Okay, I can truly say this interpretation is totally new to me. (Lack of a blogosphere back when this came out.)
I finally saw the Odyssey episode of Clash of the Gods (a short History Channel series about various important legends of Western civilization and their various mythical underpinnings — Michael Drout and a lot of other good academics were in it, and they did eps on Beowulf and Lord of the Rings and such). They included a brief segment on how some people argue that the Gospel of Mark brings out parallels (for the Greek readership, anyway) between Odysseus and Christ.
Here’s what I remember:
Odysseus was also a wanderer and knew carpentry and sailing. Odysseus’ name meant “man of pain” or “man of sorrow”, and was an example of warrior endurance and perseverance (as well as cleverness, of course) to the Greeks. When everybody else sinned by eating Helios’ sacred cattle, Odysseus was the one man who didn’t sin and was spared. Odysseus’ story climaxes when he comes home and reclaims his bride in the middle of a solar eclipse, so different-looking that his own people don’t know him. And of course, his journey included a trip down to Hades where he talked to the dead and gave them blood.
I’ve never seen this particular parallel drawn before, but I gotta say I find it very likeable and plausible! Apparently the (current) advocate is a guy named Dennis McDonald, and his book came out ten years back. It apparently also brings out other cases of “emulatio” and types/antitypes in pagan and Christian literature, which sounds like a lot of fun.
The amusing bit is that, while the (old) atheist sites don’t think that Homer refuted Virgil, they do think that Homer would thus refute the Gospels. (They don’t think about the fact that this MacDonald guy went to BOB JONES UNIVERSITY, not exactly the promised land of atheism.) I guess this means that any history book modeled after any ancient historian would have to be totally lies and plagiarism, and that Shakespeare couldn’t write because he made references to other writers. Heh! I guess these guys had forgotten this theory by now and gone back to plugging Mithra, until a few of them watched this show. (Search engine trends make this pretty clear. Heh.)
Others take it the opposite way — that Mark was attempting a hostile takeover of Homer. This seems equally silly, because a Christian Jew who hated all pagan literature wouldn’t have spent all his time making references to it!
This is more likely a case of taking the willingly-given spoils from the Egyptians and making adornments for the Tabernacle, so to speak. For the non-religious, it shows that the later Bible writers (like the writer of 2nd Maccabees) weren’t afraid to write Jewish and Christian sacred literature in the context of their culture, just as books like Esther and Exodus, Job and Proverbs, included other cultural and literary considerations besides just Jewish ones. All peoples were made by God and will eventually come to know and serve Him; so there’s no reason to leave them out, even in a strictly Jewish context. With the evangelistic imperative given to His followers by Jesus, there’s even more reason to include other cultures in.
So there’s one for my reader who’s a big fan of Sean Bean, when she watches him in the movie Troy. 🙂 And of course, it applies to the modern Odyssey film O Brother, Where Art Thou, though that Odysseus was pretty much all trickster and no Christ.