Jesus - the Epic Hero

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Jesus – the Epic Hero
Although the Bible’s description of Jesus and his crucifixion has not been changed, the perception of the people about Jesus has been changing throughout the ages. The poem “The Dream of the Rood” is good example of a unique view of Jesus and his crucifixion. The poem is referred as “one of the first and most successful treatments of the crucifixion” in Old English poetry (Burrow 123).
The poem consists of a mixture of Christian and epic elements and has a very unique style. It represents the crucifixion as a battle and Christ as an epic hero, similar to Beowulf, which is quite different from the texts in the Bible. This contrast can be observed in the description of Jesus’ action during the crucifixion, and in the description of Jesus’ burial and the relationship between Jesus and his thanes.
To present Christ as an epic hero, the poet describes Jesus’ crucifixion as a battle scene. While the Bible states ”they [the Roman warriors] stripped him[Jesus]” (The Holy Bible: New international version, containing the Old Testament and the NewTestament, Matthew 27:28), the poem says that the “young Hero stripped himself,” and instead of being put on the cross, Christ “climbed on the high gallows, bold in the sight of many, when he would free mankind” (The Dream of the Rood 28). This description of Christ is very different from the way he is described in the Bible as a “Passover lamb that is sacrificed”(First Corinthians 5:7). Moreover, John Canuteson suggests that Jesus in the poem possesses the daring spirit often expressed by Beowulf (296). Canuteson states that the poem shows “Christ's willingness, indeed his eagerness, to embrace his fate “(296). An example for this attitude is observed when Christ climbs upon the cross: “Than I saw the Lord of mankind hasten with stout heart, for he would climb upon me [the Rood].” (The Dream of the Rood 28).
The depiction of the final moments of Christ’s life also contributes to his heroic image of Jesus



Cited: Burrow, John A.. “An approach to ‘The Dream of the Rood .’” Neophilologus 43.1 (1959): 123-133 Canuteson, John. “The Crucifixion and the Second Coming in ‘The Dream of the Rood.’” Modern Philology 66.4 (1969): 293-297 ---. “Beowulf.” The Norton anthology of English literature . 8th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006 ---. “The Dream of the Rood.” The Norton anthology of English literature . 8th ed. New York: W.W.Norton, 2006.Print

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