Sunday, September 20, 2009

On Beyond Zebra (epics): Acts of Andrew

Pardon my blasphemy, but many of the more exciting stories were removed from the New Testament. The (now apocryphal) Acts of Andrew is a case in point. The travels of the apostle Andrew, his miracles and eventual martyrdom, make for fascinating reading.

I first became interested in the Acts of Andrew through Dennis MacDonald's book 'Christianizing Homer: The Odyssey , Plato, and the Acts of Andrew'. I was intrigued but not convinced by MacDonald's argument that the Acts of Andrew was a Christian retelling of Homer. And yet MacDonald's point-by-point comparison of the Odyssey and the Acts of Andrew enhanced my enjoyment of this (truly odd) story. In it Andrew survives among fierce animals, calms storms, heals the blind, raises the dead, and defeats armies. He also causes an illegitimate embryo to die and rescues a boy from his incestuous mother.

In his book 'The Acts of Andrew in the Country of the Cannibals,' Robert Boenig traces the development of the story by presenting translations from the Greek, Latin, and Old English. A highlight is the Old English version, in which a Beowulf-ish Andrew (with the kind assistance of Jesus, of course) rescues Matthias from the country of cannibal anthropophagi (literally man-eaters). Absurd, perhaps even heretical, but fascinating stuff.

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