Euripides “Bacchae” and The New Testament - MUST READ

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    Jul 18, 2015 3:40 PM GMT
    Bart Ehrman Blog Member (not me)

    It is interesting to ponder the similarities between Euripides “Bacchae” and The New Testament.

    The remainder of this post has been deleted because the details are being explored below in later posts.
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    Jul 18, 2015 3:54 PM GMT
    I asked Dr. Bart Ehrman to look at this original post as it relates to his "rejection" and the Society of Biblical Literature’s alleged rejection of the value of mythology in Christianity.

    The mythicists did not overlook this. For the longest time I have heard, “Jesus is Dionysis.”
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    Jul 18, 2015 7:06 PM GMT
    The Bacchae (/ˈbækiː/; Greek: Βάκχαι, Bakchai; also known as The Bacchantes /ˈbækənts, bəˈkænts, -ˈkɑːnts/) is an ancient Greek tragedy, written by the Athenian playwright Euripides during his final years in Macedonia, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis and Alcmaeon in Corinth, and which Euripides' son or nephew probably directed.[1] It won first prize in the City Dionysia festival competition.

    The Bacchae is concerned with two opposite sides of man’s natures: There is the rational and civilized side, which is represented by the character of Pentheus, the king of Thebes, and then there is the instinctive side, which is represented by Dionysus. This side is sensual without analysis, it feels a connection between man and beast, and it is a potential source of divinity and spiritual power.[2] In Euripides’ plays the gods represent various human qualities, allowing the audience to grapple with considerations of the human condition. The Bacchae seems to be saying that it is perilous to deny or ignore the human desire for Dionysian experience; those who are open to the experience will find spiritual power, and those who suppress or repress the desire in themselves or others will transform it into a destructive force.[3]

    The tragedy is based on the Greek myth of King Pentheus of Thebes and his mother Agave, and their punishment by the god Dionysus (who is Pentheus' cousin). The god Dionysus appears at the beginning of the play and proclaims that he has arrived in Thebes to avenge the slander, which has been repeated by his aunts, that he is not the son of Zeus. In response, he intends to introduce Dionysian rites into the city, and he intends to demonstrate to the king, Pentheus, and to Thebes that he was indeed born a god.[4] However, as the play proceeds Dionysus encounters what he considers newly occurring reasons to be angry, and in his capriciousness, the audience watches his revenge grow out of proportion. By the end of the play, there is the horrible and gruesome death of the king and the wrecking of the city of Thebes by the destruction of its ruling party and by the exiling of its entire population. Dionysus will further cause the plundering of a number of other cities.[5][6]

    In The Bacchae there are two completely different versions of Dionysus. First there is the god as he is described by the chorus, which is the god of wine and uninhibited joy and instinct. However, Dionysus as appears as a character on the stage, has come for revenge, and is never like this. He is instead deliberate, plotting, angry and vengeful.[7]

    The Bacchae is considered to be not only Euripides' greatest tragedy, but one of the greatest ever written, modern or ancient.[8] The Bacchae is distinctive for the fact that the chorus is integrated into the plot, and the god is not a distant presence, but is a character in the play, he is in fact the protagonist.[9]
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    Jul 18, 2015 7:06 PM GMT
    So, as Dionysus gets his revenge, the God of Israel gets his revenge.

    Jesus is rejected by Jerusalem and for this God allows the Temple to be destroyed.
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    Jul 18, 2015 7:25 PM GMT
    Oh, too funny (serious, not haha).

    When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, people asked were they drunk as in have they been partaking in the drink of Bacchus (wine).
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    Jul 18, 2015 7:33 PM GMT
    The original post was more interested in the Noble Lie than in Jesus, a Jewish retelling of Dionysus.
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    Jul 18, 2015 7:45 PM GMT
    No, Steefen, you cannot just read one book by Dennis MacDonald (Homeric Epics and The Gospel of Mark).

    This is from another book:

    In Luke and Vergil MacDonald proposes that the author of Luke-Acts followed Mark’s lead in imitating Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, but greatly expanded his project, especially in the Acts, but adding imitations not only of the epics but also of Euripides’ Bacchae and Plato’s Socratic dialogues. The potential imitations include spectacular miracles, official resistance, epiphanies, prison breaks, and more. The book applies mimesis criticism and uses side-by-side comparisons to show how early Christian authors portrayed the origins of Christianity as more compelling than the Augustan Golden Age.
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    Jul 20, 2015 1:55 AM GMT

    Inspired by some content in a post by another, I’ll think on just selected content. Think on the similarities between Euripides' “Bacchae” and The New Testament.


    According to the gospels, Jesus is an innocent and just man who, at the instigation of the Jewish high priests, is hauled before the Roman Governor Pilate and condemned to die on spurious charges. Exactly the same mythological motif is found five centuries earlier in Euripides’ play The Bacchae, about Dionysus.

    SparkNotes on The Bacchae, Prologue and Parodos
    Dionysus, son of Zeus, has a mortal mother, Semele.

    Jesus, son of God, has a mortal mother, Mary.

    Like the Jewish high priests who are appalled at Jesus’ blasphemous claim to be the Son of God, King Pentheus rants in anger at stories of Dionysus’ divine parentage

    Like Jesus in Jerusalem, Dionysus is a quiet stranger with long hair and a beard who brings a new religion.

    The Jewish high priests don’t believe in Jesus and allege that ‘His teachings are causing disaffections amongst the people.’ They plot to bring about his death.

    King Pentheus does not believe in Dionysus. He berates him for bringing ‘this new disease to the land’ and sends out his men to capture the innocent godman.

    Like Jesus, Dionysus passively allows himself to be caught and imprisoned.

    The guard relates the wondrous things he had witnessed Dionysus perform and warns King Pentheus: ‘Master, this man has come here with a load of miracles.’ The biblical Jesus performed miracles.

    The king interrogates Dionysus who, like Jesus before Pilate, will not bow to his authority.

    When Pilate reminds Jesus that he has the power to crucify him, Jesus replies, ‘You would have no authority at all over me, had it not been granted you from above.’ Likewise Dionysus answers the threats of Pentheus with: ‘Nothing can touch me that is not ordained.’

    Jesus said of his persecutors, ‘They know not what they are doing.’ Dionysus tells Pentheus, ‘You know not what you are doing, nor what you are saying, nor who you are.’

    Before his death, Jesus celebrates a symbolic ‘Last supper’ of bread and wine.

    In The Bacchae, Euripides calls bread and wine the ‘two powers which are supreme in human affairs,’ the one substantial and preserving the body, the other liquid and intoxicating the mind. "To drink wine in the rites of Dionysus is to commune with the god and take his power and physical presence into one’s body." - Joseph Campbell

    In the Christian rites of the Eucharist Jesus is said to symbolically become the wine drunk by the participant in the ritual. Likewise, Euripides tells us that Dionysus becomes the wine and is himself ‘poured out’ as an offering.

    King Pentheus tries to insult Dionysus by describing him as ‘the god who frees his worshipers from every law [cf. St. Paul],’ but Dionysus replies, ‘Your insult to Dionysus is a compliment.’

    A Letter of St. Peter to St. Philip explains that
    although from the time of the incarnation Jesus suffered, yet
    he suffered as one who was ‘a stranger to this suffering.’

    This teaches that the incarnate Higher Self (represented by Jesus) seems to suffer when the eidolon suffers, but in reality is always the untouched witness.

    In The Acts of John, Jesus explains: ‘You heard that I suffered, but I suffered not.
    An unsuffering one was I, yet suffered.
    One pierced was I, yet I was not abused.
    One hanged was I, yet not hanged.
    Blood flowed from me, yet did not flow.’

    Five hundred years previously Euripides portrayed King Pentheus as binding Dionysus,
    while actually he was not.
    As Dionysus says: ‘He thought he was binding me;
    But he neither held nor touched me,
    save in his deluded mind.

    The whole scene of the Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles comes, obviously, from the descent of the Mosaic spirit upon the seventy elders in Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25,

    with an assist from Euripides’ The Bacchae, where we read “Flames flickered in their curls and did not burn them” ( 757-758 ), just as tongues of fire blazed harmlessly above the heads of the apostles (Acts 2:3).

    When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, people asked were they drunk as in have they been partaking in the drink of Bacchus (wine). Ecstatic speech caused some bystanders to question the sobriety of the disciples, but Peter defends them (“These are not drunk as you suppose” Acts 2:15a), as does Pentheus’ messenger: “Not, as you think, drunk with wine” (686-687).
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    Jul 20, 2015 2:04 AM GMT
    SparkNotes / The Bacchae / Euripides

    Sparknotes for The Bacchae are only available online. The Barnes & Noble store that informed me of this also did not have a copy of the play. I'll have to pick it up from a college library when I get a chance.
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    Jul 21, 2015 3:40 AM GMT
    I've begun modifying my post of July 19, 2015, 8:55p
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    Jul 21, 2015 3:52 AM GMT

    Paul’s Conversion (9:1-21)

    As the great Tübingen critics already saw, the story of Paul’s visionary encounter with the risen Jesus not only has no real basis in the Pauline epistles but has been derived by Luke more or less directly from 2 Maccabees third chapter's story of Heliodorus.

    In it one Benjaminite named Simon (3:4) tells Apollonius of Tarsus, governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia (3:5), that the Jerusalem Temple houses unimaginable wealth that the Seleucid king might want to appropriate for himself. Once the king learns of this, he sends his agent Heliodorus to confiscate the loot. The prospect of such a violation of the Temple causes universal wailing and praying among the Jews. But Heliodorus is miraculously turned back when a shining warrior angel appears on horseback.

    The stallion’s hooves knock Heliodorus to the ground, where two more angels lash him with whips (25-26).

    He is blinded (enveloped with darkness) and is unable to help himself, carried to safety on a stretcher.

    Pious Jews pray for his recovery, lest the people be held responsible for his condition. The angels reappear to Heliodorus, in answer to these prayers, and they announce God’s grace to him: Heliodorus will live and must henceforth proclaim the majesty of the true God.

    Heliodorus offers sacrifice to his Saviour (3:35) and departs again for Syria, where he reports all this to the king.

    In Acts the plunder of the Temple has become the persecution of the church by Saul (also called Paulus, an abbreviated form of Apollonius), a Benjaminite from Tarsus.

    Heliodorus’ appointed journey to Jerusalem from Syria has become Saul’s journey from Jerusalem to Syria. Saul is stopped in his tracks by a heavenly visitant, goes blind and must be taken into the city, where the prayers of his former enemies avail to raise him up.

    Just as Heliodorus offers sacrifice, Saul undergoes baptism. Then he is told henceforth to proclaim the risen Christ, which he does.

    = = =

    Dionysus determines revenge against the proud and foolish king by magically compelling Pentheus to undergo conversion to faith in him (“Though hostile formerly, he now declares a truce and goes with us. You see what you could not when you were blind,” 922-924) and sending Pentheus, in woman’s guise, to spy upon the Maenads, his female revelers. He does so, is discovered, and is torn limb from limb by the women, led by his own mother. As the hapless Pentheus leaves, unwittingly, to meet his doom, Dionysus comments, “Punish this man. But first distract his wits; bewilder him with madness… After those threats with which he was so fierce, I want him made the laughingstock of Thebes” (850-851, 854-855). “He shall come to know Dionysus, son of Zeus, consummate god, most terrible, and yet most gentle, to mankind” (859-861). Pentheus must be made an example,

    as must poor Saul, despite himself. His conversion is a punishment.

    Next, instead of Dionysus being Jesus, Dionysus is St. Paul. The Gospel of Luke has added details from Euripides when, in Acts, there is an account of Paul in Philippi.

    Acts 16: 25-26
    About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened,
    there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose.

    Dionysus has appeared in Thebes as an apparently mortal missionary for his own sect. He runs afoul of his cousin, King Pentheus who wants the licentious cult (as he views it) to be driven out of the country. He arrests and threatens Dionysus, only to find him freed from prison by an earthquake [which Dionysus or his father Zeus can create].

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    Jul 21, 2015 3:54 AM GMT
    The First Jewish-Roman War and its outcome did not happen because of a questionable crucifixion of a questionable Jesus, about the time, years 27-33; so, the comparison below is removed from the collection of other comparisons.

    As Jesus is led away to crucifixion, he warns the crowd not to weep for him, but for themselves and their children, who will suffer for the crime of his execution (cf. Luke 23 v 28-30)

    As he is led away, Dionysus, likewise, threatens divine vengeance.

    Here are the verses about Jesus:

    A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him.
    Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children,
    for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, 'Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.'
    At that time people will say to the mountains, 'Fall upon us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'
    Luke 23: 27-29

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    Jul 22, 2015 10:48 AM GMT
    With about 45 min.s of editing, 15 points are shown above about Euripides' "The Bacchae" having an influence on the gospels and The Acts of the Apostles.
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    Jul 22, 2015 10:52 AM GMT
    The author of Luke-Acts read Josephus, Homer, and Euripides:

    Antiquities of the Jews - Josephus
    Wars of the Jews - Josephus
    The Odyssey - Homer
    The Bacchae - Euripides
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    Jul 25, 2015 1:40 PM GMT
    Dionysus speaks against King Pentheus warring with divinity.

    Jesus makes practically the same claim, warring with divinity, in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. Second, in the Talmud, there were rabbis who refused to acknowledge signs of God (a way of warring with God).