Early Christianity and Classical Culture: Comparative Studies in Honor of Abraham J. Malherbe

By Abraham Johannes Malherbe | Go to book overview

THE ΘEIA ΦYΣIΣ OF HIPPOCRATES
AND OF OTHER “DIVINE MEN”

Dieter Zeller


A Neglected Aspect in Recent Research1

In the early decades of the Twentieth century the figure of the

or “divine man” was a favorite category among many New Testament scholars for classifying depictions of Jesus and understanding the early development of christology. Arising out of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule (or “History of Religions School”) it was proposed that Jesus was portrayed according to an established category of “divine man” well known in the larger Graeco-Roman world. In recent decades of scholarship, however, this assumption has received several heavy blows and, as a result, declined in popularity.2 There are several reasons for this decline.

To begin with, the attributes and functions thought to be characteristic of the “divine man” figures from antiquity varied by epoch and cultural milieu to such a degree that the root form

ceased to be a phenomenologically useful category.3 Hellenistic Judaism, once regarded as a mediator between the pagan world and the New Testament, was said to ignore the concept because it was foreign to biblical thinking. Some scholars preferred to explain the gospel narratives

1 For revising my manuscript I am much indebted to John T. Fitzgerald and L. Michael White. The latter also supplied much of the Greek text for the primary source quotations and contributed some useful additional footnotes (nn. 16, 20, 39, 44, 45. 53. 54. 80, 85, and 91).

2 For a review of the most important literature see my article “Mensch, göttlicher,” Neues Bibellexikon 2 (1995) 764–5. The history of investigation is resumed by E. Koskenniemi, Apollonios von Tyana in der neukstamentlichen Exegese (WUNT 2.61; Tübingen: Mohr, 1994) 64–164 and by D. S. du Toit, Theios Anthropos (WUNT 2.91; Tübingen: Mohr, 1997) 2–39. See also A. Pilgaard, “The Hellenistic Theios Aner—A Model for Early Christian Christology?” The New Testament and Hellenistic Judaism, ed. P. Borgen and S. Giversen (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1995) 101–122.

3 G. P. Corrington, The “Divine Man” (AUS 7.17; New York, Bern, Frankfurt/M.: Lang, 1986) tried to save a homogenous phenotype, but could do so only with the help of a concept of

(“power”) shining in various colours.

-49-

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