Dionysus as Jesus: The incongruity of a love feast in Achilles Tatius's Leucippe and Clitophon 2.2

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Abstract

A relationship between Achilles Tatius and Christianity has been imagined from at least as early as the tenth century when the Suda claimed that he had converted to Christianity and been ordained as a bishop. Modern scholarship has found this highly improbable; nevertheless, attempts to explore connections between his late second-century c.e. novel, Leucippe and Clitophon, and early Christianity continue. In recent decades, within a context of renewed interest in the ancient novel, scholars of early Christianity have found a wealth of material in the novels to illuminate the generic development and meaning of Christian narratives in the New Testament and beyond. Less attention, however, has been given to the ways in which the novels respond to and incorporate themes from Christianity. Achilles Tatius's etiological myth of wine and its associated harvest festival in Leuc. Clit. 2.2 represent a particularly striking point of contact between Christianity and the Greek novel. In the first section below, I systematically review the narrative and ritual parallels between Leuc. Clit. 2.2 and the Christian Eucharist and conclude that they are too striking to be accidental or to have gone unnoticed by an ancient reader with knowledge of Christianity. Although these similarities have been pointed out, their meaning and consequences have received comparatively little attention from scholars either of the novel or of early Christianity. Thus, in the subsequent sections of this study I contextualize these parallels within second-century Christian and non-Christian literary and religious culture. My contention is that an exploration of the relationship between Leuc. Clit. 2.2 and the Christian Eucharist will provide valuable insight both into the larger project of Achilles Tatius and into the relationship between early Christianity and its contemporary context, particularly the Second Sophistic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-240
Number of pages19
JournalHarvard Theological Review
Volume107
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies

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