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Fictive Scheintod and Christian Resurrection

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In his chapter titled 'Resurrection' in Fiction as History, Glen Bowersock examines examples of 'apparent death' (Scheintod) in Graeco-Roman narrative fictions. He concludes his analysis by questioning 'whether the extraordinary growth in fictional writing, and its characteristic and concomitant fascination with resurrection' might be 'some kind of reflection of the remarkable stories that were coming out of Palestine in the middle of the first century A.D.' In this essay I will offer that rather than seeing a relation of influence between fictive prose narratives and Christian discourse (especially Christian bodily resurrection discourse) of the early centuries C.E., these sets of texts should be recognised as different manifestations of an attempt to address the same problem, that of negotiating notions of cultural identity in the matrix of early Roman imperialism. That these texts share similar motifs and themes – gruesome and graphic descriptions of torture, dismemberment, cannibalism and death – results not necessarily from influence, but that they converge around the same problem, drawing from a common cultural environment in the same historical context.

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