Re: [XTalk] the crucifixion by Mel Gibson vs the crucifixion by Aeschylus
- In a message dated 10/7/2004 8:39:08 AM Central Daylight Time,
I would like to contrast this surfeit of interest to the complete
disinterest in a point made by Peter Kirby and expanded on by myself on
this list (originally the thesis was presented some two decades ago in an
small print-run publication by Livio C. Stecchini) that there exists a
curious parallel and precedent to the crucifixion and mockery of Jesus in
the crucifixion and mockery of Prometheus, as portrayed in Aeschylus’
Prometheus Bound. I would like to think that Peter and I won’t have to
wait until Prometheus Bound is turned into a major Hollywood blockbuster
to have the point taken seriously by the erudite members of this group.
Are the parallels a matter of chance, or could the incident of the mockery
of the crucified Jesus have been introduced into the gospel narratives as
a reminiscence, perhaps an unconscious one, of a well-known classical
tragedy? Or was the presentation of this incident at least influenced by
such? After all, a theater for the performance of Greek and Roman
tragedies (and of course comedies) was an indispensable amenity of all the
Hellenized cities of the Levant in the first century AD. Even people who
could not read or write could and did watch the standard repertory of
plays (Egyptian papyri from Oxyrhynchos amply document this contemporary
repertory in a nearby similarly Hellenized land) and one thing we must
grant the gospel writers is that they could read and write, and very
effectively so. One can go through life today without ever going to the
movies, as one could presumably go through life in first century Palestine
without ever attending the theater (besides the agora the very center of
social interaction in the polis), but the burden of proof is clearly on
those who would deny the influence of Greek and Roman tragedy on the
gospel writers, rather than on those who cite the evident parallels and
draw the appropriate conclusions.
Thanks for resurrecting this topic, Jan. I was having computer problems and
missed a lot of transactions.
I would not want to deny that there's a potential influence of Greco-Roman
tragedy on the gospels, but I also must question how much influence comes from
other sources, or from common experience. Could it not be that Aeschylus'
portrayal Prometheus' mocking is based upon the commonplace mocking of
condemned victims, and that so is the gospelers' account of the mocking of Jesus?
Would it be more likely that the gospelers got it from Aeschylus, or from
having seen condemned men mocked in common experience?
And of course most Greco-Roman drama were enactments of tales already in
circulation. So it could well be that tragedians and gospelers were drawing on
a common tradition without a direct influence one to the other.
just some thoughts on that matter based upon my work in related comparatist
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