God and Godlike Humans in the Bible and Iliad

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The Position of Gods and God

The characterization of individuals through specific and repeated character descriptions are consistent with social norms and create binding values associated each character. In the Iliad, which can be considered the primary religious text of antiquity, godly epithets are used to accompany characters with dominant abilities. The Bible also features consistent divine descriptions throughout the various writings. By regularly featuring characters with “godlike” descriptions, Homer’s language defines the humanity and position of the Greek gods, creating a sharp distinction from the descriptive writing in the Bible that defines the unreachable position of the monotheistic God. Although the gods of the Iliad and the God of Genesis are similar in their interaction with mortals, the usage and nature of divine language in character descriptions, along with the ability for a mortal to attain “godlike” status, are remarkably different.

Throughout the Iliad, Homer pays respect to soldiers by mentioning their name with various adjacent positive qualities. In the first book of the Iliad, “godlike Polyphemous” is introduced among a list of noteworthy soldiers (Iliad 1:264). Although Polyphemous is an unfamiliar character that is not central to the action, Homer wholly compares him to a god. The pairing of this godly term with such an insignificant character represents how divine status is obtainable for mortals, especially because Homer does not provide an explanation as to how Polyphemous achieved this status. Within this same listing of soldiers, Theseus is also mentioned as being “in the likeness of the immortals” (Iliad 1:265). While this phrase exemplifies noteworthy status in the gods’ perspective, it is distinctively different than being compared to the gods. Homer, therefore, employs specific language to carefully present a difference in how characters can either be in the likeness of the gods or completely similar to them.