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Joseph as a Model for Faunus-Hermes: Myth, History, and Fiction in the Fourth Century

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

Faunus-who-is-also-Hermes is one of the composite god-kings dealt with in the polemical Christian 'Picus-Zeus narrative' of the fourth century. The narrative of his life is based on the Biblical account of Joseph, along with the elaborations on Joseph's life in Hellenistic Jewish fiction. Whereas Joseph is a virtuous hero, however, Faunus-Hermes is a villain who practices sorcery and usurpation and ultimately induces men to worship him as a god. The Hellenistic novels and especially the philosophical considerations of Philo of Alexandria accentuate the ambiguities in Joseph which might allow a bad character to be developed out of his good character. The Clementine Recognitions, moreover, offer an understanding of history and human character according to which good and evil come in contrasting and inimical pairs. Altogether, the use of Joseph as a model for Faunus-Hermes allows the author to subtly introduce a moral message in what seems to be a blunt and unadorned history.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Humanities, Grant MacEwan College, City Centre Campus, Rm 7-352L, 10700-104 Ave, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5J 4S2;, Email:


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