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Re: [XTalk] Divine men and heroes

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  • Bob Schacht
    Ted, Once again, thanks for a very interesting essay. Just a few questions: ... and I shall snip your snippets in order to concentrate your summary on my ...
    Message 1 of 7 , Jun 6, 2000
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      Once again, thanks for a very interesting essay.
      Just a few questions:

      At 11:04 PM 6/5/00 -0500, Ted Weeden wrote:

      Thank you, Rikk,  for bringing the literature to the attention of all (and
      to you, too, David as your post just came through). You are right, Rikk.
      The "divine man" construct has been discredited by some. ... I
      have returned to "theois aner" or "divine man" because it terminologically
      comes as close to what I mean as I can come up with at this moment. ...
      This hero ideological orientation has not been fully appreciated
      in many quarters of NT scholarship.  But such an orientation in many ways
      defined Greco-Roman culture of the time and needs to be appreciated for
      having done so.  It needs to be appreciated, in particularly,  for having
      profoundly  affected the orientation of certain early followers in the Jesus movement and, specifically, the writers of the canonical gospels and some of their sources.

      Gregory Riley, _One Jesus, Many Christs_, has made a fine case for the
      pervasiveness of this hero ideology in Greco-Roman culture and its influence
      on the Jesus movement.  I present Riley's case here now.  I do so by quoting directly and in snippets, scissored and pasted, to give a flowing account of the cultural phenomenon that I see confronting the author of Mark.  ...

      and I shall snip your snippets in order to concentrate your summary on my point of inquiry:

      "We have all but lost the most important and spiritually effective category of ancient religious experience.....(16)."

      "...Christianity in time won more adherents in the Roman Empire than all the traditional state gods and competing cults.  It did so for a reason
      overlooked by all but a few scholars and lost to the modern world-the story of Jesus, even with its Jewish and Eastern content, fulfilled the most important cultural ideals in antiquity, those of the hero, from Achilles on down." ...

      What Riley characterizes as the Greco-Roman culture's ideological
      hero-orientation, is what I have in mind when I speak of the "divine-man"

      OK, let me break it off here. Several questions:
      Is Riley's hero-orientation more or less the same point Joseph Campbell is making in Hero with a Thousand Faces?
      If not, what is the difference?
      Or do you consider Campbell a hopeless popularizer?
      Campbell emphasizes the Hero as Myth, and promotes an elevated understanding of myth. Is this also true of Riley?

      It seems to me that Riley covers too much ground in his compilation of hero literature, so that the term begins to lose meaning. Specifically, it causes problems for me in your use of theos aner. For example, included in the catalog was Socrates. Certainly, his last months can be painted in heroic strokes, but does that make him a theos aner?

      Is your basic point that Greek cultural influences prompted the Gospel writers to seek to clothe Jesus in the mythos of the Greek Hero? Or is it only certain kinds of Greek heroes that are appropriate?

      The advantage, I think, in this line of reasoning is that the heros of Greek myth were divinities. Roman emperors helped to blur the line between man and god by claiming divinity for themselves. And the abundant quotes from Riley seem to underscore that local heroes were accorded a similar status. I had not previously heard that the Greek hero mythos straddled quite so thoroughly the boundary between human and divine, in a way that we no longer do. This helps place the claims for Jesus' divinity in a better  cultural context.

      That is all I have time for now. But many thanks for taking your time to write this essay.

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