… man. This did not occur suddenly. The Romans
conquered the Greeks and adopted much of the Greek
mythology adding their own embellishments to the
traditions. History reveals that the Romans also
abandoned these adopted traditions for
Christianity. Christianity takes the Hebrew
tradition and adds a second chapter so to speak.
The Hebrews do not accept this Christian theology
but both share the same original traditions.
Hebrew God passed down to man standards for
righteous living. The Ten Commandments found in
Exodus 20 are the first written standards of
living righteous passed from God to man. The
remainder of the book of Exodus reveals numerous
other standards that God required from man. The
Hebrews called these standards The Law. The
Hebrews learned that God was infallible, totally
pure, totally just, and completely unchangeable in
his ways. The Greeks could not say the same about
Their gods acted capriciously and the
issue of justice was one that meant one thing for
the gods and another for man. Morality was not
something that the gods passed on to the Greeks
but rather ideals that the Greeks adopted for
themselves. Edith Hamilton, comments: Zeus, trying
to hide his love affairs from his wife and
invariably shown up, was a capital figure of fun.
(9). The Greeks did not necessarily see the gods
as being moral. Michael Gibson explains this
relationship. Another way in which the Greeks
tried to make the all-powerful gods seem less
austere was to give them human weaknesses.
It is interesting to note that God played an
active part in Hebrew morality whereas the Greeks
where influenced by the gods immorality. God
punished the Hebrews for their sins. It is not
really clear that the Greeks were punished for
their sins; however, they probably saw common
misfortunes as a possible punishment from the gods
for sin. The Hebrews passed the Law to their
children and continued this tradition throughout
generations. We see the opposite in the Greeks.
Murray finds: It is remarkable and surprising
that, with all the piety and religious ceremonies
of the ancients, there existed among them no
established means of instruction for the mass of
the people, as to the character and function of
the gods whom they worshipped. (16).
system of the Greek and Hebrew warrants comment.
After the establishment of the Law, God also gave
instruction concerning offerings, worship, and
sacraments. It is not clear how the Greeks
established the rules concerning such things. They
did develop such a system because throughout The
Illiad and The Odyssey the characters did make
obeisance to the gods in the form of oblations. An
example from The Illiad is the following quote. Here, quickly-pour a libation out to Father Zeus!
Pray for a safe return from all our mortal
enemies, seeing youre dead set on going down to
the ships- (196). The Greeks practiced two types
of offerings or sacrifices.
The first was the
fruits, cakes, and wine offering. The second was
animal sacrifices. In both cases the offering was
to be of the best quality, and in the case of
animals, they were to be of the healthiest stock
and without blemish. Gibson offers an explanation
of how the idea of offerings to gods came about
for the Greeks. the Greeks probably adapted
stories brought by invaders, or heard in other
lands, to fit their own ritual practices, the true
meanings of which had been forgotten. (12).
Hebrews on the other hand had very similar
practices. They had oil, flour and animal
offerings. These offerings had to meet the same
criteria of being of the best quality. God
meticulously described in the book of Leviticus
the process of making sacrifices. His instructions
were very clear and concise. The Greek and Hebrew
cultures maintained priesthoods.
In the Greek
culture, the priesthood was to be pure but there
appears to have been no consequence for impurity
in the priest. In the Hebrew culture, a priest had
to be pure otherwise God would strike him dead.
The Hebrews had a practice of tying a rope around
a priests ankle with bells attached. The priest
would enter the holiest of holies and perform
sacrifices to God. If the priests were impure, God
would kill them. In order to retrieve the body of
a slain priest, they had to pull him via the rope
from the holy place. Only priests were allowed in
this most holy place.
There does not appear to be
any tales of such consequences from the Greek
gods. We do see that the Greek gods became angered
if they were not recognized through some shrine or
oblation. It was commonly thought that prosperity
and health were results of pleasing the gods. In
the Hebrew culture, the main concern was more on
the issue of an afterlife. There appears to be
some differences between the Greeks and Hebrews
concerning thoughts of life after death. The
Greeks were more concerned about the physical life
rather than the life after death.
There are some
indications that they believed in a life in the
realm of the gods but it is not clear that they
really prepared for such an event. The Hebrews on
the other hand were taught that they must live a
pure life in order to go to heaven. Heaven is the
abode of God. Faithful servants would be entitled
to enter heaven after death. The unfaithful or
disobedient were directed to a much less desirable
place. This destination called Hades or Hell was a
place of eternal torment.
It can be clearly
understood that such a thought would cause fear in
a person. Therefore, the Hebrews saw a mortal life
of devotion to God as just a stepping-stone into
an eternal afterlife. Sin was enmity against God
and since man was not perfect he was apt to sin.
God made a provision for sin and that was animal
sacrifice. The blood of the slain animal would
atone for the sins committed by man. The Greeks
did not have such a belief and they did not
envision an eternal place called hell. There is
one final point to be made concerning the Hebrews
and their god.
The Hebrews felt that God was a god
exclusive to the Hebrews. All other people were
considered heathen and the heathen had their own
false gods. The Greeks did not have the same
philosophy. A foreign person was permitted to
learn about and worship the Greeks gods. This was
not thought to be abnormal. The Hebrews were
tempted to worship the false gods of the heathen.
Throughout the Old Testament, which is comprised
of 66 books, there are many stories of the Hebrews
trying to adapt to pagan ritual and custom.
nearly every incident, God punishes the Hebrews
for their disobedience. It is possible that some
of these rituals finally became a part of the
Hebrew belief system. Like the Hebrews, the Greeks
did borrow from other cultures. It is improbable
that the Hebrews did not do the same even though
their God did not wish it. Both cultures were
equal in their quest to understand the origin of
human existence. The Greeks developed science as
The Hebrews followed their faith
in God as an answer to all. We can see parallels
in some of the stories that show the attempts by
man to explain phenomena that occur in nature. It
is likely that the Greeks and Hebrews felt that
the gods were responsible for fierce storms,
thunder, and lightning. We realize that today
these are natural weather phenomenon but to these
early cultures they were very frightful
experiences that could only be explained through
their own imaginations. In summary, the Greeks and
Hebrews shared the common belief that gods or God
had the final say so as to the fate of man. The
gods were all knowing, all powerful, and could be
anywhere at all times.
Gods were immortal and man
was mortal. There are some contrasts but these
contrasts only show the differences in Mans
relationship to his god. The Greeks and Hebrews
borrowed from other cultures at least in part. The
Greeks were conquerors and the Hebrews were
normally the conquered. This probably explains the
difference in mans relationship to a god.
Eventually we see that the contrasts are not that
different and the comparisons are very much alike.
Bibliography: Tucker 10 Works Cited . Gibson,
Gods Men & Monsters. New York: Schocken
Books, 1977. Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Boston:
Little, Brown and Company, 1942. Homer, The Iliad.
The Norton Anthology World Masterpieces.
W.W. Norton Company, 1999. Murray, Alexander S.
Whos Who in Mythology. New York: Crescent Books,
1988. The Holy Bible. King James Version: Anchor
Bible Concepts, 1996.
Tenney, Merrill C. The
Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary. Grand
Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1967 ed..
Research essay sample on Homer Comparison And Contrast Of The Gods In Homers Epics With The God Of The Hebrews