The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark

JFAlward at JFAlward at
Tue Jan 23 15:45:29 EST 2001

In a message dated 1/22/01 6:05:42 AM Pacific Standard Time, 
rwatts at writes:

<< Dear Joseph,
 I missed Prof. McDonald¹s presentation at SBLI.  But I do have a question,
 and would love to know if anyone asked it and what answer they received.
 When his volume first came out, I ran a quick check of my church fathers, I
 found over 200 explicit references to Homer; as McDonnell says, these people
 knew him well.  I also found over 400 references to Mark, whom apparently
 they knew even better.  But not once was there any reference suggesting or
 noting any parallels between Mark and Homer.  It seems to me that this
 leaves two options: either Mark did a very poor job of his parallels, or he
 never intended his readers to make such a connection and they, obligingly,
 didn't.  Any responses?
This is an excellent question.  Let me give you what I think MacDonald's 
response would be.  I'm keeping my opinion to myself until I'm sure what it 

In his last chapter, MacDonald devotes almost five pages to explain why he's 
the first person "in two millenia....who has suggested the parallels..."

MacDonald (page 170) notes that "Mark hid his dependence by avoiding Homeric 
vocabulary, transforming characterizations, motifs, and episodes, placing the 
episodes out of sequence, and employing multiple literary models, especially 
from Jewish scriptures.  On the other hand, he left scores of flags signaling 
the reader to compare these stories with their models."

He continues, "By the first half of the second centry, the apostolic names 
Matthew and John attached themselves to their respective gospels and thus 
institutionalized the view that they were composed by eyewitnesse.  Mark, so 
it was thought, recorded the memoirs of the apostle Peter."

And this, "To this way of thinking, the very suspiciion that an evangelist 
imitated pagan poetry would be theological lese-majeste."

Much is left out.  Since I think it would violate copyright laws to reproduce 
more than I have, and since I don't have the time to do a good job of 
summarizing MacDonald's defense against (justified) attacks such as Rikk's, 
I'll leave it to interested members to read the book.

I hope this helps.

By the way, recent criticisms by a gmark member and Richard Carrier have led 
me to modify by article "Loaves and Fishes" at`jfalward/MultliplyingLoaves.htm

In that article I refute MacDonald's claim of a correspondence between Mark's 
fishes and loaves stories to Homer's twin feasts.

Joe Alward

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