Inici > Ecos de l'Odissea, Ecos de la Ilíada > L’èpica homèrica en l’Evangeli de Marc

L’èpica homèrica en l’Evangeli de Marc

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…los hombres, a lo largo del tiempo, han repetido siempre dos historias: la de un bajel perdido que busca por los mares mediterráneos una isla querida, y la de un dios que se hace crucificar en el Gólgota…

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Jorge Luis Borges
El Evangelio según Marcos
El informe de Brodie (1970)

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Homeric epics & Gospel of MarkReading Mark as a Homeric hypertext permits a new solution to the vexing problem of the kind of book Mark intended to write. Earlier scholarship viewed Mark as a passive transcriber of tradition and his gospel as a product of oral-traditional memories of Jesus, but subsequent studies have demonstrated Mark’s artful and thorough redaction of traditions into a coherent literary work, his use of written sources (perhaps even Q, the hypothetical source Matthew and Luke used in addition to Mark), and his sophisticated development of characteriza­tion and plot. Mark must have used one or more literary models, and the quest for them has focused on identifying texts closest to Mark’s genre, the elusive Holy Grail of gospel studies. Scholars have wandered through ancient literature searching for analogs and have returned with several suggestions: Jewish martyrologies, Plato’s death of Socrates, Greek tragedies, aretalogies, folk literature, historical novels, and biographies. The most popular solution avers that Mark intended to write a biography of sorts but was humbugged by the unreliable, legendary traditions available to him. In this book I argue, however, that the key to Mark’s composition has less to do with its genre than with its imitation of specific texts of a different genre: Mark wrote a prose epic modeled largely after the Odyssey and the ending of the Iliad.

Mark’s Jesus shares much with Hector and, even more so, with Odysseus. Odysseus and Jesus both sail seas with associates far their inferiors, who weaken when confronted with suffering. Both heroes return home to find it infested with murderous rivals that devour the houses of widows. Both oppose supernatural foes, visit dead heroes, and prophesy their own returns in the third person. A wise woman anoints each protagonist, and both eat last suppers with their comrades before visiting Hades, from which both return alive. In both works one finds gods stilling storms and walking on water, meals for thousands at the shore, and monsters in caves. Furthermore, Mark’s dependence on the Odyssey suggests elegant solutions to some of the most enigmatic and disputed aspects of the Gospel: its depiction of the disciples as inept, greedy, cowardly, and treacherous; its interests in the sea, meals, and secrecy; and even its mysterious reference to the unnamed young man who fled naked at Jesus’ arrest. But Mark did not steal from the epics, he transvalued them by making Jesus more virtuous and powerful than Odysseus and Hector. Like Hector, Jesus dies at the end of the book, his corpse is rescued from his executioner, and he is mourned by three women. But unlike Hector, Jesus is raised from the dead. Mark may have cut his literary teeth on epic, which also might explain a major incongruity in his composition: despite its rustic, at times barbaric Greek, the Gospel’s literary achievement is brilliant. Some of Mark’s brilliance, I submit, is Homeric radiation.

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Denns R. MacDonald
The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (pàgs. 3-4)

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The Calming of the Storm is an apparent imitation of Homer’s story of Aeolus’s bag of winds. Jesus plays a role similar to that of Odysseus; the disciples imitate the crew:

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Homeric epics & Gospel of Mark  2

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Mark not only imitates, he emulates. Odysseus was helpless in the storm, but Jesus, like Aeolus, could calm it.

The next story in Mark is the exorcism of the Geranese Demoniac, where Mark seems to have borrowed from two of Homers’s most memorable tales, Odysseus’s escape from the giant Polyphemus and the rescue of his comrades from Circe, who had turned them into swine. From the Circe tale Mark adapted the adjuring of the hero to do no harm and the motive of turning people (or demons) into swine. Most of the parallels, however, pertain to Homer’s Cyclopeia, which appears in the Odyssey immediately before Aeolos’s bag of winds. In other words, Homer and Mark both told similar tales consecutively, though in reversed order. Once again, Jesus plays the part of Odysseus.

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Homeric epics & Gospel of Mark  3

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The density and order of these motifs, especially the immediate juxtaposition of the stories of sleeping on a ship and the encountering of a monster, surely issue from mimesis. The differences in the stories issue in part from emulation. Odysseus’s violence left Polyphemus blind; Jesus’ powers over de demoniac returned the savage to his senses.

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Mark’s narration of the death of John anticipates the death of Jesus, increasing the reader’s awareness of danger. His models for the death of John seem to have been the story of Esther and especially Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of Clytemnestra.

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Homeric epics & Gospel of Mark  5

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Dennis R. MacDonald
The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (pàgs. 174-176)

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The reading of Mark proposed here also locates the primary cultural context of the Gospel in Greek religious tradition, not in Judaism. This is not to deny Mark’s Jewish concerns or the influence of the Septuagint. Like many ancient narratives, the earliest gospel was eclectic in its dependence on literary models; Mark was an equal-opportunity imitator. Nonetheless, the bulk of the narrative issues from emulation of Greek epic. None of these three implications — Marcan priority, Johannine dependence on the Synoptics, or Greek cultural context —is new. In fact, they have been accepted by many if not most New Testament scholars for decades. Two other implications, however, are more radical.

This method, if correct, will require a reassessment of the adequacy of form criticism for describing the creation of gospel stories. Like Athena, born full-grown and armed from the head of Zeus, the narratives discussed in this book seem to have been born fully developed from classical poetry. It is entirely possible that before Mark picked up his quill no one had heard of Jesus stilling the sea manifesting his glory to three disciples, sending disciples to follow a water carrier or agonizing all night about his death. Homer, not history or tradition, explains the Gerasene demoniac, the anointing woman, the fleeing naked youth, Joseph of Arimathea, the women who came to anoint Jesus, and the youth sitting in the tomb. This is not to deny the historicity of other information in Mark or the legitimacy of form criticism for describing the origins and transmission of other narratives, but it is a reminder that the earliest evangelist was no mere editor; he was an artist uninhibited in his creation of theological fiction. Mark not only handed on tradition; more than anyone else in the early church with the possible exception of Luke, he created it.

Second, the identification of mimesis in Mark suggests a radical shift in herme-neutics, a reorienting from history or tradition to aesthetics. Mark crafted a myth to make the memory of Jesus relevant to the catastrophes of his day. The recent fall of Jerusalem, the failure of triumphalistic prophecies, and the carnage and probable deaths of his coreligionists prompted this daring artistic response. No narrative from the ancient world was more adaptable to this task than Homer’s Odyssey, the story of another suffering wise man who, after a long absence, returned to punish the wicked and reward the faithful. Mark borrowed from the ending of the Iliad, the death and burial of Hector, another suffering hero, to narrate the death and burial of Jesus. He thus imitated, adapted, and transformed Homer’s epics — as well as biblical texts and oral traditions — and the result is one of the most powerful, compelling, and influential narratives in the history of literature. To mistake Mark’s fiction for early Christian reality, whether historical or traditional, is to slight his enormous and enduring contribution to theology. To appreciate him fully is to accept him as an artist.

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Dennis R. MacDonald
The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (pàgs. 189-190)

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Jesucrist i Ulisses 

Entrada del blog la serp blanca, en la que
el professor Enric Iborra fa una ressenya de la
tesi de Dennis R. MacDonald (a més de comentaris,
com sempre, molt amables cap a aquest blog)

 

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Homeric epics & Gospel of MarkDennis R. MacDonald

The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark

Yale University Press

New Haven & London, 2000

ISBN: 9780300172614

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