Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Paul's Odyssey

I'm taking some time off from the theology books (you can't possible begrudge me that)! I'm reading Homer's Odyssey - I read the Iliad last summer and, what do you know, it's actually good! I think I've been privileged to miss out on a classical education - you don't grow to hate these books while you're at school. Anyway, early in the book, in a speech to Odysseus' son Telemachus, the god Athene says this:
You are no longer a child, you must put childish thoughts away
A similar thought to Paul in 1 Cor 13: 11:
I used to speak as a child, think as a child...I did away with childish things
Was Paul paraphrasing a pagan god? Christopher Stanley, in his paper 'Paul and Homer: Greco-Roman Citation Practice in the First Century CE' (published in Novum Testamentum, Vol. 32, Fasc. 1. (Jan., 1990), pp. 48-78 and available to read on JSTOR), sees that by the time of Paul the Homeric texts had been standardised to a large degree and that Paul may well have received education in these texts.
As an aside, this paper makes an interesting read, as it compares Paul citation practices with contemporary Greco-Roman authors. It concludes that Paul was 'freer' with the citations from Hebrew texts than his contemporaries were with citations from Homeric texts. The papers cites a study by Koch which identifies 52 out of a total of 93 citations by Paul, where he alters the cited text significantly. If multiple alterations to citations are included, Koch identifies 125 instances where significant alterations to the text may be attributed to Paul's editorial activity. That was an aside!
In Acts 17, Paul quotes the poet Aratus to the Athenians at the Areopagus: 'we are his offspring', referring to Zeus, from Aratus' Phaenomena. Paul was obviously familiar with his work. Aratus also produced an edition of Homers Odyssey. Interesting, eh?