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January 20, 2023

Added the sixty-seventh Freethinker Podcast YouTube seventh Interview with Dennis R. MacDonald about Mimesis, the Q-Source Hypothesis, and More (2023) to the Freethinker Podcast page under Resources on the Secular Web.

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!

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