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Dennis R. MacDonald

Dennis R. MacDonald is Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Claremont School of Theology (California), whose published books include Does the New Testament Imitate Homer? and Acts of Andrew: Early Christian Apocrypha.

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Modern Library

Carrier-O’Connell Debate: Final Assessment by Independent Judges

On Paul's Theory of Resurrection: The Carrier-O'Connell Debate. Richard and Jake agreed to have four independent judges read and assess their debate upon its completion. Below those judges and their assessments will be presented, according to the The Rules We Followed, especially rules (7) and (8). Those judges present their assessments below. Total Assessment
Kiosk Video

Second Interview with Robyn Faith Walsh & Dennis R. MacDonald

Check out the second Freethinker Podcast interview between host Edouard Tahmizian and New Testament scholars Robyn Faith Walsh and Dennis R. MacDonald for about an hour as they review reactions to MacDonald's recent Synopses of Epic, Tragedy, and the Gospels from academics and Christian apologists, particularly on his account of mimesis (literary imitation mythologizing Jesus) and his alternative Q (the Logoi of Jesus), and then preview MacDonald's forthcoming Homer and the Quest for the Earliest Gospel on understanding the Gospels as mimetic projects that are contesting the canonical past of the Greeks, which in turn helps us understand how early Christians contested the canonical past of the Hebrew Bible (and brings us closer to understanding the world in which Jesus lived). The discussion then turns to why MacDonald dates the Q document back to the early 60s CE (such that no part of Q dates to the post-Temple period), the narrative differences that suggest to him that Papias predates Luke, how scholars reconstruct lost books from antiquity, where the attribution of names like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to the canonical Gospels came from (given that the early Q was simply anonymous sayings of Jesus), how promoting sacred texts as anonymous gives them more authority as revelations from God rather than simply the perspectives of particular people, how MacDonald applies social identity theory from sociology to generate a kind of social identity literary criticism to identify and stereotype the villain and the insider/protagonist in literature from antiquity, and much more. MacDonald ultimately explains why he doesn't feel comfortable attributing any sayings attributed to Jesus, in either the canonical Gospels or the earlier Q document, to the historical Jesus, though he does think that New Testament scholars can understand the alternative Jewish voice that the historical Jesus represented, which had an alternative understanding of Jewish laws than the predominant one at the time. The discussion ends on areas where MacDonald partially agrees, and partially disagrees, with Walsh. Tune in for a wide-ranging interview on a number of topics of great interest within biblical scholarship between top-notch experts in the field!

Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald on Mimesis & the Q Hypothesis

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this roughly 45-minute returning interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on mimesis (literary imitation mythologizing Jesus), the Q hypothesis (that a lost document dubbed "Q" was the common source for borrowed material found in both Matthew and Luke, but not found in the earlier Gospel of Mark), and the role of Christianity in America's culture wars. In MacDonald's experience, readers' reaction to his recently published three-part work on the Synoptic Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the three Gospels of John has been largely positive with respect to mimesis, but negative toward the the Q material largely because, as a lost document, it has to be reconstructed. The interlocutors discuss why this attitude is unjustified (and anti-intellectual), how taking mimesis all the way to Jesus himself is intellectually irresponsible, and how external evidence for the existence of Q renders such skepticism extreme (e.g., there are earlier references to a Q document than Luke and John, like the elder John's belief in a lost document of Matthew). MacDonald and Robyn Faith Walsh have argued that early Christians were trying to establish a social identity for the emerging Christian movement, not inventing a nonexistent Jesus. MacDonald argues that mimesis is part of early Christians' intellectual project, not a haphazard attempt by early Christians to simply borrow amenable stories from earlier literary sources (e.g., pseudo-Luke is trying to craft a Christian identity in the Roman Empire and in contemporaneous Judaism by using fiction to construct a founding mythology of the early Church, not craft a history). After illustrating the story of a woman anointing Jesus for his burial in the Gospel of Mark as a simple and representative example of mimesis, the interlocutors go on to address Robyn Faith Walsh's view that the empty tomb story is a pagan trope to symbolize a mortal man attaining divinity and how both atheists and Christian apologists misread Luke as providing a history rather exemplifying literary models. Check out this enlightening interview with a prolific expert on mimesis and hermetics!

Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald on Epic, Tragedy, and the Gospels

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour long interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on his magnum opus Synopses of Epic, Tragedy, and the Gospels, a groundbreaking hermetic commentary on the Synoptic Gospels and the narratives of the Acts of the Apostles. In this reference work all of the New Testament Gospels are translated side by side in adjacent columns for comparison with their (sometimes obscure) parallels in classical Greek poetry, especially the Homeric epics and Virgil's Aeneid. The interlocutors discuss how Pappias provides us with external evidence to the Gospels with a circa 110 CE text that predates the Gospels of Luke or John and reveals evidence of Pappias' knowledge of Johannine—but not Pauline—Christianity, and of Matthew and Mark. MacDonald goes on to explain why he hypothesizes from reverse priority that the lost document of Matthew referred to by Pappias was the Q source document before turning to what happened to the historical Jesus' body after his crucifixion, how the historical Jesus is hardly different from the historical Socrates, and two statements attributed to Jesus that are likely representative of the historical Jesus' views. Check out this intriguing interview with the world's foremost expert on hermetics—and check out his recent book while it's still on sale!

Interview with Robyn Faith Walsh & Dennis R. MacDonald on their Differences

Tune in with Edouard Tahmizian in this over one-hour interview with New Testament scholars Robyn Faith Walsh and Dennis R. MacDonald for a novel first-of-its-kind conversation on the literary imitation of ancient Greek poetry and philosophy in the canonical Gospels. Does Mark imitate Virgil (who in turn imitates Homer)? Or is there a stronger case for imitation of Virgil in Luke-Acts? How do Mark and Paul deploy ideas in similar ways? In what ways do Achilles—and especially Hector—find their parallels in the Gospels? These and other questions are addressed before the discussion turns to the bigger-picture view of literary networks and mimetic chains where authors imitate other imitations. Given the common background agreement between Walsh and MacDonald about the 'game' that the ancients were playing in their writings, where do their perspectives diverge on Q source material? One must separate the question of whether there ever existed a Q document from the question of whether such a document, assuming that it did exist, can ever be reconstructed into a meaningfully readable document today (especially since there are several plausible reconstructions of Q). Can Q reasonably be viewed as a collection of the sayings of John the Baptist? And what should we make of Jesus mythicism? Do Jesus mythicists selectively cherry-pick the historical evidence, or not? Does it even matter whether a historical Jesus existed since the Gospel Jesus is clearly not the historical Jesus anyway? Check out this fantastic interview with world-class philologians finally getting together to discuss the interpretation of literature while highlighting their areas of interest and respectful disagreement!

Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald on Mimesis and More

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 45-minute interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on his September 2022 3-volume reference work Synopses of Epic Tragedy in the Gospels on the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, and the narratives of the Acts of the Apostles. The interlocutors go on to discuss a central theme of that upcoming verse-by-verse commentary, mimesis (literary imitation), not only of Old Testament themes, but even more so of ancient Greek poetry and philosophy. Their discussion then turns to how the forced arguments of Jesus mythicists unscientifically retrofit the historical data to suit their pre-existing views in the same way as conspiracy theorists, and how the Jewish authorities' response to the empty tomb story supports the existence of a historical Jesus (regardless of the validity of the empty tomb story itself). They then turn to the plausibility of John Dominic Crossan's thesis that Mark is simply an extended parable, which MacDonald believes makes little sense since we need mimesis to understand how Mark rewrites the earlier Q document to be a modest biography infused by Mark with Greek mythology to render it more of an epic than a parable. Finally, MacDonald explains his view of a historical Jesus as a radical Jewish reformer who paid the price for trying to make Jewish law more humane. Check out this intriguing interview with the author of the most important book ever written on the Gospels!

Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald on the Gospels

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this twenty-minute follow-up interview with New Testament scholar Dennis R. MacDonald on his forthcoming 2-volume reference work Epic Tragedy and the Gospels (on the literary background to gospels that were never intended to be read as histories), the scholarship of Robyn Faith Walsh on mimesis (mythologizing Jesus), the misappropriation of his work by fellow atheists, the Q source and the synoptic problem, and much more. Tune in for this engaging interview with a long-established man of letters!