Paul the “god” in Acts 28: A comparison with Philoctetes

Journal article

Litwa, David 2017. Paul the “god” in Acts 28: A comparison with Philoctetes. Journal of Biblical Literature. 136 (3), pp. 707 - 726.
AuthorsLitwa, David

This essay treats an instance of literary aemulatio. Paul in Acts 28, like the famous hero Philoctetes, is bitten by a poisonous snake on a secluded island. The responses of these two figures to the bite, however, are fundamentally different. Philoctetes suffers extreme agony after his snakebite; Paul does not register any pain at all. Philoctetes issues horrible cries illustrating the depths of his suffering; Paul does not let out a whimper. Philoctetes begs to be burned with fire; Paul casually shakes off his viper into a fire. Philoctetes must be healed by doctors; Paul himself, after being bitten, becomes a healer. In this depiction, Paul tran-scends the values undergirding Greco-Roman conceptions of the manly hero. Paul is portrayed as a new kind of hero, one who is invulnerable and divine.

JournalJournal of Biblical Literature
Journal citation136 (3), pp. 707 - 726
PublisherSociety of Biblical Literature
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Page range707 - 726
Research GroupInstitute for Religion and Critical Inquiry
EditorsA. Reinhartz
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