Sunday, July 22, 2007

Odyssey and Parables

I've finally knocked Homer's Odyssey on the head, after reading the Iliad last year. On reading it, it surprised me that the well known tales of the Cyclops, the Sirens, the Trojan Horse and Calypso are actually sideshows (often overheard as Odysseus relates them to others, rather than described in real-time) in the narrative. The big story is that Odysseus is slowly and painfully, but surely journeying home whilst at his home unjust suitors attempt to woo his wife and plot to murder his son, whilst daily consuming from his stores and flocks and abusing his servants. Of course, they are convinced that Odysseus is dead. When he finally arrives, his judgement is terrible and swift - none are spared.
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The theme of the master returning to the house is a key motif in several of the parables: the Talents (Matt 25), the minas (Lk 19), the Wicked Tenants (Lk 20), Watching Servants and Wise Steward (both Lk 12). Homer's Odyssey is the master-returning-for-judgment story. The interesting question is whether Jesus knew the Odyssey story? Was he consciously using the Homeric returning master motif to explain his own return? It seems probable that Jesus, working as a craftsman in Sepphoris would interact with the Roman/Greek cultural milieu and would be aware of the content of the story, even if he had not read it/was not able to read it.