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Re: [XTalk] Ancient narratives of crucifixion

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  • Jan Sammer
    ... The parallel between Prometheus Bound and the Markan narrative has been published some time ago and is available online at www.nazarenus.com/3-1-women.htm
    Message 1 of 55 , Sep 11, 2004
      On Thu, 9 Sep 2004 16:24:19 -0700, Peter Kirby <kirby@...> wrote:

      > Although it isn't exactly "crucifixion," the punishment of Prometheus
      > comes to my mind easily as a hero chained/nailed by the powers that be.
      > (Metal bonds are agreed by all accounts, yet "nailed" is the verb used
      > in the English of Aeschylus, and besides many crucifixions involved
      > tying. The Catholic Encyclopedia, in "Archaeology of the Cross and
      > Crucifix," says, "On an ancient vase we see Prometheus bound to a beam
      > which serves the purpose of a cross." Normally the chains are attached
      > to the Caucasus mountainside.)
      > Hesiod. Works and Days 50ff., Theogony 507ff.
      > Aeschylus. Prometheus Bound
      > Plato. Protagoras 320C-322A
      > Diodorus Siculus 4.15.2, 17.83.1
      > Hyginus. Fabulae 144, De Astronomia ii.15
      > Apollodorus, Library and Epitome 1.7.1
      > etc.
      > Yet, of the form of the references to Prometheus, nothing resembles "a
      > passion narrative with an extended introduction," to borrow the phrase
      > of Martin Kahler on the Gospel (of Mark).
      The parallel between Prometheus Bound and the Markan narrative has been
      published some time ago and is available online at
      The author, Livio Stecchini, presents there a further parallel, the
      mocking of the "crucified" Prometheus which bears an uncanny resemblance
      to the mocking of the crucified Jesus. Here is the relevant excerpt (bear
      in mind that the thesis of the work is Senecan authorship of a lost play
      on the passion, entitled Nazarenus):

      ---begin quote
      In introducing their accounts of the mockery of the crucified Jesus, Mark
      and Matthew undoubtedly had in mind the words of Psalm 22; but in
      substance they followed the development of Seneca?s tragic plot. In the
      Prologue, Seneca?s portrayal of the agony in the garden was influenced by
      Aeschylus? Prometheus Bound, the only ancient tragedy known to us that
      deals with the subject of crucifixion. After Prometheus, who had saved
      mankind from death, is attached to the cliff where he is to suffer his
      unjust and cruel punishment, he is mocked by a vindictive character named

      How are your mortals going to cut this knot for you? ...
      You lack wisdom if you think you can wriggle your way out...
      But a sympathetic chorus intones:
      Having helped men to your own hurt,
      do not neglect to save yourself from torment.

      The suggestion is a rhetorical one because the audience knows that
      Prometheus is quite powerless to extricate himself from his bonds. In a
      later play of Aeschylus Prometheus is released by Heracles, a mortal.
      Likewise in Seneca?s Nazarenus the challenge issued by the chorus when
      Jesus? fortunes were at their lowest ebb will be redeemed in the final
      act. Aeschylus and Seneca use the mockery to which their crucified heroes
      are subjected in order to paint a picture of utter hopelessness--to make
      more appalling the injustice of the punishment, and more astounding the
      reversal of fortune when at last it comes.
      ---end quote

      Jan Sammer
    • Joseph Codsi
      Peter Kirby asked on Monday, September 13, 2004 5:20 AM Peter, Please excuse
      Message 55 of 55 , Sep 14, 2004
        Peter Kirby asked on Monday, September 13, 2004 5:20 AM

        <When you say Christian logic, is this equivalent to "the study of


        Please excuse the ambiguity of my expression. Thank you for taking the
        time to ask for a clarification.

        I do not recall how the thread "Ancient narratives of crucifixion"
        turned into a discussion of the way psychologists have studied the birth
        of Christianity. But it seems to me that, the publication of _When
        Prophecy Fails_ did not remain an isolated event as far as
        pshychological research in the field of religion is concerned.

        I have read this book long time ago. I do not have access to it now. But
        as far as I recall, it was centered on the study of a very specific case
        and had nothing to do with the study of the "Christian phenomenon". (I
        use this expression as Teilhard de Chardin uses the expression: "human
        phenomenon". The appearance of man). The book shows the psychological
        consequences of faith and commitment. When the prediction of a specific
        event does not materialize at the specified time and in the specified
        form, the logical conclusion should be that the prediction was wrong.
        But faith and commitment do not easily accept error and failure. So the
        stronger they are, the stronger the refusal to admit error and defeat.

        No attempt is made in this book to extrapolate what concerns the birth
        and death of a short-lived sect into what pertains to the birth of
        Christianity. This sort of extrapolation seems to have been attempted
        later on.

        Unfortunately the knowledge I have of these extrapolations is limited to
        what transpired in our XTalk exchanges. I felt the need to go back to
        square one and study what has been attempted in the psychological field
        on this point.

        It appeared to me that the psychologists have been working alone on a
        difficult question, the study of which requires not only a certain
        familiarity with religious questions, but also an in-depth understanding
        of the Christian faith. By this I mean not only, as you put it
        correctly, "the study of Christianity", but also a feel for the problems
        with which we are entangled in the field of gospel scholarship. In the
        same way as we are faced with serious difficulties, so also the
        psychologists. Whence my idea: instead of working independently of one
        another, we would gain to work together.

        So I go back today to this simple proposition. Instead of criticizing
        what the psychologists have done so far, as Wright does in his book (and
        I am not saying that his criticism is not well-founded), I think that an
        intelligent collaboration between us can be useful. I am still waiting
        for someone else to second this proposition.

        I know that the mere fact of getting together and exchanging ideas will
        not be enough to entirely change the picture on both sides of the
        divide. In order for a real breakthrough to become possible, we must
        adopt a totally new approach to the Christian phenomenon. This is
        perhaps what makes the listers suspicious and not knowing what to think.
        You cannot judge the new approach I am advocating without knowing it.

        I admit, on the other hand, that rejection is what I fear. My
        proposition is likely to look preposterous to many of you. I fear to be
        treated as Paul was treated when he mentioned the word "resurrection" in
        his speech to the Athenians. So I am working on a "captatio
        benevolientiae" before I dare speak openly. If nobody is really
        interested to hear what I have to say, it makes no sense to say it. But
        I am counting on a curious mind to start a new thread.

        So long,

        Joseph Codsi
        P.O. Box 116-2088
        Beirut, Lebanon
        Telephone (961) 1 423 145
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