An Interesting Parallel Between Virgil's "Aeneid" and Luke's "Acts"

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brickleytre
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An Interesting Parallel Between Virgil's "Aeneid" and Luke's "Acts"

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"Now as we held our son between our hands and both our grieving faces, a tongue of fire, watch, flares up from the crown of Iulus’ head, a subtle flame licking his downy hair, feeding around the boy’s brow, and though it never harmed him, panicked, we rush to shake the flame from his curls and smother the holy fire, damp it down with water. But Father Anchises lifts his eyes to the stars in joy and stretching his hands toward the sky, sings out: ‘Almighty Jove! If any prayer can persuade you now, look down on us—that’s all I ask—if our devotion has earned it, grant us another omen, Father, seal this first clear sign.’" - [Source: The Aeneid (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (p. 132). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability... - [Source: New Revised Standard Version: Updated Edition (Friendship Press, 2021), Ac 2:1–4.]

In both accounts, the tongues of fire (1) rest on the head of the objects of favor and (2) serve as a sign (a portent, an omen) of some significant divine action or intention. Of course, Virgil's work was earlier than Luke's, and Luke was a well-educated, Greek-speaking (and maybe Latin?) person living in the Greco-Roman world. It is not at all implausible that he was familiar with Virgil in general and The Aeneid in particular.
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Peter Kirby
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Re: An Interesting Parallel Between Virgil's "Aeneid" and Luke's "Acts"

Post by Peter Kirby »

brickleytre wrote: Sat Oct 01, 2022 4:29 pm "Now as we held our son between our hands and both our grieving faces, a tongue of fire, watch, flares up from the crown of Iulus’ head, a subtle flame licking his downy hair, feeding around the boy’s brow, and though it never harmed him, panicked, we rush to shake the flame from his curls and smother the holy fire, damp it down with water. But Father Anchises lifts his eyes to the stars in joy and stretching his hands toward the sky, sings out: ‘Almighty Jove! If any prayer can persuade you now, look down on us—that’s all I ask—if our devotion has earned it, grant us another omen, Father, seal this first clear sign.’" - [Source: The Aeneid (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (p. 132). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability... - [Source: New Revised Standard Version: Updated Edition (Friendship Press, 2021), Ac 2:1–4.]

In both accounts, the tongues of fire (1) rest on the head of the objects of favor and (2) serve as a sign (a portent, an omen) of some significant divine action or intention. Of course, Virgil's work was earlier than Luke's, and Luke was a well-educated, Greek-speaking (and maybe Latin?) person living in the Greco-Roman world. It is not at all implausible that he was familiar with Virgil in general and The Aeneid in particular.
Welcome to the forum!

Some good observations here.
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neilgodfrey
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Re: An Interesting Parallel Between Virgil's "Aeneid" and Luke's "Acts"

Post by neilgodfrey »

brickleytre wrote: Sat Oct 01, 2022 4:29 pm "Now as we held our son between our hands and both our grieving faces, a tongue of fire, watch, flares up from the crown of Iulus’ head, a subtle flame licking his downy hair, feeding around the boy’s brow, and though it never harmed him, panicked, we rush to shake the flame from his curls and smother the holy fire, damp it down with water. But Father Anchises lifts his eyes to the stars in joy and stretching his hands toward the sky, sings out: ‘Almighty Jove! If any prayer can persuade you now, look down on us—that’s all I ask—if our devotion has earned it, grant us another omen, Father, seal this first clear sign.’" - [Source: The Aeneid (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (p. 132). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability... - [Source: New Revised Standard Version: Updated Edition (Friendship Press, 2021), Ac 2:1–4.]

In both accounts, the tongues of fire (1) rest on the head of the objects of favor and (2) serve as a sign (a portent, an omen) of some significant divine action or intention. Of course, Virgil's work was earlier than Luke's, and Luke was a well-educated, Greek-speaking (and maybe Latin?) person living in the Greco-Roman world. It is not at all implausible that he was familiar with Virgil in general and The Aeneid in particular.
Yes, very interesting. Denis MacDonald wrote about the influence of Virgil and Euripides on Luke-Acts but I think he missed the one you have identified.
  • MacDonald, Dennis Ronald. Luke and Vergil: Imitations of Classical Greek Literature. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
Interesting, too, that immediately following the scene of the fire on the infant's head is a star shooting down from heaven and standing above the roof of the house before moving on to show them the way of escape. Reminder of Matthew's star standing over the house of Jesus in Bethlehem after having led the magi to it.
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