Hellenistic Influence and the Resurrection

I have just had a new article published, this time in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism and you can read it here.  This is a surprising article for me in some ways.  My first major publishing project was Unmasking the Pagan Christ, where I argued against the Gospels being based on pagan myths.  I continue to hold to that.  But does that mean that Greek ideas have had no influence on biblical concepts?  Is it true that Jewish is good and Greek is bad?  In my article, I argue against the idea that the Greek idea of the afterlife was strictly spiritual and that the Jewish idea was strictly bodily resurrection.  I demonstrate that there are Greek parallels to the biblical idea of resurrection.  This does not mean that I believe that the biblical writers simply took over what was invented by the Greeks.  Rather I suggest that the biblical writers used contemporary language, including what the Greeks were saying, and used that to describe what they believed about the resurrection.

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7 thoughts on “Hellenistic Influence and the Resurrection”

  1. Well the Jesus stories came from some where since dead bodies don’t come alive again, Gods don’t have children. God’s don’t punish the innocent most victims of tragedies are innocent.

  2. Unless you can say that you have observed every death in history and that you are privy to the mind of God, you are giving assertion and not argumenent. Why do you care what other people believe? What is your agenda?

  3. I am a Christian apologist based in India. I came to your site through a general search and enjoyed the contents.

    “Rather I suggest that the biblical writers used contemporary language, including what the Greeks were saying, and used that to describe what they believed about the resurrection.”

    We need to recognize this for our interpretation to be accurate.

    Dr. Johnson C. Philip

  4. This of course is my intentioned. Much of my work has been to demonstrate that the Gospel is not just a pagan ripoff but is actual history. Having said that, Jesus was incarnate not just in a Jewish world but a Jewish world with significant Hellenistic influence. This just not make the Gospel any less true, just more complicated. Thanks again for your response.

  5. I must say I was very impressed with that article. It is exactly the kind of scholarship that interests me. You did a good job of conveying the complexity of the Graeco-Roman world. You showed the subtle connections that are missed by thinking of religions as being entirley isolated from eachother.

    I haven’t read as much about Judaism, and so I was glad to see you go into some detail about the Jewish beliefs about the afterlife. I knew Judaism had contact with Hellenism, but I’m not very familiar with the specifics beyond having read about Philo.

    I noticed you mentioned Set and Osiris. Murdock writes about some theories of Set. Based on several quotes from scholars, she proposes that Set was originally the Samaritan god Seth, and that Seth entered Egyptian religion when the Samaritans conquered Egypt. The scholars she refers to are: James Bonwick, Dr. Samuel Sharpe, Dr. Louis Herbert Gray and Rev. Dr. Sayce

    She also points out that Set originally wasn’t considered evil, but only later became the opponent of Osiris by playing a negative role in his death and resurrection story. Interestingly, Osiris and Set were considered brothers and were even combined as the dual god, Horus-Set.

    Murdock doesn’t write about this, but I see a potential connection with the Coptic Gospel of Thomas attributed to Didymos Judas Thomas. I was reading elsewhere that, in later tradition, Judas “the twin” was considered the twin of Jesus. This isn’t to say that Set was a direct borrowing superimposed upon Judas. But, in the way you demonstrate in your article, Set may have been an influence on certain traditions about understanding Judas’ role.

    The following quote from your article reminded me of something else that Murdock writes about.

    “For a long time, the Egyptian idea of resurrection would have held little attraction for the Hebrews as it originally was a privilege only for the Pharaoh, and later for the very wealthy who could afford the elaborate burial procedures. However, the Middle Kingdom brought great theological advancements…”

    Prior to the New Kingdom, love (mri) was bestowed upon a subordinate by a superior which also included by a god bestowing love to a follower, but this was strictly hierarchical except in certain situations such as a leader being beloved by his people. With the New Kingdom, love became a more common ideal where the follower could offer love to a god. There was an equality in that the person could, through love, join with their god. It was at this time that the epithet meri became extremely popular and was applied widely, in particular with Isis. This is where Murdock points out that there is good evidence for an etymological connection not only between meri and Christian Mary but also meri and Jewish Miriam. She references a couple of sources that hypothesize that Miriam may have been an Egyptian name (the Catholic Encyclopedia and an editor’s note in Faiths of Man by Major-General James G.R. Forlong). She also references Rev. Dr. William Robertson Smith as connecting Miriam with Meri, and references Rev. Henry Tomkins as connecting Mary and Meri. Furthermore, she references both Dr. James Karl Hoffmeier and Alan H. Gardiner as connecting both Mary and Miriam with Meri.

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