31 December 2017

Ovidius in Luca ludit ... for classicists only

I can't let the last hours of the annus Ovidianus slip away without a few last lingering sips from this two-thousand-year-old vintage which never fails to exhilarate however often one raises the glass.

I want to suggest that the writer of the Corpus Lucanum in the New Testament was at least familiar with the Metamorphoses. Yes; you're right; I'm going mention the pericope at Acts 14: 8-18. Surely, if one met this in profane literature, one would cheerfully analyse it as a witty, even frivolous, inversion of the topos of the Unrecognised Gods as at Metamorphoses VIII: 611-724. An inversion and a frivolity almost worthy of Naso himself.

Indeed so. But I want to pitch the hypothesis more broadly.

Perhaps the theme most central to the Metamorphoses is the stylistic metamorphoses within the work itself*, as it swings gaily from genre to genre pastiching wildly as it goes ... Homer and Ennius and Accius and Vergil and Theocritus and the 'neoterics' and the elegists and Euripides and Lucretius and Callimachus ...

Surely, the writer who composed the first two chapters of the Ad Theophilum I in such a convincing Septuagintal pastiche could, if he had wished, have claimed Naso magister erat.

But S Luke has pressed his lusus into the service of God, rather than drawing his gods into the service of lusus.

*Surely we must, with Tarrant's OCT, emend the last word  of  I:2.


Ashley Ritchie said...

Great Father! I love your classical posts and wish there were more of them! I am desperately trying to finish the Metamorphoses before the year is out! A blessed and happy New Year to you Father.

John Nolan said...

Father, had I had you as a classics master when at school (1962-1969) I would probably have been inspired to take Latin, at least, to A-Level. As it was, I paired my favourite subject, history, with French and German.

In the event, Latin, at least at O-Level, was a requirement for matriculation in modern history at Durham, and I dutifully ploughed through Otto of Freising, Odo of Deuil, Peter the Venerable, John of W├╝rzburg, and others as part of a first-year course on Christendom and Islam in the mid-12th century.

I did not neglect Latin in later years but saw it in an ecclesiastical context (particularly in reading the Vulgate).

I have started reading Ovid's Metamorphoses, admittedly with the help of a crib. I hope it's not too late.

Banshee said...

That's an interesting point, because people often claim that Luke couldn't possibly have made deliberate points about stuff like Mary visiting Elizabeth being written so that it refers back to the Ark. Because Luke was a Gentile and ignorant!

But he was a Gentile who hung around with Paul, who was a heckuva rabbinical student. And if he was also very interested in making stylistic points and references to pagan authors, he would have been very comfy with the idea of making Biblical references.