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Hebrews and Greeks

The Ancient Hebrews and Greeks are two influential civilizations that were able to leave a lasting impression on humanity. A primary reason why the Hebrews and Greeks have such an enduring legacy is because they successfully recorded and preserved significant mythologies, histories, and writings. Two of the most significant works that were produced by the Hebrews and Greeks respectively, are the Old Testament of The Bible and the epic poem The Iliad. It is through the many complex characters in these works that an individual can get an understanding on how the Hebrews and Greeks viewed their worlds.

It can be said, that the Hebrews and Greeks had similar world views that were founded on the belief that humans had a higher purpose in life with a special connection to the Gods; however their views of divine powers differed with the Greeks believing in many well-known Gods with flawed human characteristics and the Hebrews believing in one perfect, yet mysterious God. One can define the Hebrew and Greek perspectives on the world by examining their surviving writings. One way to understand the Hebrew and Greek views is by exploring the many stories and characters that exist in The Bible and in The Iliad.

Two significant characters from those works that can be used as tools for understanding the Hebrew and Greek views of the world are Jacob whose story is found in Genesis and Hector whose story is found in The Iliad. In comparison, the Hebrews and Greeks believed humans had a higher purpose that was centered on their connection to Gods, which in the Hebrew case was one God and multiple Gods in the Greek case. From Jacob and Hector’s stories one gets a sense that is was important to obey the commands of the Gods. In The Bible and in The Iliad, there are numerous examples that illustrate the importance of serving the Gods.

In The Bible for example, Jacob was instructed by God to build an altar, wherein “God said unto Jacob arise go up to Beth-el and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God” (Genesis 35:1) and for his obedience Jacob was blessed with prosperity. We also see an example of the importance of obeying the Gods in The Iliad, when Hector told a man “I fear neither battle nor the din chariots, but Jove’s will is stronger than ours” (Iliad17. 70). From the above passages it apparent that the Greek and Hebrew views were based around divine powers.

Another similarity between the Hebrews and Greeks in regards to their world views was their perceptions on how the Gods affected their worlds. The two cultures believed that the Gods affected the outcome of their lives both positively and negatively. They believed that if you were favored by the Gods you would be guaranteed blessings, protection, and prosperity. This theme is found countless times in The Iliad, wherein Hector who was fighting a brutal war, based many of his actions around the knowledge of being protected by the Gods.

In The Iliad, there were at least two Gods Jove and Apollo whom protected Hector, as a result Hector’s life was spared numerous times, which impacted the outcome of the war. Thus, the impact was noted in The Iliad that, “the Trojans and brave Hector would not yet have broken down the gates and the great bar, had not Jove turned his son Sarpedon against the Argives as a lion against a herd of horned cattle” (Iliad12. 132). The same theme about how the Gods protect those they favor is also seen in Jacob’s saga. As in Hector’s case, Jacob was favored by God who delivered him from numerous threatening circumstances and promised Jacob protection.

In one instance, God told Jacob “behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all place whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15). Thus, after this promise, Jacob lived his life with the belief that he was protected by God. Based on the above examples it is evident that the Greeks and Hebrews believed that their existence was impacted by Gods. In contrast, although the Hebrews and Greeks had many similarities in their world views, there are key differences between their views.

One major difference that was evidenced in The Iliad is that the Greeks believed that their Gods interacted on a more personal level with humans. In The Iliad there are countless references to Gods fighting along side humans and aiding Hector in battles. Further, unlike the Hebrew concept of one perfect God, the Greek Gods were not perfect because they had humanlike characteristics. Another contrast between the Greek and Hebrew views of the world is that the Greeks seemed to have been quite familiar with their Gods. For instance, Hector was familiar with the all the Greek Gods and the roles they played in the world.

In contrast, Jacob had to be introduced to his God numerous times with God first appearing to Jacob in a dream saying “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father and the God of Isaac” (Genesis 28:13). Also from the Hebrew view, God is mysterious and approaches humans in vague ways such as in dreams, which is dramatically different from the Greeks who were well aware of their Gods and the specific roles they in human activity. To conclude, the Hebrews and Greeks had many similarities when it came to defining their purpose in the world.

Both civilizations believed that humans were created by divine power, which gave them a purpose in the world. Finally, it should be noted that the Greeks and Hebrews used the belief of the existence of Gods to explain their surrounding because without the belief in Gods, the Greeks and Hebrews would have no purpose in life or explanations for the events that occurred around them.

Works Cited

Breakthrough Miracle Bible. Fort Lauderdale: International Christian Publishers, 2007. “The Iliad. ” The Internet Classics Archive. 11 Mar. 2008 <http://classics. mit. edu/Homer/iliad. html>

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