Beowulf: an Argument Against Christianity

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A hero is a person renowned for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked, or sacrificed, his life. Beowulf demonstrates these characteristics, as well as others, that classify him as a hero, but during a period of Christian transformation throughout all of Europe, many literary critics interpreted Beowulf as being a flawed hero who suffered from many sins. However, contrary to popular belief, Beowulf represents an ideal example of Germanic warrior ethic and was not intended to symbolize the Christian God or Jesus Christ. During the period when Beowulf was written, Europe was undergoing a remarkable transformation into Christianity. Christian morals rapidly over-swept the reigning Anglo-Saxon principles and caused a dramatic change in the way people thought. Germanic values, such as kinship, respect, and loyalty to one’s king, were converted to avoidance of sins such as greed, gluttony, envy, lust, wrath, sloth, and especially pride. As a result, the earliest translations of Beowulf were written by Christian scholars. Beowulf scholar, John D Niles, states, “Like any interpretive work, a translation is the result of hermeneutic process…Readers are advised to take it as an imaginative reconstruction that builds and rebuilds a web of interwoven observations” (Niles 859). Niles makes this statement knowing that even the earliest of translations were produced with a Christian bias, and as time moves on, the translation becomes more distorted. Accordingly, when readers began to criticize Beowulf for his lack of Christian morality, they failed to realize that the unknown author’s intent probably was not to appeal to the Christians. Instead, one could infer that the author wrote this historic epic to glorify the morals and traditions of a fading Anglo-Saxon culture, embodying them through one figure: Beowulf. Throughout the text, numerous groups of people were in desperate need of a savior from the horrors that ravaged their way of...
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