Gods on Paper and Stage

by peacefulpete 8 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • peacefulpete

    Were the works of Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, etc. acting blasphemously when creating their works of fiction because they included the gods in the stories? When Homer placed dialog into Athena's mouth, was he wrong to use his creativity to make her come alive for an audience?

    There were critics of such playwrights for their impertinence, not for the act of dramatization but in some cases for the content. The more conservative among the Greeks felt the god's were depicted too human. But generally the practice was popular and regarded by some as essential for the religious health of the people. In fact, the god Dionysus (you know, the water to wine god) was the patron deity of theater.

    Did the earliest Christians similarly feel similarly? Early forms of the faith may have seemed unapproachable, esoteric and reserved for the initiated. (2000 years later, people still find Paul "hard to understand".) A popularizing of the faith for the masses necessitated a theatrical presentation, a more accessible method of teaching through story telling. Stories of the godman interacting with humans, demonstrating his superiority, yet having a human touch. The writings of early church fathers and writers reveal a freeness to add or subtract from those stories, which betrays an understanding of the nature of the stories lost on the populace. In a similar way the intelligentsia of the Greek and Roman world generally understood Homer and similar works as allegory and mocked the popular uncritical belief in them as 'history'.

    As it happens, the very depiction of the gods as interacting directly with humans, made the gods appear smaller and, for some, paved the way for disbelief, or at least a less spiritual view of the gods. Eyes of faith replaced with literal eyes as it were. In my mind a similar process happened among Christians, the literalizing of the stories reduced them to a fixed "freeze frame" of a previously metaphysical belief system. It worked and Christianity grew, especially among the 'unlearned and ordinary'. However, many then as today find Christianity intellectually unsatisfying or indefensible for that very reason.

    There have been advocates for a return to a more mystical version, but against the background of the literalist, uni-dimensional popular species of Christianity, they come across as "out of their minds". Something Paul might have heard.

  • peacefulpete

    Sorry about repetition. Also poor grammar. Thought I'd have chance to edit. It took couple hours to appear. Anyway, comments discussion?

  • Phizzy

    I think those Greek Thinkers were ahead of their time, the ones looking for a less "material" view of gods. Prior to them, and ever after, the Anthropomorphising of gods went on.

    The gods and goddesses who came to Israel via Canaan and ultimately Sumer, were VERY human in their actions, having huge Banquets, Drinking Parties, and of course having copious sexual encounters and unions, the god El being particularly randy with two goddesses at one time !

    Christians today cannot manage, no matter how they try, not to anthropomorphise their god at least in some way, but the N.T does , "Revelation" talking of god's "Hand" etc.

    I think the gods are far more appealing as characters when we envisage them as supernatural beings, but being very human in so many ways, even YHWH is a much more sympathetic character when we think of him being in Love, albeit with Israel, or being saddened, or enjoying a good meal of sacrificed meat and so on.

    Therefore I can see the difficulty that those who advocate for a more mystical version of god, we puny humans cannot stop thinking of our gods, and depicting them in Art, as very human in most ways.

  • stan livedeath
    stan livedeath

    In the beginning..man made god.

  • Phizzy
  • peacefulpete

    Phizzy.... While I tend to think there was a general progression away from anthropomorphism, I believe you are right. It seems there always was a tension between those attracted to transcendent mystery and those who needed tangibility.

    Reading a bit recently about the Mandeans (Nazoreans) and am fascinated by their embrace of the Vedic-type faith yet venerate John the Bapt. as a both culmination of a line of Jewish prophets and greatest teacher of light and knowledge. Oh if only the Nazoreans had written histories from their earliest interactions with Judaism! The Mandeans/Nazoreans seem to represent the missing piece between with the Zoroastrians, Essenes, and Christian origins.

  • Reasonfirst

    And, for even more complicated thinking try Allen Brent's, A Political History of Early Christianity, in which Brent tries to piece together the changing ideas which eventually led to Constantine's conversion and 'that' particular version of early Christianity become the official state religion of his empire, and many subsequent empires and individual states.

    I wont try to discuss his arguments, it get's too complicated.

  • peacefulpete

    I'll check it out.

  • peacefulpete

    From the preview alone I see his argument. From the standpoint of a ruler in the age of emperor cults, a form of Christianity that proclaimed a present age of divine goodwill would be preferable to one that despised the present world and wished for it's extinction. Hard to govern or elicit civic mindedness from detached Gnostics and apocalypse obsessed Christians.

Share this