Three maverick classicists explore the meaning & mysteries of the gospels for readers today

What if the four Gospels had just been unearthed and we were reading them today for the first time? Impossible to imagine, perhaps—but an intrepid trio of classicists now ventures forth to try, blogging our perceptions and perplexities as we go. Come join the expedition!

We’re no biblical scholars. Trained in the likes of Plato, Sappho and Thucydides, we’re far from our home turf, trespassing where angels fear to tread. But by approaching these strange documents as if we’ve just discovered them, trying to figure out what’s going on, we hope to raise some basic questions afresh, and to risk some answers that the experts wouldn’t dare.

Everyone’s all too familiar with the famous bits and pieces—the quotable quotes, the miracles, the parables, the nativity, the crucifixion. But we set out to read the texts straight through as crafted narratives whose peculiar form and style might help us grasp their intended effect on first-time readers.

We grapple with the original Greek texts, but our focus is always on the moral and spiritual dimensions that anyone can relate to, no knowledge of Greek required. We invite you to read along with us in the language of your choice and contribute comments. We started with what tradition sees as the earliest and simplest gospel, Mark, and have now completed our voyage through the most theologically ambitious of them all, the Gospel of John.

Though raised on Christianity, we Renegades all grew up to become outsiders in our various ways. Yet each of us has personal reasons for revisiting the Evangelists at this stage of our lives, and we’re exploring those feelings and motivations as well.

Our wider goal as classicists is to model a personalized response to ancient texts in general, one that seems all too rare these days—frank, open-minded, and free to range from philological to fanciful, from impassioned to irreverent.

THE GOSPEL RENEGADES ARE:

W. ROBERT CONNOR
Bob twice flunked Retirement 101, first in 1989 when he left his chair in Classics at Princeton University, and again a dozen years later when he completed his service as president and director of the National Humanities Center.  He then became president of the New York based Teagle Foundation. Visit Bob’s website and blog at www.wrobertconnor.com.

bill berg photo crop 1WILLIAM BERG
Bill took his Princeton Ph.D. in Classics and went on to become a milkman, used furniture salesman, urban planner, and sometime student and teacher in various planetary outposts.  Now retired (he hopes), he moderates the ancient Greek and Latin forums at www.translatum.gr, and has just finished a vernacular translation of the New Testament.  Visit his bio/biblio at https://independent.academia.edu/BergWilliam.

rick pacific crop 3RICHARD McKIM
Rick, too, earned a Classics Ph.D. at Princeton. He taught at the University of Texas at Austin, then rode off into the wilderness of what academics call the “real world” to become a songwriter, rock musician, public speaker and private teacher. His songs, including selections from his Dante-inspired musical Down at the Inferno, are at www.rickmckimmusic.com.

Site launched: May 4, 2013
Last updated:  February 4, 2015

2 thoughts on “Three maverick classicists explore the meaning & mysteries of the gospels for readers today”

  1. Louis A. Ruprecht Jr. said:

    I found the beginning of Bob Connor’s essay effective and very much in line with my own view of Mark’s gospel. The Greek is simple but profound and structured with real poignancy and attention-grabbing pathos. Years ago, I wrote my dissertation on the relation of Greek tragedy to the Synoptic gospels, focusing especially on Mark. The book that came out of that was called Tragic Posture and Tragic Vision: Against the Modern Failure of Nerve. More recently, I took up the conundrum posed by John. My editor chose a more polemical title than I would have (This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity), but my essential point was that John mocks the Gethsemane prayer, whereas this prayer lies at the tragic heart of Mark’s mysterious gospel. As Bob notes most elegantly, the blind have to see who Jesus is… and that involves inescapable suffering. Kudos!

  2. Can I just say what a relief to find someone that genuinely understands what they are talking about on the internet. You actually know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people ought to read this and understand this side of your story. It’s surprising you aren’t more popular given that you surely possess the gift.

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