The Bacchae

BacchaeI just finished reading Euripides play The Bacchae.  This is a very important ancient writing as it is one of our best texts for understanding the Dionysus cult.  This is of importance to me as Dionysus is one of the most frequent gods presented as an inspiration for the Jesus story by proponents of the Jesus myth hypothesis.  The claim is that Dionysus was virgin born, had followers, was arrested and persecuted, all exactly like Jesus.  The problem is when you actually read the text.  Dionysus is not virgin born.  Zeus impregnates a human woman through sexual intercourse but she is killed by one of his thunderbolts while she is still pregnant.  Zeus takes the baby and sews him to his thigh until he is fully ready to be born.  There was nothing virgin about it!  Dionysus is arrested as his female followers who are roaming the countryside in wild worship and partying are causing concern for the men.  However, Dionysus is not killed.  He escapes and destroys the palace.  He then takes the leader, dresses him up as a woman, promising him to show him the worship of his followers, reveals that he is a male in front of the wild crowd, and encourages them, beginning with the man’s mother, to tear the leader apart and kill him.  While an interesting story, one can not help but see how far this is from the Gospel story.  For those who embrace the Jesus myth theory, I strongly encourage you to read this story itself rather than summaries of the story presented in biblical language.

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2 thoughts on “The Bacchae

  1. What of the prison escape and parallels with Acts 5:17-20?

    And the Bacchae whom you shut up, whom you carried off and bound in the chains of the public prison, are set loose and gone, and are gamboling in the meadows, invoking Bromius as their god. Of their own accord, the chains were loosed from their feet and keys opened the doors without human hand. (αὐτόματα δ’ αὐταῖς δεσμὰ διελύθη ποδῶν κλῇδές τ’ ἀνῆκαν θύρετρ’ ἄνευ θνητῆς χερός.) This man [Dionysus] has come to Thebes full of many wonders. You must take care of the rest.

    Some question Luke’s telling of the imprisonment because of this.

    RTB

  2. There are only so many ways to describe a miraculous escape from prison so it is not strange that there would be some similarities. Is it not also possible that Luke was aware of Peter’s miraculous escape and used familiar phrases from the Bacchae to make the connection with his readers?

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