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What Is an Apostle? An Addendum

Yesterday we saw that Kierkegaard distinguished between a genius and an apostle via the following kinds of binaries: immanence vs. transcendence; inborn talent vs. the exterior call; aesthetic vs. authoritative appeal.

A different model of authority that presents some problems for that of Kierkegaard is the one used by Greek and Roman poets, who both claimed divine inspiration, and thus revelatory power, and what the Romans called ingenium, a native ability for aesthetic production. A Roman poet would frequently style himself a vates, “prophet,” in the very act of writing his poetry. An aesthetic appeal could thus bolster inspired authority–the opposite of what Kierkegaard says. As Karla Pollmann remarks in her recent book The Baptized Muse:

[C]oncerning the poet, his or her role could be amplified by stylizing him or her as κῆρυξ (‘herald’) or προφήτης (‘prophet’), in Latin as vates (‘prophet’). Here the character could oscillate between divinely inspired vates…and poet endowed with his own human ingenium (‘talent’). (217)

So, possibly a problem for Kierkegaard.

On the other hand, the poets were all liars.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.