Did Luke plagiarize Greek mythology in writing the Book of Acts?

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In Acts 26:15, it is said that Paul hears the voice of Jesus say: “Saul, Saul, why persecute me? it is hard for thee to kick against the goads[pros kentra laktizein],” with the KJV using the English synonym ‘pricks’. Uta Ranke-Heinemann, in Putting Away Childish Things, page 163-9, claims there is a parallel in the Bacchae, which is approximately five hundred years older than Acts. Here, Dionysus, the persecuted god, says to King Pentheus, his persecutor: “You disregard my words of warning… and kick against the goads [pros kentra laktizein]” (line 794). Luke retains the plural form of the noun ‘kentra’ which, while maintaining the meter in the Bacchae, seems out of place in Acts. Not only are these words surprisingly similar, but Acts says Jesus that Jesus quoted a Greek proverb to Paul while speaking Aramaic (“in the Hebrew language”). Even the situations are similar, with Jesus as the persecuted God in Acts and Dionysus the persecuted god in the Bacchae.

If further evidence of inspiration from the Bacchae were needed, we can look at Acts 16:25-26, in which Paul is given the opportunity to escape when there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and their fetters were unfastened. In The Bacchae, Euripides writes of the maenads who were being kept in the city’s prison: “The chains on their legs snapped apart by themselves. Untouched by any human hand, the doors swung wide, opening of their own accord.”


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