Comparing: Classical / New Testament

Greco-Roman Literature and the New Testament

What has Troy to do with Jerusalem? How can the venerable Greek traditions of epic poetry, drama, and mythology help us understand early Christians and their literary products? ... although Jesus and his closest followers are all understood to be Jews, their home ground had long been politically and culturally separate from Judea, a fact reflected in its majority-Gentile population. This has profound implications for our understanding of Jesus’s message and the earliest stages of his movement. As the twenty-first century comes into its own, the growing field of Greco-Roman backgrounds to early Christianity owes, if not its existence, certainly its increasing prominence in large part to MacDonald.

In the tug-of-war between moral instruction and entertainment, thinkers like Plato, Plutarch, and Strabo attempt to discern which texts are worthy not only of imitation, but of reading at all (and why), and in the process invent critical exegesis. Pervo turns the attention of this argument to fictive/historiographical texts such as the Acts of the Apostles and 2 Maccabees to show that pleasure can act in the service of instruction, as a lure and a hook.