Lucian, The Passing of Peregrinus -- Its Relevance for New Testament Studies

Description: Lucian was born c. 120 in Syria, probably in Samosata, a city on the Euphrates, now the village of Samsat in Turkey. He was an itinerant speaker in Greece, Gaul, Rome, and Egypt. His native tongue was probably Aramaic, but he wrote in Attic-style Greek. Most of his books were humorous dialogues that satirized philosophers. Though he was not a philosopher (Ferguson, 1993, p. 331), his style was cynical (OCD).

Peri t_s Peregrinou Teleut_s was probably written shortly after Peregrinus' death at the Olympiad of A.D. 165 (Clay, ANRW II 36.5: 3431). After a brief introduction, Lucian quotes a speech by Theagenes in favor of Peregrinus (also named Proteus), then a much longer speech by another man (a construct of Lucian himself) reporting scandals of Proteus' life: adultery, homopedophilia, patricide, fraud, libel, and now his plan to immolate himself as a final publicity stunt (Loeb 9-35). Lucian concludes with his story of Proteus' suicide and the public veneration of this man.

Relevance to NT Studies: Lucian reports that Proteus was a Christian for a while, receiving honor, money and help until he was expelled (Loeb 15-19). He testifies to the Christians' belief in immortality, mutual charity, and Christ as a lawgiver, and he shows us the religious climate of the 2nd century. This is more relevant to church history than to NT studies. More relevant to NT studies are some parallels:

1) The boasting of Theagenes about Proteus' life (p. 7), in contrast to Paul's boasting "as a fool" of his sufferings (2 Cor. 11). Paul boasted that he had been willing to give up honors because he had found something better in Christ (Gal. 2).

2) Proteus was called a son of Zeus (p. 33), just as Jesus was called the Son of God. For Proteus, it was part of the "manifestations of the old Greek conception of the theios an_r" — Clay, 3434); for Christians, it was a claim that Jesus was Son in a unique way.

3) Lucian describes the beginning of a new cult: "disciples of his will make an oracular shrine...a nocturnal mystery will be got up in his honor" (p. 33). The ancient world was no stranger to new religions being formed. This is the context that Paul preached in, and preached against.

4) People "on their way to the cross" have a larger audience than Proteus had (p. 39). Lucian probably did not mean this as an allusion to Christianity, but as a truism. Proteus liked his crowd, but a crowd is no evidence of personal worth!

5) Lucian made up stories of an earthquake at Proteus' death, and a talking vulture — and people were willing to believe these fictions (p. 45). The earthquake has parallels to Matt. 28:2, but its significance is debatable. Lucian, a self-confessed liar, may have made up the people's credulity just as easily as he made up the earthquake. It may have even been a parody of Christian belief.

6) People claimed to have seen Proteus in white raiment (p. 45) — a parallel to the angels in white raiment (Matt. 18:3). The risen Jesus is said to have white hair (Rev. 1:14), but I found nothing about the color of his clothes.

7) Proteus dispatched messengers to announce his death (p. 47). These are reverse parallels to the apostles sent to testify of Jesus' resurrection.

8) Lucian could compose speeches in the mouth of another person; this literary device may be relevant to the speeches in Acts.