Doctrine of Greek Drama

February 17, 2014


A.  The Chorus.
1.  The Greek word EPICHOREGIA means support, supply, provision.  The noun is a metaphor related to the Greek drama of fifth century B.C. Athens.  It is taken from the Attic Greek verb EPICHOREGEO, which was used for a person who paid the expenses for a chorus in a Greek drama.
2.  The base for all Greek dramas was the chorus.  Any Greek drama focused only on events that occurred in one day.  All the events leading up to that day were explained by the chorus in a flashback manner.
3.  This tells us that we, as believers, will face X-number of problems and situations in life.  Therefore, we need a flashback system so we will know how to deal with the situation, or what to anticipate.  Knowing how to deal with situations comes from learning the ten problem-solving devices of the protocol plan of God.  When we’re in grave danger, or we’ve just pulled the pin in the arrogance grenade, we use the proper problem-solving devices.
4.  The greatest expense in the performance of a Greek drama was the money needed to hire, train, and costume the Greek chorus, which took an entire year.  Likewise, it takes time to learn the problem-solving devices.
5.  The chorus in the drama was the most important, for it explained all the action between the dialogues on the stage.  Hence, the continuity of the drama depended on the chorus.  Likewise, the continuity of your spiritual life depends on your use of the ten problem-solving devices of the protocol plan.
6.  A CHOREGOS was a person who defrayed the cost of training the chorus.
7.  A CHORAGOS was an orchestra leader who trained the chorus in their choreography, dancing, and singing.
8.  The Greek drama metaphor is analogous to experiential Christianity.  Remember Paul was well-educated in his day, and apparently he spent some time attending Greek drama.  He uses its metaphor for experiential Christianity.  Many New Testament words are borrowed from Greek drama.

B.  The Origin and Development of Greek Drama.
1.  The content of Greek drama is taken from the two epic poems of Homer.
a.  A dithyramb was lyric poetry designed to honor some Greek god like Dionysus; it was written in hexameter verse.
b.  Iambic verse was characterized by a meter of short followed by long syllables.
c.  Next came a mummery parade, in which a fraternity of Bacchus danced through the streets, disguised as satyrs singing hexameter poetry.
2.  Fifth century B.C. Athens was the beginning of true Greek drama.  It originated from and was a part of Greek religious expression, related to the worship of both good and bad gods.  The worship of Dionysus was the basis for it all.
3.  Initially, human beings were sacrificed, but by the fifth century, there were too many human sacrifices, so the goat sacrifice was substituted.  The goat was called the TRAGOS, from which we get our word tragedy.
4.  From the satyr dance called the dithyramb came the chorus, providing continuity for the drama.  By analogy, the chorus represents categorical doctrine to us.  As you learn categorical doctrine, you utilize it in your daily life.  In this way, you glorify God, just as tragedy was designed to glorify the false gods of the Greeks.
5.  The key figure was the leader of the dance, called Iaccus, which word he would also shout (tantamount to Bacchus).  The leader became the first actor in both tragedy and comedy.
6.  By the middle of the sixth century B.C., the festival of Bacchus or Dionysus was held on the north side of the Acropolis in Athens.  There was a dancing circle there called ORCHESTRA.  This was the stage on which the action took place.  Our orchestra is the time between when we believe in Jesus Christ until we depart from this earth.  It is a fact that “the earth is a stage” for our spiritual growth and the dynamics of our Christian life.
7.  Thespus of Icara wrote the first tragedy (from which we get our English word Thespian).  He was the first one to win a prize at the festival contest.  He introduced a second actor, along with the leader of the chorus.
8.  Ten years later, Aeschylus was born, the first of the three writers of genius; the other two were Sophocles and Euripides.
9.  The first actor in the Greek drama was the chorus leader, or CHOREGOS.  The second actor was called both “goat” (TRAGOS) and HUPOKRITES, (from which we get our word hypocrite), so named because he wore a large wax mask which was either smiling or frowning, designed so that those in the audience who were seated far away could see him.  He also walked on stilts and wore exaggerated clothing so all could see him.  People today who are mixed up and confused about the Christian life are hypocrites and legalists, giving false impressions about what Christianity really is.

C.  The Function and Purpose of Greek Tragedy.
1.  The function of the Greek tragedy (which lasted three days, encompassing about nine dramas) was religious, designed to accomplish purification from guilt, or the cleansing of the audience from emotions such as fear or pity.  This purpose was called in the Greek KATHARSIS or cleansing.  Our first problem-solving device, rebound, is designed for our cleansing.
2.  One actor in the tragedy was called the hero.  He was famous and great, but he always had a tragic flaw which caused him to pass from fortune to misfortune, as illustrated by Agamemnon.
3.  Aristotle contended that tragedy was never the story of a bad man passing from misery to happiness; that would outrage the audience.  Nor did Greek tragedy portray a bad man going from happiness to misery; for while that would satisfy one’s moral sense, it would not arouse the emotions and catharsis of tragedy.  Greek tragedy was designed to cleanse by emotion.
4.  Therefore, the hero was well-known, famous, prosperous, but not necessarily virtuous or just.  The hero’s misfortune was brought on by himself; not by vice or depravity, but by some error in judgment.  This illustrates our study that every believer is a walking grenade; we use our own volition to pull the pin of gate #1 of cosmic one.
5.  Tragedy recognized happiness and misery, fortune and misfortune, in and out of which men pass.  The hero had a tragic flaw which took him from greatness to tragedy.  The tragic flaw in Christianity is pulling the pin of the grenade.
6.  Greek tragedy rejected the concept of poetic justice, i.e., that the good prosper and the evil suffer.
7.  The three great writers of genius were Aeschylus who emphasized Greek religion, Sophocles who emphasized religion in part and philosophy in part, and Euripides who emphasized Greek philosophy.
8.  Greek tragedy was composed of two categories.
a.  The actors were the human medium by which drama conveyed its message.  The actors lent vividness, intensity, and humanity to the art beyond anything that could be portrayed by either paint, stone, or sound.  Actors of drama were described as servants of the gods, mentors of manners, panderers of men’s grossest appetites.  The actors spanned the gulf between the priesthood of the various Greek gods and the bawdiness of Greek life.
b.  The chorus filled in the action of the tragedy and gave it continuity.  The chorus was the beginning of drama in the fraternity and the phallic dances of Bacchus for both ritual and pleasure.
9.  It should be noted that the hero actor took the place of the goat sacrifice.  Instead of offering the goat, they offered the hero, so to speak, which was why drama was called “tragedy,” named after the Greek word TRAGOS or goat.
10.  Two Attic Greek nouns were used to describe the purpose of the tragedy.
a.  PATHOS originally meant violent death, and it came to refer to the hero taking the place of the goat sacrifice.
b.  THRENOS means mourning and lamentation at the death of the hero.
11.  Since all these words are used in the Greek New Testament, they provide analogies to the Christian way of life.

D.  The Unities of Greek Drama.
1.  There are three unities in Greek drama.
a.  Action.
b.  Time.
c.  Place.
2.  The action of the tragedy must have unity and flow consistently.
a.  The unities are conventions observed in the shaping of a plot action.  The plot must hold together like a mass, sculpture, or color in painting.
b.  Without unity of action, the drama fails to hold attention, fails to precipitate emotion, and fails to establish the mood of the drama.
c.  We get the continuity of our action in the Christian way of life from the ten problem-solving devices.
3.  The drama also required unity of time.
a.  The drama of the fifth century B.C. compressed all the action into one day.  Every scene had to occur in that one day.
b.  Therefore, the Greeks developed retrospective exposition through the chorus.
4.  The drama must occur in one locale; every scene must take place in that setting.
5.  Therefore, Greek drama takes a single episode in the life of a hero and treats it as if it happened in one day.  By analogy, one day at a time is the order for the Christian way of life.  We live one day at a time as unto the Lord.  In one day, we express all of our priorities; we do this day by day by day.
6.  So there is an analogy between the unities of Greek drama and the function of the protocol plan of God for the Church Age.
a.  Every Church Age believer must live one day at a time.  In that one day, there must be the unity of action, time, and place.
b.  The effectiveness of the action in that one day is determined by whether the believer is a winner or a loser, in fellowship and learning doctrine and living in the divine dynasphere or out of fellowship in the cosmic system.
c.  Unity of action demands that the believer understand his portfolio of invisible assets and utilize the omnipotence of God to advance through the three stages of spiritual adulthood.
7.  The chorus of the Greek drama was the key in providing unity of action, time, and place.
a.  The chorus described the greatness of the hero, just as doctrine explains the greatness of the mature believer as an invisible hero.
b.  Retrospective exposition explains the motives, mental attitudes, decisions, and actions of the believer in the great power experiment of the Church Age.

E.  Greek Drama Vocabulary Used in the New Testament.
1.  The Greek word HUPOKRITES was used for the actor who wore a large wax mask.  It is used for the hypocrisy of legalism in Gal 2:12-13.  “For prior to the coming of certain men [legalistic believers] from James, he [Peter] used to have dinner with Gentiles.  But when the legalists came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the circumcision party.  And the rest of the Jews acted out this hypocrisy [put on the mask of legalism], with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by this hypocrisy [acting].”  Along with wearing masks, the HUPOKRITES also wore boots on stilts, or KOTHORNOS, which represent arrogance.
2.  The Greek word MECHANE was used for machines used to lower actors onto the stage who played the parts of gods.  Harnessed to this machine, the actor would say his lines while hovering over the stage.  The phrase DEUS EX MACHINA came from the malfunction of this machine, when the actor should have been removed from the stage but was still hanging there.  This was also called in Greek KATARTIZO, and is so used in 1 Cor 1:10.  The Corinthians were divided into schisms, losing any effective testimony.  In effect, their “machine” had broken down.
3.  The Greek verb PAREISERCHOMAI is used in Rom 5:20 for a minor actor entering the stage to play a minor role in the drama.  Rom 5:20 describes the Mosaic Law as a minor actor entering the stage to play a minor role.  The Mosaic Law is not a part of the Christian way of life.  All precedence for the Christian way of life is taken from the dispensation of the Hypostatic Union, not from the dispensation of Israel.
4.  The Greek verb EPICHOREGEO means to supply the money necessary to train and to costume the chorus.  It is used for logistical grace wherein God provides everything for us in 2 Cor 9:10, Gal 3:5, and 2 Pet 1:5.
5.  The patron, or in Greek the EPICHOREGIA, is used in Eph 4:16, translated “supply.”  This passage means that in every generation of the Church Age, God supplies the spiritual gift of pastor-teacher so that positive volition need not be frustrated.  God uses prepared men, and He provides prepared men for every congregation that has positive volition.