Where do men stand with God and gods?
Where do men stand with God and gods?
It has been known that God or gods created the world, created man and determines the destiny of mankind. It has also been known that there is a universal God but many gods. Is the Universal “God the Trinity” similar to the many gods that existed in the Dark Ages of the Greeks? This has been a question that still lingers in our minds. So therefore, why are the gods not united like “God the Trinity” that exist in Genesis? Genesis explained how “God the Trinity” are united before any creation or decision making, but the Iliad showed how the gods are not united, and disobedient to Zeus, the head of the gods. Although both God and gods share a similarity, which is about favoring whoever pleases them.
In Genesis, it was discovered that there is more than one God but all are united and make decisions in one accord. We can see this when God said, “Let us make a human in our image, and our likeness…” (The Hebrew Bible 158). This shows God communicating with other God (known as the Trinity in other chapters of the Bible) to come to one accord before making a decision. Also, we were able to see how God liked Abel more than Cain. Which made Cain kill his brother, Abel. This can be seen when the writer said”… and the Lord regarded Abel and his offering, but He did not consider Cain and his offering” (The Hebrew Bible 161). This made Cain very incensed. God should be like a parent figure to man since he created us in his image and likeness. Instead, he favors whoever pleases him the most, and causing jealousy in the heart of man which resulted in Cain killing his beloved brother, Abel.
In Homer’s “the Iliad,” the gods practice injustice by giving someone else’s wife to whoever pleases them with the intention of causing war among mankind. This can be connoted when the goddess of sexual desire, Aphrodite, rewarded Prince Paris of Troy with the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta (Homer 223). As a goddess, she already knew that Helen is married to Menelaus, the brother of Agamemnon. Also, it was shown that gods are not united because they only watch over their favorite mortals. In fact, they go against other gods to help their mortals. We can see it when Apollo, son of Zeus, is killing the Greeks because they dishonored his priest, Chryses when he came for his daughter. However, Hera, the white-armed goddess, was against Apollo’s act because she cared for the Greeks (Homer 230-231). This shows disunity that exist among the gods. The gods go against other gods to help their favorites. Even when Achilles and Agamemnon had an altercation, Hera, sent Athena, the daughter of Zeus, to stop Achilles from drawing his sword (Homer 235). This is another example of how gods favor their favorite mortals regardless of what other gods attempt to do.
Is this what should be expected from God and gods? Should God or gods be unfair if they want us to love our neighbors as ourselves and be fair to others? Why would a God or gods be impartial by favoring one man than the other? These are questions that still need to be answered because we humans believe so much in God and gods. Hence, we try to please or appease them throughout our entire lives to avoid their wrath. Should there be changes or mankind is destined to obey God and gods regardless of their impartialities?
Questions such as those we posed have become a staple in western culture. For instance, questions such as “are gods fair or unfair?”, “is God partial, or impartial?” have become an important part of religions, and critical thought through the centuries. To believe that we are mere puppets without any will but the desire of being on good terms with a deity continues to strike our imagination. However, thinking from the perspective of the Genesis concerning God’s fairness. In a strict sense, why would a God that is seen as the fairest entity create a tree from where Adam and Eve should not eat? We can see this when God says “From every fruit of the garden you may surely eat. But from the tree of knowledge, good and evil, you shall not eat, for on the day you eat from it, you are doomed to die.” ( The Hebrew Bible 159-160) Knowing the temptation will be hard to resist, He intended to test them but as creatures, they are fallible, he must have known they were going to fail from the beginning. However, we can argue that God never wanted them to know the evil, yet evil was present in the Garden of Eden. That strikes us as an unfair situation because it is almost like handing candy to a child and expecting it, not to eat it. So far, the figure of God in the Genesis has not yet changed into the loving, and forgiving God we have learned of. The God of the Old Testament can be vicious and zealous.
In the same way, we might say that it was God’s plan that men knew evil, as they knew they should seek good. If evil did not exist, men would not know that good is what they need to overcome evil. Nonetheless, when God says “Cursed be you…” (The Hebrew Bible 161), it shows God’s position as a punisher as he cast Adam and Eve out of the paradise. In the same light, we can see that men became like God, when he says “Now that the human has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he may reach out and take as well from the tree of life and live forever” (The Hebrew Bible 161). This shows us that God’s intentions were that men knew evil, as they wanted God in their lives, the God they lost when decided to disobey His orders. This can be seen as cruel, and it is, but that teaching has followed us, and there are still millions of people who desperately try to find God. In that way, the God of the Old Testament is a fair God, but his fairness is not easy to stomach.
In the Old Testament, God it is thought as a personal God that accompanies people and watches over their decisions. In the Iliad, we can see how gods favor their beloved and meddling into the mortals’ businesses. This was seen when Thetis, mother of Achilles, rose from the sea and made her plea to Zeus saying “ Father Zeus, If I have ever helped you in word or deed among the immortals, grant me this prayer: honor [Achilles], doomed to die young and yet dishonored by King Agamemnon, who stole his prize, a personal affront.”( Homer 243) This tells how the gods play an important role by interfering in our earthly situations to cause or prevent a hero’s death or dishonor. While Zeus was trying to grant Thetis her favor, he was tries to prevent his wife, Hera from knowing about it when he says “[Hera] already accuses me of favoring the Trojans, please go back the way you came. Maybe Hera won’t notice.”( Homer 243) This is an example of gods impartialities and disunity among themselves as the gods hide their anticipations from other gods.
When gods are thought as personal deities, their actions tend to affect people closely, regardless of the others. For instance, when Hera came to the aid of King Agamemnon and his troop to prevent the wrath of Apollo, after King Agamemnon refused to give Apollo’s priest, Chryses his daughter. Hera is just protecting her favorite like a human would do. In the same way, when God favors Abel over Cain, He is favoring a favorite. The thing is that to us, modern readers, to think that Gods meddle in mortals’ business is hard to believe. Both texts have something in common, which is the idea that the God and gods are present in what the mankind do (depending on every readers’ religious believe). But God and gods play a fundamental role in the outcome of the events, not as an impartial judge, but as active forces in the conflicts. Like in the Genesis, in the Iliad we see that gods can feel shame, get mad, and even cast their creations out of their grace. That is the majesty of God and gods, we are puny mortals, but they need us as much as we need them.
It is inevitable that human kinds have to believe in some superior being, either the Universal God or gods that are unique to various religions and people (Tennant 64). In Ancient literature, especially in the Greek mythology, various gods are identified and the literature shows that humans believed in the gods and prayed to the gods to grant them favors. The gods were sought in times of war to protect the humans, and in times of drought or diseases to provide rain, food or protect mankind from the challenges they faced. While there is an obvious difference between the universal God, identified in Genesis and the gods in the ancient literature, there are similarities between the two and the relationships that existed between humans and the gods or God. Meddling in human affairs and actions is consistent from either the Universal God or the gods. For instance, In the Genesis, God favored Abel over Cain and accepted Abel’s offering while rejecting Cain’s offering (Wenham 49). It can be presumed that God can foretell the future of his own creation since the Genesis clearly says that, “let us make human in our own image and likeness..” (Wenham 51). These are God’s words and, therefore, meant that the humans were created out of God’s image and likeness. It is, therefore, fair to assume that God could foretell what Cain would feel if his offering was rejected while Abel’s offering was accepted.
On the other hand, in Homer’s The Iliad, Aphrodite, the goddess of sexual desire gifts Paris with Helen, the most beautiful woman on earth. Helen was already married, but still Aphrodite gave her to Paris (Homer 223). The goddess clearly meddled in the human affairs and is obvious that Menelaus, Helen’s husband would retaliate and take revenge upon Paris. Meddling in human affairs and contributing to the conflicts between humans is an issue that is clearly identified in both The genesis and The Iliad. The conflict between Abel and Cain was fueled by God, having decided to choose Abel’s offering over his brother’s offering. In the Iliad, Aphrodite’s decision to offer Helen to Paris clearly contributes to the conflict that followed between the Greeks and Troy that lasted for over ten years (Homer 224).
While gods show a clear similarity to humans in terms of favoring other humans over others and contributing to conflicts in the human world. It is also clear that the human world is different from the gods’ world. Human suffering, borne out of human emotions from losing their loved ones is supposedly a weak link between humans. However, In the Iliad, it is identified as a strength that sets humans apart from the gods. God and the gods cannot die, therefore, they cannot possibly be compared to humans who have to undergo the suffering of losing their close friends and relatives. In the Iliad, grieving for lost and loved ones is a common feeling that seemingly has the ability to unite human beings. In the Iliad, Priam goes and pleads with Achilles to let him have his son, Hector, whom Achilles had killed. Achilles, lets Priam have his son so that Priam could give his son a proper burial (Homer 225). Since there is no death in God and the gods’ world, the trait sets humans apart from God and the gods.
Humans and the gods have always worked together. It is also evident in the Genesis that humans and God’s actions are meant to work in complementary fashion. While some meddling is observed from Gods and the gods on human’s lives and destiny, free will and human character is entirely the humans’ fault. From the Iliad, we gather that, “..human characters are not forced by gods to act out of character. Rather, human action and divine action work together, and the gods provide a way of talking about elements of human experience that are otherwise incomprehensible…” (Homer 226). Therefore, humans are not mere puppets but have a distinct role to play, determined by their human actions. The gods are asked to step in when humans find some issues incomprehensible or too difficult to handle (Slater 75). In Genesis, God created the world and gave the human power over the world and to rule the earth. Therefore, humans were created to fulfill God’s plan.
Humans are aware that God and gods are superior to them and always seek to be in good terms with God and the gods in order to receive favors and to receive protection from them. In the Genesis, Abel and Cain give offerings to God in order to please God and to be in good terms with their creator (Wenham 52). The situation is also similar in the Greek ancient mythology. The humans would seek favors from the gods by offering them rewards and offering to please them. For instance, Paris chose to award the golden apple to Aphrodite, one of the many gods at the time. Due to his choice, meant to please the gods, Paris is also rewarded by Aphrodite with the most beautiful woman on earth, Helen (Homer 223).
The subject of conflict is a major theme that is consistent both in the Genesis and in Homer’s the Iliad. Within the gods, there is a conflict between the gods, and the gods seemingly act against each other to forge their own interests and to favor their favorite mortals. For instance, the lesser gods sometimes do not recognize Zeus’ authority as the leader among the gods. This behavior is also consistent among the mortals. Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek kingdoms, often faces resistance from the other kings who refuse to recognize his authority (Powell 50). The similarity between the gods and the humans serves to prove the Genesis story in which God decided to create “..humans in his own image and likeness…” (158) The human behavior and character shows a great deal of similarity with that of the gods.
In Conclusion, while many people question the many beliefs that are consistent with the many religions in the world, it is important to recognize that there are similarities among all the beliefs. It is a foregone conclusion that humans are inferior to God and the gods and that God and the gods hold power over the mortals. In order to Co-exist, humans have consistently tried to act to please God and the gods in order to receive favors from the supreme beings (Bremmer 34). While it is obvious that God and the gods often meddle in the humans’ actions and relationships and often fuel the conflicts in the human world, humans still maintain the power of free will and their decisions are based on their own emotions and their free will.
Bremmer, Jan Nicolaas.. Interpretations of Greek Mythology (Routledge Revivals). Routledge, 2014.
Homer. “The Iliad.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. A. Puchner, Martin, gen. ed. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
Powell, Barry B. Classical myth. Pearson, 2012.
Slater, Philip Elliot. The glory of Hera: Greek mythology and the Greek family. Princeton University Press, 2014.
Tennant, Frederick Robert. The origin and propagation of sin. Cambridge University Press, 2012.
The Hebrew Bible. “Genesis.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. A. Puchner, Martin, gen. ed. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
Wenham, Gordon J. Rethinking Genesis 1-11: Gateway to the Bible. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015.