Paganism and Christianity in Beowulf

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In Beowulf, elements both Paganism and Christianity can be found throughout the story. The reasoning for this is the attempted bridging of a region and audience which was not long separated from its Pagan heritage, but had recently adopted Christianity. It sought to unify Pagan concepts with Christianity.

Several examples are found throughout, as the name of God is called upon and referenced numerously throughout the text. After Beowulf slays Grendel, Hrothgar praises God for what the hero has accomplished:

"First and foremost, let the Almighty Father be thanked for this sight. I suffered a long harrowing by Grendel. But the Heavenly Shepherd can work His wonders always and everywhere . . . now a man, with the Lord's assistance, has accomplished something none of us could manage before now for all our efforts." (Beowulf, Heaney, p.63)

Soon after, in discussing his conquering of Grendel, Beowulf references final judgement before God, a major doctrine of Christianity:

"He has done his worst but the wound will end him . . . Like a man outlawed for wickedness, he must await the mighty judgement of God in majesty." (Beowulf, Heaney, p.65)

Finally, as Beowulf is dying after being mortally wounded by the Dragon, he ultimately thanks and praises God for the future prosperity of his kingdom, passing off the fame and glory to God instead of claiming it solely himself:

"To the everlasting Lord of All, to the King of Glory, I give thanks that I behold this treasure here in front of me, that I have been allowed to leave my people so well endowed on the day I die.” (Beowulf, Heaney, p.189)

The attempt at bridging Pagan tradition with Christianity is clear and powerful. Fate and personal fame and glory are important doctrine in Paganism, and the author of Beowulf is able to mend these characteristics with the Will of God and the ultimate power and glory of God, all major aspects of Christianity.

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The Gospel of Matthew was and still remains a...
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