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Birger, D.M. (1984). The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, IX. 1981: The Hero Pattern and the Life of Jesus. Alan Dundes. Pp. 49-84.. Psychoanal Q., 53:488.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, IX. 1981: The Hero Pattern and the Life of Jesus. Alan Dundes. Pp. 49-84.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:488

The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, IX. 1981: The Hero Pattern and the Life of Jesus. Alan Dundes. Pp. 49-84.

Daniel M. Birger

This is a scholarly, informative, and, at certain points, admittedly speculative article that confronts a topic glaringly omitted by many previous works regarding the folklore of hero myths. Some outstanding features are persistently present in folklore hero tales in widely separated and diverse cultures and mythologies, and quite a few of them are to be found in the Jesus story. Among those features are the virgin mother, an unusual conception, a hero reputed to be son of God, an attempt to kill the hero, the hero being spirited away (flight into Egypt), no details on the hero's childhood, the hero going to a future kingdom, etc. The life of Jesus may be related to standard Indo-European hero patterns, such as those of Cyrus, Romulus and Remus, Oedipus, Moses, and many others, but the unique and different features of the Jesus story are the significant ones, and they should be understood in relation to the norms of circum-Mediterranean family structure. The families are described as dichotomized between a remote authoritarian father image and a lonely and frustrated maternal image. The father, following the tradition of the culture, prefers to see his wife as nonerotic and seeks sexual pleasure with harlots, leaving the wife to experience her son as her main emotional and erotic attachment. The boy has to struggle violently in order to escape from the smothering mother image and seeks different resolutions to his inevitable conflict. The Oedipus myth is one form of attempted resolution; the Jesus story is another. In the Jesus version, all women are repudiated. Jesus does not kill his father but yields to his authority through the process of crucifixion, akin to castration and homosexual surrender, in order to become one with him. The resurrection suggests a triumph over symbolic castration. Jesus reveals himself to Mary Magdalene, the harlot counterpart of the Virgin Mary. He represents the tradition of the boy growing up in a circum-Mediterranean household who learns to progress from close and prolonged association with a protective mother, to a world of men dominated by elders, to a time when he himself finally becomes a distant father to his own children as they seek "virginal" wives for themselves, thus perpetuating the cycle.

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Article Citation

Birger, D.M. (1984). The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, IX. 1981. Psychoanal. Q., 53:488

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