards it a stepmother's hatred, in ignorance saved the life of one who was her natural enemy.
            After this Hera sent two serpents to destroy the babe, but the boy, instead of being terrified, gripped the neck of a serpent in each hand and strangled them both." (LCL)

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This story combines the elements of one who is born as a son of god, and is thus divine by nature, and one who is human and becomes immortal as the reward for outstanding achievements.  The interest in the details of the divine conception, which is understood as the result of physical union between a deity and a human being, and the incorporation of the birth story into a larger mythological story of the activities of the gods all stand in contrast to the New Testament accounts. 

Edited by Joe Weaks
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Unfortunately it appears to be out of print, which does not bode well for both its potential sales, nor the availability of an e-text.

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Gotta say, it does look to be an interesting volume Joe. $100+ from anyone offering a new copy and only a couple of useds floating about. Available from a few libraries I see. One's out on loan - is that the one you're reading ? :)

 

D

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Actually, it went out of print from the Abingdon catalogue last year, 20 years after publication, which is pretty impressive really. The etext is available.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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