neilgodfrey at one.net.au
Tue Jun 12 09:21:27 EDT 2001
JFAlward at aol.com wrote:
> Dennis MacDonald:
> Just a note, in my book The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark I argue that
> the Transfiguration story is a christianization of Odysseus's transfiguration
> to Telemachus in Odyssey 16. Here Athena dresses Odysseus in brilliant
> clothing. Take a look.
> Joe Alward:
> The verse Dennis has is mind is: "and his clothes became dazzling white, such
> as no launderer on earth could whiten them" (Mark 9:3), but the single
> possible connection to Homer's Athena, who dressed Odysseus in a "well-washed
> cloak," seems very weak compared to the several possible connections to the
> Old Testament:
There's much more than a "single possible connection" between the Homeric and
Markan transfiguration stories. A quick count brings up at least nine in as many
verses, with these having the added impact of being sequential parallels. As
MacDonald notes on p.95: "Epiphanes were common in ancient literature, and
several of these motifs are topoi, such as luminescent clothing, trembling, and
offering gifts or establishing cult. Other similarities, however, are
distinctive." These include the heavenly laundering job, witnesses appearing to
mistake mortals for divinities, witnesses being commanded to secrecy as opposed
to the more common reaction of spreading the story or starting a new cult. But of
as much significance as these are the specific echoes of "father-son" identities
and thematic lessons related to mortal-divine questions. Both are also pivitol
turning points in their respective plots.
> Daniel 7:....Clothing whiter than snow
> Lamentations 4:7....princes brighter than snow
> Psalm 51:7....I will be whiter than snow
> Ezekiel 8:2...I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man. From what
> appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his
> appearance was as bright as glowing metal.
> Ezekiel 1:27....brilliant light surrounded him
> Psalm 18:12....brightness of his presence
> Psalm 13:9....light of the righteous shines brightly
> Song of Solomon 6:10....bright as the sun
> Daniel 12:3....will shine like the brightness of the heavens
> 1 Chronicles 15:27....Now David was clothed in a robe of fine linen, as were
> all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and as were the singers, and
> Kenaniah, who was in charge of the singing of the choirs. David also wore a
> linen ephod.
> Ecclesiastes 9:8....Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head
> with oil.
If any one of the above verses was surrounded by other parallels, and all in
sequence and with echoes of plot role and thematic and character meanings as the
Markan story, then I guess that verse would also be a pretty strong contender to
the Homeric epic as a possible source.
> As MacDonald himself points out on Page 96 of his book, "[I]t is quite
> possible that the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai provided Mark with the
> setting upon a mountain, the presence of a cloud, a heavenly voice, and
> other details. After all, Mark's Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah, both of
> whom were related to Mount Sinai." It is much more than just "possible," in
> my opinion; it seems extremely likely that Mark was using the Old Testament
> in the transfiguration story.
On the same page it appears MacDonald agrees with you here: "Like the proverbial
bee of ancient rhetoric, Mark harvested nectar from several blossoms -- some
Jewish and some Greek -- and transformed them into gospel honey."
> Furthermore, does it not seem much more likely
> that Mark had one or more of the images in the ten verses above in mind when
> he spoke of Jesus' dazzling white clothes? Can Homer's "well-washed cloak"
> really compete with Daniel's "clothing whiter than snow," or indeed with many
> of the other images in the cited verses?
If the word for "dazzling" in Mark is used in the Odyssey to describe Odysseus'
appearance at an earlier transfiguration of his before the princess Nausicaa
(p.227, note 15), then Homer rather than Daniel gets a little extra push as a
contender for being Mark's source here.
Further, a "well-washed cloak" from a divinity would appear to me to have more
direct similarity with Mark's "such as no launderer on earth could whiten them"
than any of the verses listed above talking about snow and fire etc.
As for the original question, if Mark had in mind the Odyssean transfiguration
then it makes sense that he would omit reference to the face or body of Jesus.
Before the transfigurations Jesus was not recognized for who he really was for
reasons other than his physical appearance, while Odysseus was not recognized
because of a change in his physical appearance. The transfiguration of Odysseus
required a restoration (sometimes an enhancement) of his former appearance for
others to know who he really was; change of physical features was irrelevant for
recognizing who Jesus was.
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