World Literature 2110
26 September 2010
The Parallels of Greek Religion
Many can agree that the Ancient Greeks were polytheistic believers and their religious world view, morals, customs and genealogy pervaded their cities and communities. Although other civilizations lived or traveled through ancient Greece, people did not worship nor pray each day or once a week to their gods. There were no synagogues, churches or mosques. Personal, privately-held belief did not mater, public ritual and festivals for the gods did. Many people served and paid homage to the gods, idols, temples and monuments in hopes that the gods would be pleased and that their society would prosper and be protected. But where did the idea of so many gods originate from? In an article entitled “Greek Mythology and The Bible” (http://www.1335.com/greekmyth.html), the author notes that there is “strong evidence of Hebrew, Canaanite, Assyrian, and Babylonian, stories found in Greek mythology.” Is it possible that cross cultural practices and beliefs were entwined and multiethnic and ethnocentric beliefs were born? With so many streams of different Semitic culture it seems very possible. As a Christian, I remember that the Israelite themselves were also influenced by these same foreign nations in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Ezra, and Ezekiel. To the Greeks, the Bible maybe embodied by the writings of Homer, particularly, The Iliad, but to Homer this heavily mixed synthesis of beliefs may therefore have been brought to Greece by the Hebrews themselves. At the very least, the strong evidence of Hebrew colonization and culture in ancient Greece should not be ignore In Greek mythology, Achilles is the Greek hero of the Trojan War. He is thought of as being an invulnerable warrior except for one particular body part that exposes his weakness. He was the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer’s Iliad. In book 21 of the Iliad we read of an injury Achilles received:
“The warrior Asteropaeus hurled with both spears at once, for he was one that could use both hands alike. With the one spear he smote the shield, but it brake not through, for the gold stayed it, the gift of the god and with the other he smote the right forearm of Achilles a grazing blow, and the black blood gushed forth; but the spear-point passed above him and fixed itself in the earth, fain to glut itself with flesh” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteropaeus).
Asteropaios was the only Trojan in the Iliad who was able to draw blood from Achilles. However, he fails to kill Achilles. Homer well versed in the history of Achilles and Greek mythology never writes about the death of Achilles in any of his stories, yet Achilles does die. One has to wonder and ask why Homer would never mention or pay homage to Achilles and honor this mighty warrior in death as custom would dictate in Greek mythology An interesting Bible comparison can be made with the Greek hero Achilles, who could only die by having his heel wounded. What a great but strange tragedy of a story to tell! That is, it would be strange were it not for the fact that we read such an account in the Bible in the form of a prophecy concerning the coming Christ in Genesis 3:15: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (http://www.blueletterbible.org). It can easily be seen how a misinterpretation of this verse (especially in the early pre-Christian centuries, before Christ's fulfillment of prophecy was made manifest) could inspire a story of someone dying through a wound in his heel! The strong connection between the Hebrew and Greek civilizations is well known to scholars of ancient history. Perhaps the leading Biblical American archaeologist of the twentieth century is Cyrus H. Gordon....