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Close encounters of the third kind: Heliodorus in the temple and Paul on the road to Damascus

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Chapter Summary

The phenomenon of the epiphany in battle can be traced in its transformations over a period of at least 2500 years. A proper analysis would have to look at questions such as who appears to whom, in what manner, where, when and to what effect. This chapter has chosen two cases: the appearance of a rider in shining armour to Seleucid grandee Heliodorus and appearance of Jesus to the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. Both epiphanies have been repeatedly compared with one another and the latter has even been seen as depending on former. However, the parallels are to be viewed as structural rather than due to a genetic influence, as the author of Acts of the Apostles does not betray any influence from II Maccabees. It might be illuminating to look at these two stories, as they can show the pervasiveness of Greek influence on ancient Israel.

Keywords: Acts of the Apostles; apostle Paul; Damascus; epiphany; II Maccabees; Jerusalem Temple; Jesus; Seleucid grandee Heliodorus



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