Is Jesus Athene or Odysseus? Investigating the unrecognisability and metamorphosis of Jesus in his post-resurrection appearances
This thesis is an investigation of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, via a comparison with other ancient stories where characters appear in an unrecognised form to their followers. In both canonical and apocryphal stories, which relate Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, Jesus appears in an unrecognisable form to other characters, including people who knew him well just before his death. The motif of a character appearing in an unrecognisable form to people he or she knows well is not unique to stories about Jesus; it is one which exists in folk literature, as well as Greco-Roman and Jewish literature from a range of genres. In many cases the unrecognisability is caused by metamorphosis. I will investigate a range of different stories in which characters appear in an unrecognisable, or metamorphic, form in order to define patterns and themes. Through the analysis of these stories - the role the unrecognisable character plays in the story, the function of the type of stories in which characters who take those roles and the way in which knowledge is gained or transferred between characters - different categories are identified, and tabulated for comparison. Two distinct story types are identified: those in which a god appears in disguise to mortals, and those in which a human hero appears in disguise to his or her family or followers, often after having been thought to be dead. Another set of stories where a character appears in a metamorphic form, and yet is still recognised, will also be examined. By comparing the stories about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to these story types, it will be seen that they also fit into these categories. In the canonical Gospels, Jesus is often presented as a returning disguised hero in his post-resurrection appearance. In the apocryphal Gospels and Acts, however, Jesus is presented as either a disguised god helping the hero of the story, or else as a metamorphic or polymorphic being. Jesus is presented in a number of different ways, but each representation corresponds to characters in stories following the literary conventions which existed when accounts of Jesus were being composed, and I will argue that the authors would have been influenced by these conventions, not via directly quoting or copying ancient texts, but rather by being influenced by literary themes which were prevalent in the cultural environment.
Advisor: Trebilco, Paul; Allan, Arlene
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Theology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Jesus; Metamorphosis; polymorphy; disguise
Research Type: Thesis