According to the author of Acts, the dead-but-resurrected Jesus said this to Paul on the road to Damascus: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Compare this to a statement by the Greek writer Euripides (who died in 406 BC) in his book, The Baccahae: “I would control my rage and sacrifice to him if I were you, rather than kick against the goads.”
by Asher Norman, orthodox Jewish author in his book, Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus“:
Paul seems to have borrowed the phrase “kick against the goads” from Euripides. Significantly, the context of the stories in Acts and the Bacchae is essentially the same. Each story contains an exchange between a persecuted man/god and his persecutor. In Paul’s story the man/god Jesus rebuked Paul and in the Bacchae the man/god Dionysus rebuked Pentheus, the king of Thebes. It therefore appears likely that Luke plagiarized Euripide’s story attributing Dionysus phrase “kick against the goads” to the dead Jesus. This profoundly undermines the credibility of Paul’s alleged “epiphany” experience, which was the primary source of Paul’s claim to be an “apostle” of Jesus.
14 thoughts on “Luke’s statement in Acts of "kick against the goads" was plagiarized from a Greek Myth”
Gary, you know that the statement above is not included in modern English Bibles, right? There are a significant amount of textual variants and strong evidence to show that wording is not original.
What do the oldest manuscripts say?
If the author of Acts were quoting Paul as saying “why do you kick against the goads” I wouldn't question this passage's authenticity since Paul was an educated, Greek-speaking man. The fact that he would use this term, originally found in a Greek myth, might be odd, but not inconceivable. However, the author of Acts is not quoting Paul having made this statement but the resurrected Jesus, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Ruler of the Universe!
Are we really to believe that the All-Mighty Savior of the world is going to appear to Paul and quote ancient Greek mythology??
The majority of papri, majuscule, and minuscule manuscripts support the Bible reading that does not include the “goads” comment. The earliest known evidence of this “goads” comment is seen in a majuscule manuscript called, “E.” It is an 8th century manuscript written in Greek and Latin (see Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman's book, “The Text of the New Testament,” p. 47). The text type of “E” appears to be a Byzantine text type is less valuable and less reliable than the Alexandrian and Western text types (see pp. 276-280 for Metzger and Ehrman's disussion on text types).
Like you, I don't think the All-Mighty Savior of the world would appear and quote Greek mythology. Maybe he did, but based on the evidence of ancient Greek manuscripts that does not appear to be the case here.
Very interesting information, Christopher. I will have to look into that. Maybe Bart Ehrman has something on it on his blog. If so, I will copy and paste a link.
Thanks for the info.
The concluding synopsis is totally unfounded. It is utterly absurd to say, “This profoundly undermines the credibility of Paul’s alleged “epiphany” experience, which was the primary source of Paul’s claim to be an “apostle” of Jesus.” Profoundly undermines the credibility…. really? What a stretch of persuasion that is. Do you not know how Jesus taught at all. Have you no knowledge of what you undertake to even start to understand? Jesus used everyday common things to make his points. A tree and it branches, a sower and his seed, walking to carry someone’s load a second mile. If “kicking against the goads” is a well known story, then use it to make your point. Don’t we all do that? Come on man, you’re going to have to do a whole lot better than that to have any credibility of your own.
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If you can demonstrate that “kicking against the goads”, a phase used by a Greek author writing 400 years before Jesus, was a common expression used by the average Galilean in the first century, then you have a point. Can you do that?
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Gary, good point, yet the point is, Jesus was speaking to a Greek, and not to just any Greek, but a highly educated one from Tarsus, which was a very important city in the ancient world and was very well-known for its intellectual citizens.Tarsus surpassed even Athens and Alexandria in culture and learning, as Its renown gave it the name, “university city,” one of the three in the Roman Empire. The city was well-known for its learning and philosophy. It is also said that the people of this city craved learning even more than those from Athens or Alexandria. This man is of course, was Paul, who was said (because being from Tarsus) to be mad for his known “much learning”, Acts 26:24. No, it was because Jesus also knowing what Paul knew, and knew he would understand this phrase, who then used it, with effect!
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Maybe, but it is also possible that Jesus never said this. It is possible that this entire story was invented by the author of Luke/Acts. Can you admit that?
Besides Paul being very familiar with the greatest tragedy ever written, “to kick against the goads” was also a common expression found in both Greek and Latin literature— gotten from a rural image, which rose from the practice of farmers goading their oxen in the fields. Were do you think Euripides got it from?
Though unfamiliar to us, everyone in that day understood its meaning, for Goads were typically made from slender pieces of timber, blunt on one end and pointed on the other. Farmers used the pointed end to urge a stubborn ox into motion. Occasionally, the beast would kick at the goad. The more the ox kicked, the more likely the goad would stab into the flesh of its leg, causing greater pain.
We know from the Gospels that Jesus used every day expressions to speak of his Kingdom to the people, so, to then say that this “entire story was invented by the author of Luke/Acts” would be a stretch! No, rather it was the Lord’s way of telling Paul, with effect, that he was only hurting himself in his effort to eliminate Christians. He was unknowingly hurting himself with self inflicted pain, opposing God.
We know from the Gospels … but only IF one believes the gospels were authentic documents written about an authentic individual. In essence, this is the crux of the matter in any religious discussion. To reference “the Gospels” as proof to a non-believer is generally a fruitless endeavor.
Do you agree that it is possible that the author of Luke/Acts invented this entire tale?
You see, I can admit that it is possible that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared as a bright light to Paul a couple of years later. I want to see how rational your thinking is as to whether or not it is possible that this entire story is literary fiction.
Apparently, this phrase was also found in a 4th Century version of the New Testament called the Codex Sinaiticus: