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The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. --C. S. Lewis In From Achilles to Christ, Louis Markos introduces readers to the great narratives of classical mythology from a Christian perspective. From the battles of Achilles and the adventures of Odysseus to the feats of Hercules and the trials of Aeneas, Markos shows how the characters, themes and symbols wi The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. --C. S. Lewis In From Achilles to Christ, Louis Markos introduces readers to the great narratives of classical mythology from a Christian perspective. From the battles of Achilles and the adventures of Odysseus to the feats of Hercules and the trials of Aeneas, Markos shows how the characters, themes and symbols within these myths both foreshadow and find their fulfillment in the story of Jesus Christ--the myth made fact. Along the way, he dispels misplaced fears about the dangers of reading classical literature, and offers a Christian approach to the interpretation and appropriation of these great literary works. This engaging and eminently readable book is an excellent resource for Christian students, teachers and readers of classical literature.


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The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. --C. S. Lewis In From Achilles to Christ, Louis Markos introduces readers to the great narratives of classical mythology from a Christian perspective. From the battles of Achilles and the adventures of Odysseus to the feats of Hercules and the trials of Aeneas, Markos shows how the characters, themes and symbols wi The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. --C. S. Lewis In From Achilles to Christ, Louis Markos introduces readers to the great narratives of classical mythology from a Christian perspective. From the battles of Achilles and the adventures of Odysseus to the feats of Hercules and the trials of Aeneas, Markos shows how the characters, themes and symbols within these myths both foreshadow and find their fulfillment in the story of Jesus Christ--the myth made fact. Along the way, he dispels misplaced fears about the dangers of reading classical literature, and offers a Christian approach to the interpretation and appropriation of these great literary works. This engaging and eminently readable book is an excellent resource for Christian students, teachers and readers of classical literature.

30 review for From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I was *very* excited to read this book. The entire premise sounded great, happily I would have jumped on the band wagon and agreed. Yes. Christians should read the classics. Just give me the arguments why and I will embrace them enthusiastically. Except I don't feel that way at all. I thoroughly enjoy Greek myths and know quite a bit about them. I love the Bible and have been brought up in it. As a student, I come prepared with more than an adequate knowledge of both topics. From Achilles to Chr I was *very* excited to read this book. The entire premise sounded great, happily I would have jumped on the band wagon and agreed. Yes. Christians should read the classics. Just give me the arguments why and I will embrace them enthusiastically. Except I don't feel that way at all. I thoroughly enjoy Greek myths and know quite a bit about them. I love the Bible and have been brought up in it. As a student, I come prepared with more than an adequate knowledge of both topics. From Achilles to Christ left me feeling more inclined to flee than embrace. I don't know why Christians should read the pagan classics after finishing this book. Most of his arguments felt like a major stretch to me. I didn't quite see their point or I felt the imagery was only slightly there. I enjoyed his analysis of the Iliad or the Aeneid on its own level. When he is describing how the poet gives insight into a particular character or commends a flashback, I gained quite a bit of comprehension. And the irony is he spends most of the book doing just that. Analyzing the text. However, when he starts explaining how a Greek character is the shadowy equivalent of Moses or David or even Jesus I go....eh. Perhaps. Is Achilles like Christ? He may make the statement or point to how they both experience grief but I wanted to gain a better understanding of it. What would it really mean if Achilles was a pseudo-Christ? I read every page of this book and I don't really know. I'm not even sure I am convinced there is a likeness. However, what turned me against his arguments and alienated me most strongly is the analysis he gives based on a Freudian interpretation. I do not find in the stories of Oedipus or Electra the Freudian arguments of lust for ones parent. There is one part in particular - and I am totally blanking on which one of the tragedies it came from - where a girl explains how relieved she was to marry the hero because formally her suitor was a sea god thing. The author goes on to affirm that it isn't really seaweed and snakes coming out of this guy, no, she's actually afraid of masculinity and showing it by her revulsion of his outward appearance or something. I don't care if this is even the common understanding of this text. If the dude is hideous, the dude is hideous. No raw masculinity about it. That ticked me off. Thus, in conclusion, as most of the book is spent describing rather than analyzing, as the Freudian-like analysis seriously angered me, and as the book left very little impression on me....I'd recommend against it. Really, a major disappointment. It had potential.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Haines

    In this book, Louis Markos takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the great Greek and Roman Classics. We see Hesiod's Theogony, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and Virgil's Aeneid. For each of these classics, Markos provides the reader with a summary of the overall story, and then dives into books themselves to point out all kinds of fascinating and inspiring details, including how later author's were inspired by earlier authors, but, more import In this book, Louis Markos takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the great Greek and Roman Classics. We see Hesiod's Theogony, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and Virgil's Aeneid. For each of these classics, Markos provides the reader with a summary of the overall story, and then dives into books themselves to point out all kinds of fascinating and inspiring details, including how later author's were inspired by earlier authors, but, more importantly, how these Greek and Roman authors provide their readers with what we might call "pagan prophecies, types, or foreshadows" of the coming Christ of the Jews, who would fulfill all of their longings for justice, peace, meaning, truth, goodness, and beauty. It is, in fact, to this purpose that Markos writes this book: to show, following C. S. Lewis, that God gave "good dreams" to the pagans. These good dreams prepared them, mentally, culturally, morally, and emotionally for the coming Messiah. These pagan myths contained "seeds" of Christian truths which would only come to fruition in Christ. This is an excellent book which is both an enjoyable and a helpful read. It could be used as an introductory textbook or a guidebook to the reading of Ancient Greco-Roman literature. It could be used as a refresher, for those who read Greco-Roman literature a long time ago, and want to be reminded of what they saw. It certainly will enhance your reading of these great work of literature, and help the reader to see things they may not have noticed before.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Porter Sprigg

    Markos does a good job connecting the proto-Christian stories of Homer and Virgil to Scriptural themes and characters. I think sometimes his connections are a bit of a stretch but overall I appreciated his attempts to show the beauty in the pagan classics from a Judeo-Christian perspective.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rick Davis

    In Canto XXII of Dante’s Purgatorio, Dante and Virgil meet a man named Statius, a pagan convert to Christianity. In their ensuing discussion, Statius says to Virgil: "…Thou first directedst me Towards Parnassus, in its grots to drink, And first concerning God didst me enlighten. Thou didst as he who walketh in the night, Who bears his light behind, which helps him not, But wary makes the persons after him, When thou didst say: 'The age renews itself, Justice returns, and man's primeval time, And a In Canto XXII of Dante’s Purgatorio, Dante and Virgil meet a man named Statius, a pagan convert to Christianity. In their ensuing discussion, Statius says to Virgil: "…Thou first directedst me Towards Parnassus, in its grots to drink, And first concerning God didst me enlighten. Thou didst as he who walketh in the night, Who bears his light behind, which helps him not, But wary makes the persons after him, When thou didst say: 'The age renews itself, Justice returns, and man's primeval time, And a new progeny descends from heaven.' Through thee I Poet was, through thee a Christian…” Throughout the ages disagreement has existed among Christians about the relative value of pagan literature for a Christian worldview. There have been those like Tertullian who deny that Jerusalem ought to have any traffic with Athens, and this seems to be the common view of many conservative Christians today. However, there is another tradition within the Church, exemplified by the passage from Dante above, that pagan writers possessed at least some knowledge of the logos by the common grace which all men possess, even if they did not have the full revelation of Jesus Christ. As one who, by profession, teaches the pagan classics to Christian high school students, it should be clear on which side of the fence I stand. All pagan stories are yearning for something true, something once known but half forgotten in the mists of time. As such pagan stories can contain truth that may instruct and be beneficial to Christians seeking to better understand God’s creation and purpose in the world. Nor does it surprise me that the Apostle Paul shows a good knowledge of Greek poetry to be useful not only when discoursing with pagans (Acts 17) but also when instructing a young pastor (Titus 1:12). From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics is an attempt by Professor Louis Markos to inculcate an appreciation for the pagan classics among Christians of today, and to pick up the line of medieval interpretation of the classics of which Dante is merely one example. I bought this book hoping to find a closely reasoned and sustained argument for Christian reading of the pagan classics, and was initially disappointed to find that this book was something else entirely. While the introduction was a short case for Christian reading of Greek and Roman literature, the rest of the book is a series of meditations working through some major works of classical literature, and drawing out the pre-Christian themes which prefigure Christ or point toward more Christian truths. While I was, as I said, initially disappointed that this was the case, I quickly began to appreciate Professor Markos’s approach as a wonderful way to draw people into classical works. The book was a pleasure to read, and was full of gleanings and insights which I know will help me in my teaching, and which would also help anyone in understanding the great books of the past. I feel that he never overreached by trying to force the ancients into a Christian mold, but truly uncovered the insights of the greatest writers of antiquity and showed the collective yearning in the Greek soul for something more. I would heartily recommend this book to any Christian who is opposed to reading pagan literature as a good case for the other side. Likewise, I would recommend this book for any Christian who is actively engaged in reading and enjoying the pagan classics. From Achilles to Christ will enrich your reading of these works in a wonderful way. Finally, I might recommend that the reader be familiar with the works being discussed before reading the chapters about them in the book. If possible, you should read the actual classic before reading Markos’s meditation on it. I can’t imagine reading this book without that background. Throughout my reading, I found myself smiling along with Professor Markos, and nodding at remembered passages and scenes from the literature. However, without a contextual framework, it may be difficult to retain all of Professor Markos’s insights while picking up the actual piece of ancient literature. Above all, this book ought to spark an appreciation for the pre-Christian writers of antiquity and for all that they have to offer to the world, and especially to Christians, today.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    This book surprised me a bit. I had looked it up because the project intrigued me. As a Latin teacher and a Christian, I've had to come to my own accommodation with my classical education, so I was interested in seeing what other people have done. Yet, I was a bit leary as a lot of attempts to harmonize Christianity and classics ultimately bog down into a kind of Western cultural hegemony which sees both Classics and Christianity as part of a cultural whole called the West whose value mythologiz This book surprised me a bit. I had looked it up because the project intrigued me. As a Latin teacher and a Christian, I've had to come to my own accommodation with my classical education, so I was interested in seeing what other people have done. Yet, I was a bit leary as a lot of attempts to harmonize Christianity and classics ultimately bog down into a kind of Western cultural hegemony which sees both Classics and Christianity as part of a cultural whole called the West whose value mythologizes both the study of the classical period and the Christian faith. That tendency is, thankfully, lacking in this book; a deficit for which I am quite grateful. What Markos does, however, is use his literary methods to look for allegorical and figurative connections between the Bible and Classical literature. Sometimes those connections are a bit strained, but sometimes they can be quite enlightening. This warms my heart because this approach isn't all that different from what Christians in the patristic age and later tended to do to incorporate classical learning. So, Markos is in good company.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    An excellent survey of ancient literature (the epics and tragedies), not just "from a Christian perspective," though that certainly, but also animated by the thesis that God spoke to the pagans through their best literature, not, certainly, as clearly and authoritatively as he spoke to his own people in scripture, but nevertheless that he was shaping and preparing them through it for the revelation of Jesus in his fullness. An excellent survey of ancient literature (the epics and tragedies), not just "from a Christian perspective," though that certainly, but also animated by the thesis that God spoke to the pagans through their best literature, not, certainly, as clearly and authoritatively as he spoke to his own people in scripture, but nevertheless that he was shaping and preparing them through it for the revelation of Jesus in his fullness.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics opens the book with a remonstrance against the Protestant attitude that anything that predated Christ, or anything outside the Bible, is value-less. Although a Protestant himself, author Louis Markos regards the Catholic church favorably for its integration of the classic western tradition into its own tradition, in effect building upon and continuing the queries of Aristotle and Plato into the nature of the cosmos, ethics, b From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics opens the book with a remonstrance against the Protestant attitude that anything that predated Christ, or anything outside the Bible, is value-less. Although a Protestant himself, author Louis Markos regards the Catholic church favorably for its integration of the classic western tradition into its own tradition, in effect building upon and continuing the queries of Aristotle and Plato into the nature of the cosmos, ethics, beauty, etc. Markos' conviction is the same of CS Lewis' as expressed in The Abolition of Man, namely that while Christianity is the ultimate truth, basic truths are also available in other traditions. The aim of Markos in this volume is to see the truths which the Greek myths express about the nature of man and meaning. He then guides the reader through the works of Homer, selected works by Greek playwrights and historians, and ends with the Aeneid. As someone who has been removed from Western Literature I and II for far too long, I was interested in this chiefly as an accessible look at Greek literature, a reminder of its stories and writers. Markos reflects on the themes present in literature, like the struggle between familial duties and loyalty to the polis. Because the Greek dramatic tradition is in fact a tradition, Markos notes how differently the same myths might be used by different authors, and examines how the Aeneid is a deliberate Roman tribute to the Illiad and Odyessey, using its structure, locales, and elements. It was not a Latinized copy of the Greek epic, however, but one written with Rome's own history in mind -- and not ancient, but recent, as Aeneas' story can be read as a tribute to Augustus' victory over Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. Markos also connects the classical heritage to Christianity when he can, argue at times that the Greeks are foreshadowing the advent of Christ. This is similar to Luc Ferry's approach in Wisdom from the Myths, in which he argues that the Greek myths and plays constitute a coherent worldview -- a Stoic one. Markos isn't as insistent as Ferry, however, and the core of the book is merely in seeing what truths the old stories still tell us about ourselves and our relationships to our own polis and the cosmos.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    The subtitle of this book by evangelical scholar Louis Markos, 'why Christians should read the pagan classics', is a bit unfortunate. This is clearly a defense the author finds himself making in his professional life (it's a pity the defense should even need arise in the first place). Apart from the fact that the statement just adds to an ever-growing list of things Christians should do, Markos makes the argument early in the book and then moves on. What ensues is simply a very enjoyable engagem The subtitle of this book by evangelical scholar Louis Markos, 'why Christians should read the pagan classics', is a bit unfortunate. This is clearly a defense the author finds himself making in his professional life (it's a pity the defense should even need arise in the first place). Apart from the fact that the statement just adds to an ever-growing list of things Christians should do, Markos makes the argument early in the book and then moves on. What ensues is simply a very enjoyable engagement with classical literature coming from the perspective of a scholar who clearly loves his work. No pragmatic reason or justification needed - just enjoy. Forget the subtitle. The main drive (or conceit, to use the technical term) of the book is to draw from classical pre-Christian literature, truths, foreshadowings and parallels read backwards through the lens of Christian revelation - Christian theology has been reading ancient texts (most notably the Hebrew scriptures) this way pretty much from year dot. This reading method applied to classical literature had its heyday in the medieval period. It's how Virgil (the pre-Christian Roman poet) ended up being Dante's guide in Dante's 'The Divine Comedy'. Reading this way will also inevitably be influenced by particular theological and cultural lenses and Markos's theological and cultural extrapolations weren't always comfortable. But basically it was a good time. Fascinating and engrossing. I particularly enjoyed his treatment of Homer's Odyssey, which I've now decided I need to read in the near future. Which, of course, is Markos's ultimate aim. Mission accomplished. Happy to have gone along for the ride.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    The two main aims of this book are 1) to give brief overviews of some of the great works of antiquity and 2) to connect the stories and themes in these works to parallels in Scripture and salvation history in order to argue that these pagan works were proto-Christian and quasi-"prophetic" in that they anticipated the revelation that is to come in Jesus Christ. While #1 is done very well, and while I agree with the author's overall claim regarding #2 (since these themes are perennial to the human The two main aims of this book are 1) to give brief overviews of some of the great works of antiquity and 2) to connect the stories and themes in these works to parallels in Scripture and salvation history in order to argue that these pagan works were proto-Christian and quasi-"prophetic" in that they anticipated the revelation that is to come in Jesus Christ. While #1 is done very well, and while I agree with the author's overall claim regarding #2 (since these themes are perennial to the human condition), I found the various parallels between these classical works and Scripture and salvation history to be strong in only a couple of instances but tenuous in most places. An example of a possibly strong parallel: Markos's conjecture that Jesus's words to the Greeks in John 12:23-26 ("Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies...it will bear much fruit") could have been a bridge building moment if these Greeks were of the Eleusinian cult, given their worship rites surrounding the myth of Persephone and Demeter that explains the cycle of death and rebirth of the crops each year. An example of a weak parallel, or what strikes me as "parallelomania": in Hesiod's Theogony, Krono's castration of Ouranos to prevent more children is parallel to Onan's "castration" of himself in spilling his seed to avoid impregnating Tamar.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dustin

    This book was amazing and left me looking for more works of his. This book is essential for those who might consider themselves Christian Humanists. The author points out their have been biblical precedents in which God has revealed himself to pagans and has utilized them i.e., Nebekenezzer, the Witch of Endor, and Ruth to reveal something of himself to humanity. And if so, then why not pagan myths as well? Markos outlines parallels between the pagan classics as they work to produce truths famil This book was amazing and left me looking for more works of his. This book is essential for those who might consider themselves Christian Humanists. The author points out their have been biblical precedents in which God has revealed himself to pagans and has utilized them i.e., Nebekenezzer, the Witch of Endor, and Ruth to reveal something of himself to humanity. And if so, then why not pagan myths as well? Markos outlines parallels between the pagan classics as they work to produce truths familiar to Christians. If you are not a Christian, then you might enjoy for the same reason one might enjoy Joseph Cambell. Cambell pointed out these stories have been re-told throughout time and argue these stories draw upon a collective consciousness that we all share. Implying these tropes becomes timeless because we recognize the timeless truths about humanity and our place in the universe, albeit subconsciously.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Deforest

    A fascinating and intelligent book that very strongly makes a case for God having spoken to pre-Christian cultures through their myths, plays and poems--that hints of Jesus and God's overall plan for humanity are there as points of light in the darkness, thus priming them for one day understanding and embracing Christianity. The author is a literary scholar who has a deep understanding of Homer, Virgil, Sophocles and the other great writers of antiquity, putting his knowledge and his faith to go A fascinating and intelligent book that very strongly makes a case for God having spoken to pre-Christian cultures through their myths, plays and poems--that hints of Jesus and God's overall plan for humanity are there as points of light in the darkness, thus priming them for one day understanding and embracing Christianity. The author is a literary scholar who has a deep understanding of Homer, Virgil, Sophocles and the other great writers of antiquity, putting his knowledge and his faith to good work to discover that God's Truth can be found anywhere.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I throughly enjoyed this book I am no expert in Homer or Virgil; I remember muddling through the Odyssey in high school and later in college, but I never read the Iliad or the Aeneid, both books have set on my shelves or years; perhaps it is time to take them up and again.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brad Crosby

    A magisterial survey of the greatest Greek and Roman poetry, and the many ways they pointed to and prepared the pagans for the coming Christ, not unlike how the special revelation of the Old Testament prepared the hearts of Israel for the Christ.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Austin Hoffman

    Really good.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Madelyn Craig

    I’m still on the fence for this book. I’ll write a more detailed review later, but suffice it to say that I do not believe it lived up to its expectations and the author went a bit too far on some claims. It was an interesting book overall, but not quite the experience I’d expected.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    A thought-provoking book, on so many levels. Markos' deconstruction of the pagan myths such as the Iliad and the Odyssey is worthy reading, and his parallels within the Bible are an interesting concept. However, the belief that God/Yahweh directed Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, and others to write these works is I feel a little fantastic. The premise of the book is that the authors were being shown a glimpse of what was to come, and they then interpreted it to suit their environment. Markos also seems A thought-provoking book, on so many levels. Markos' deconstruction of the pagan myths such as the Iliad and the Odyssey is worthy reading, and his parallels within the Bible are an interesting concept. However, the belief that God/Yahweh directed Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, and others to write these works is I feel a little fantastic. The premise of the book is that the authors were being shown a glimpse of what was to come, and they then interpreted it to suit their environment. Markos also seems to believe there are only 3 types of people in the world - Christians, pagans, and atheists. Within this, I found some of his religiosity to be narrow-minded and unnecessary.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    This book wasn't what I thought it would be, which was an argument for reading the pagan classics. I expected reasons why. Instead it is a discussion of Homer and Virgil, with connections to Christianity pointed out and discussed. I would have been completely lost, had I not read Greek Myths and The Trojan War with my children in the past 2 years. That gave me a general familiarity with the Greek characters, which was very helpful. This book wasn't what I thought it would be, which was an argument for reading the pagan classics. I expected reasons why. Instead it is a discussion of Homer and Virgil, with connections to Christianity pointed out and discussed. I would have been completely lost, had I not read Greek Myths and The Trojan War with my children in the past 2 years. That gave me a general familiarity with the Greek characters, which was very helpful.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I thought I might use some of it for my conference paper at Dordt College in the fall of 2012, but I ended up putting it down because of time. Lou Markos signed a copy on September 20, 2013, at Houston Baptist University. I wonder how it compares to Leithart's Heroes in the City of Man (here). I thought I might use some of it for my conference paper at Dordt College in the fall of 2012, but I ended up putting it down because of time. Lou Markos signed a copy on September 20, 2013, at Houston Baptist University. I wonder how it compares to Leithart's Heroes in the City of Man (here).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Cain

    Good book, overall, and helpful as a Christian introduction to key classics. One of Markos's most provocative statements is in his conclusion, where he suggests that mythic work might "woo back" generations fed up with the dominance of Enlightenment rationalism. Good book, overall, and helpful as a Christian introduction to key classics. One of Markos's most provocative statements is in his conclusion, where he suggests that mythic work might "woo back" generations fed up with the dominance of Enlightenment rationalism.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Nice approach to the classics from a Christian point if view. Loads of pointers.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Stackable

    A great defense of the classics. I differ on Dr. Markos’s interpretation of The Iliad, but he is a good scholar and a lovely writer.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Doolan

    Fun look at how themes in ancient works find their fulfillment in Christ. Had to force myself to keep going a few times, but I think that is my fault as a reader, not the author's. Well written. Fun look at how themes in ancient works find their fulfillment in Christ. Had to force myself to keep going a few times, but I think that is my fault as a reader, not the author's. Well written.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Travisfinstein

  24. 5 out of 5

    Moriah Speciale

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nate

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Josh Wilmoth

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chiliarch

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bethanyarmstrong

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tleary

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