Christianizing Homer: The Odyssey, Plato, and the Acts of Andrew available in Hardcover
Amidst heightened scholarly interest in the extra-canonical New Testament, Dennis MacDonald presents a fresh and original study of one such apocryphal text. Christianizing Homer focuses on the Acts of Andrew (c. 200 CE), which chronicles the travels, miracles, and martyrdom of the apostle Andrew. While traditional scholarship has looked to Jewish and Christian scriptures for the background of such writings, MacDonald turns instead to Greek classics for the literary inspirations of this story. He argues that the Acts represent an attempt to transform Greco-Roman myth into Christian legends that substitute Christian virtues for the vices of characters in classical Greek literature, in particular the Odyssey. Presenting a point-by-point comparison of the two works, he finds the resemblances so strong, numerous, and tendentious that they virtually compel the reader to consider the Acts a transformative "rewriting" of the epic. The author found justification for this transformation in Plato's denunciations of Homer - at the end of the work, Andrew plays the role of a Christianized Socrates. The result of this transformation of Greek epic is a remarkable disclosure of Christian attitudes toward classical Greek mythology, literature, and philosophy. This discovery not only sheds valuable light on the uses of Homer in the early church but also significantly contributes to our understanding of the reception of Homer in the empire as a whole.