Where do men stand with God/gods. Using the Iliad and Genesis in The Norton Anthology of World Literature
Question: “Where do men stand with God/gods.” Using the Iliad and Genesis in The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. A. Puchner, Martin, gen. ed. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
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 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 have similarities, that are 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…” (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” (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 (223). As a God, knowing 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 Apollo’s 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 (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 (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?”, “are gods 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 can strike a modern reader as anachronistic. However, if we think from the perspective of the Genesis, or even the Iliad, things change. Concerning God fairness, we have two interpretations that can be useful to understand the situation. 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? He intended to test them, but as creatures, they are fallible, he must have known they were going to fail from the beginning. When God tells them “You shall not eat from it, and you shall not touch it, lest you die” (160) he was testing them knowing the temptation proved hard to resist. 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. However, 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, god’s position as a punisher can be seen in his sentence when casting 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” (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.
God, and gods partiality toward a candidate, person, or hero is not new. In both Genesis and the Iliad, we can see how deities favor their beloved. This happens because the God of the Old Testament is thought as a personal God that accompanies people and watches over their decisions. The same happens to the Greeks in the Iliad, where gods are thought as anthropomorphic deities that meddle in the mortals’ businesses. “The major contrast drawn by the Iliad is not drawn by the Greek and Trojan, but between the human and the immortal gods. The gods play an important role in the poem, sometimes intervening to cause or prevent a hero’s death or dishonor” (225)
When gods are thought are personal deities, their actions tend to affect people closely, regardless of the others. For instance, when Aphrodite shields Aeneas from Diomedes’ attacks, she is not fair, or unfair. She 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 gods are present in what the mankind do. 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 Gods, we are puny mortals, but they need us as much as we need them.
“Genesis.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. A. Puchner, Martin, gen. ed. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
Homer. “The Iliad.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 3rd ed. Vol. A. Puchner, Martin, gen. ed. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
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