Re: Jesus the Mathematician
- From: <LeeEdgarTyler@...>
>> Jan - why is it so unlikely? Both ancient Greece and ancient Israel were
> >agricultural societies; both had sheep; both had shepherds who care for
> >their sheep. Is it impossible that both independently developed similar
> pastoral care by the appropriate divinity from such an obvious everydayHomer
> >The problem with sophistication - sometimes it obscures the simple and
> >obvious! Or does that mean I'm being unsophisticated and thick, like the
> >disciples Mark portrays...? <G>
>> Rev Tony Buglass
> >Pickering Methodist Circuit
>I meant to post this earlier, but it got lost in the midterm shuffle:
>frequently calls Agamemnon the "shepherd" (poimên) of the Greeks, andthe
>Sophocles uses the term "shepherd of the people" for several different
>leaders. Pindar and Aeschylus use it to denote a master. And of course
>term Jerome employs to translate poimên is "pastor."Of course the imagery of a ruler as shepherd is one that could occur
>So there's no doubt that the Greeks had, independently of the Hebrews,
>developed this metaphorical use of the term "shepherd." I have found no
>cases in which it is applied to a deity, however; although one of Pindar's
>odes has a preternatural connotation to it in its use of "shepherds of the
>Loves" for the sprites attending Aphrodite.
independently in any pastoral society. That is the imagery used by Homer and
other poets; it is also imagery alluded to in Plato's dialogue, The
Statesman; but there the imagery is developed in a peculiar way that goes
way beyond a simple allegory of the ruler as the shepherd of his people.
Plato indeed argues that the statesman should be the shepherd of his people,
but to justify this proposition he refers back to a myth, narrated by the
Eleatic Stranger, in which the rulers of the present age are but imperfect
stand-ins for the true shepherd who had the human flock in his charge in a
former age. In the present age the divine shepherd's role is emulated,
albeit imperfectly, by human rulers. In a future age the divine shepherd
will return to resume control over the human flock. It is this apocalyptic
myth that I had in mind when I referred to the uncanny correspondence
between the myth of the Statesman and Hebrew traditions and expectations.
In the Hebrew tradition as it developed particularly in post-Exilic times,
there was an age in which man, created out of the earth, lived in a garden,
needing no clothes, feeding on the fruit that its trees produced by
themselves. Only after being expelled from the garden did man start having
to till the soil and produce his own sustenance. He also became mortal,
began to marry and beget children.
There was also an age to come, (according to the Markan Jesus) in which a
men and women will not marry but will live like angels. They will be
nurtured directly by their divine shepherd. This expectation goes back to
Isaiah and Ezekiel ("I will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed
In the Statesman the Stranger from Elea describes the once and future age of
divine control as follows: "Over every herd of living creatures throughout
all their tribes was set a heavenly daemon to be its shepherd. Each of them
was all in all ot his flock--providing for the needs of all his charges....
a god was their shepherd and had charge of them and fed them.. When God was
shepherd there were no political constitutions and no taking of wives and
begetting of children. For all men rose up anew into life our of the
earth...they had fruits without stint from trees and bushes; these needed no
cultivation but sprang up of themselves out of the ground without man's
toil. For the most part they disported themsleves in the open needing
neither clothing nor couch, for the seasons were blended evenly so as to
work them no hurt, and the grass which sprang out of the earth in abundance
made a soft bed for them."
In between the former and future age of divine control is the present age in
which the divinity has left the world to its own devices. But there will
come a day when the divine shepherd will once more take charge of his flock.
The feedings of the multitudes are premonitions of this future age. Mark
indicates this in 6:34: "... he saw this large crowd and his heart was
filled with pity for them, because they looked like sheep without a
shepherd." Jesus then proceeds to feed them, proving himself to be their
shepherd, the sustainer of humanity in the age to come. It is this that the
disciples are taken to task for failing to understand, though Peter's
testimony on the road to Caesarea Philippi shows that he has figured it out.
The ability of Jesus to feed the multitudes is the key to his true identity
as the divine shepherd of the age to come.
This idea is almost identical with the idea of the Statesman. It is the
image of the shepherd as the divine sustainer of humanity in the age to come
that is so distinctive of the Hebrew tradition and of the Statesman, and
which raises questions as to whether such concepts could have arisen
independently of one another. I am currently looking at the possibility that
both concepts go back to Zoroastrian ideas.
Prague, Czech Republic