Brandon VanDeMortelENGL 340 – Classical Roots of English Literature12-12-17THE RELEVANCE OF GODS THROUGH THE AGES The inclusion of some form of all-powerful entity(ies) has been a staple of story-telling for a very long time. Texts that date all the way back to circa 2000 BC have mentions of a deity figure (or figures) that influence reality. This inclusion has continued through the millennia as different cultures adopt different philosophies and ideals that can, eventually, turn into some form of a god-like being, often meant to teach lessons or instill fear in those on the “wrong” side of a thought. The definition of deity or god has been as different as the various cultures that have utilized the idea, but they all seem to have a very basic foundation of what it means to be a god. With this, interpretations and representations are often indicative of the type of people that created said interpretations; the greeks had multiple gods and some of the more important one were female, which is a stark contrast to the Christian beliefs that there is only a single god, and he is very much male.Gods and deities have been a driving force throughout history; wars have started and ended all in the names of gods, a pattern that continues even today. Millions of lives lost, all because of differing opinions on the “right” or “wrong” god(s) to worship. This begs the question, what determines a god? As defined by the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a god is “a superhuman being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity”, but that seems to be a general, blanket definition, as each culture seems to define that idea differently. Delving further into the definitions of gods, each culture seems to handle this idea differently. In the Christian religion, as well as its sub-religions,, there is a single deity in control of everything, and is referred to as God with a capital “G”. This singular God was responsible for the creation of virtually everything in existence. “In the beginning God created created the Heaven and the Earth” (The King James Bible, Genesis 1:1), and over the course of the next seven days, he filled the earth with water, vegetation, and life. This God is a much more singularly powerful entity. This is a contrast to the Greeks that had many different gods, all responsible for a different facet of everyday life. The Greeks believe in Zeus, the leader of the Pantheon and the god of the sky, but also Hypnos, the god of sleep. While some examination beyond the text was required, the Greeks had a much different, and more complex creation story that involved the beings before gods. Existence itself was created through a much more human chain of events involving sex, betrayal, and power-struggles.The Greek’s origin story begins only with Chaos, an empty void. Somehow, this enormous nothingness gave birth to Gaia, the earth, Tartarus, the great region below the earth, and to Eros, the shining god of love and attraction. Gaia, without help, gave birth to Uranus, the starry sky, and to Pontus, the sterile sea. Uranus became Gaia’s mate and her equal. This couple, sky and earth, produced the twelve Titans. After Cronus, the youngest Titan, overthrew his father, he married his sister, Rhea. This couple would go on to have many offspring. He ruled for many ages. However, Gaia and Uranus both had prophesied that he would be overthrown by a son. To avoid this, Cronus swallowed each of his children as they were born. Rhea, angry at her husband, gave birth to Zeus in secret, and when offering the child, she instead wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and passed it off as the child. Zeus, who was raised by nymphs, would go on to become very powerful and eventually overthrow his father, releasing his divine siblings in the process. They were thankful to Zeus and made him their leader.This compares to the Biblical story, where God was the sole creator of everything. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Then, over the course of the next seven days, God proceeds to create everything else in existence. “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. … And God divided the light from the darkness.” (Genesis 1:1,2) “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so” (Genesis 1:9) “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind.” (Genesis 1:21).Though a lot of these gods embody similar ideas, the interpretation of them differs, sometimes to an extreme degree even within cultures. One interesting facet of these gods, based on the texts we’ve read, is that they all have varying degrees of influence, be that among the people in their domain or, as far as the Greeks are concerned, even among their fellow gods. Zeus, as an example, is both the leader of the Greek Pantheon of gods, and, perhaps as an extension, all people that reside in and around Greece. However, because the Christian God is a single, omnipotent being, his influence rests solely on the people of this world. If, however, considered in a more earthly sense, Dionysus is a powerful example of what the gods were capable of, even in an “earthly” form. “For my mother’s sisters’ have acted badly… They boasted aloud that I, Dionysus, was no child of Zeus… So, I’ve driven those woman from their homes in a frenzy — they now live in the mountains, out of their minds. I’ve made them put on costumes, outfits appropriate for my mysteries.” (Euripides, The Bacchae, 16) “For this city has to learn, that it has yet to be initiated into my Dionysian rites.” These lines are also an example of the dynamic nature of the gods. Where the Christian God seems to fall somewhat flat in terms of personality, the Greek gods are just as human as those they have dominion over, though they can be considerably more powerful. The representations of these divine beings also differ culturally, despite the similarities in the entities themselves. Christians often view their God as an omnipotent observer, never really stepping in for anything, whereas the Greeks often use their gods as physical entities to fulfill a narrative purpose, whether that be to teach a lesson about piety or to impose a bias. In the story of Genesis, save for a few specific situations, the Christian God is observant. He is rarely involved, and when he is, it’s in a big way. The biblical flood, as mentioned, is one of these “big actions”. In the Christian faith, God started as a tangible entity, speaking directly to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) When, inevitably, they did, “she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” (Genesis 3:6), God punished them both with mortality. Then, he essentially took a backseat, allowing humans to live as they so decided, until God decided that the power of sin was too great, and the planet needed a clean slate, “… The flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased…” (Genesis 7:17) “And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps” (Genesis 7:21)This contrasts to the Greeks, that believed each god could interfere directly with their people. In The Odyssey, Athena, appearing to Odysseus as a human, goes out of her way to help the weary traveler make it home. Whereas Poseidon, in the same story, goes out of his way to make Odysseus’ trip as arduous as possible. Dionysus, in the Bacchae, presents himself to be an effeminate human male, travelling to Thebes to spread his religion, as the ruling family has denied his divinity. These representations could be indicative of the culture that stemmed these deities. The Christian God is always described as male, using only the pronouns He and Him, where the Greeks had gods of both genders, and some females were quite powerful in the hierarchy. While only an assumption, this could be representative of the opinion of the dichotomy of the two genders in the two different societies. The story of Beowulf seems to find itself in the Christian God side of the spectrum. There are numerous mentions of God and the Almighty throughout the text, as well as mentions of other biblical characters. “Afterwards a boy-child was sent to Shield, a cub in the yard, a comfort sent by God to that nation… so the Lord of Life, the glorious Almighty, made this man renowned.” (Beowulf, 12-17) With the capital “G”, it’s implied that he’s referring the Christian God. Later, “Grendel was the name of this grim demon haunting the marches… he had dwelt for a time in misery among the banished monsters, Cain’s clan, whom the creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts. For the killing of Abel the Eternal Lord had exacted a price…” (Beowulf 102-114) Cain and Abel, of course, are important characters in the biblical story Genesis. The deities in the epic of Gilgamesh fall somewhere very close to the Greek gods. There are seven gods mentioned over the course of the book, though some have much larger roles than others. In the story, Gilgamesh, who is the king of the ancient Sumerian city-state of Uruk, has basically let his status go to his head. When the citizens of Uruk can’t take it anymore and pray to the gods for assistance, they answer. “But the people or Uruk cried out to heaven, and their lamentation was heard, the gods are not unfeeling, their hearts were touched.” (Gilgamesh, 72) This immediate reception and reaction is reminiscent of the Greek gods “stuff What’s perhaps the most interesting is the reception these deities have received, overall, and the following garnered as a result. One would be hard-pressed to find somebody in the world that hasn’t heard of Jesus Christ, even millennia after his alleged time on earth. As of 2010, Christianity was, by far, the most practiced religion in the world, with an estimated two-billion adherents: roughly 31 percent of the total population. There are numerous religions that view Jesus as the messiah, and perhaps the most important individual in history. Church’s still meet every sunday to discuss and promote his teachings, people pray, there’s a lot of present-day spirituality surrounding this person. Comparing this to the greek gods who have almost been completely forgotten, save for the ancient texts that discuss their various escapades of the past. According to recent polls, the mainland of Greece in addition to its islands are now 98% Christian Orthodox. This is a massive shift from ancient times, and shows what a powerful idea, regardless of truth, the concepts of Jesus Christ and a Christian God really are.