The Iliad and Odyssey [Homer]
I want to cover some of the classics of Western Literature- when I do the philosophy and science stuff- the purpose is to show how God- and ‘religion’ are an inescapable thread that we see all thru out history- and in fact- the rise of what we call ‘intellectualism’ did indeed come from the Judaic/Christian tradition [for instance- the modern day university system did come from the Church].
Ok- lets start with what most believe to be the greatest work from antiquity- outside of the bible.
These are 2 poems by Homer- the Iliad and Odyssey.
These poems were written in the 8th century BCE- and cover the Trojan war- which most believe was a real war- that took place in the 12th-13th century BCE.
In Homers works we read about this epic battle.
The war starts with- once again- a ‘woman’ issue.
Prince Paris of Troy steals Helen of Greece- from her husband King Menelaus [king of Sparta].
The Greeks- led by Achilles- lay siege to Troy.
In Homers telling of the event- the Greeks are actually defending the honor of marriage- and are carrying out a just retribution against an unjust act.
Sort of the same themes we read in scripture- when the sons of Jacob defended the honor of their sister Dinah- when she was treated unjustly by the pagan nation that took her- forcefully- to be the wife of a kings son.
The brothers meted out justice- by tricking these pagans to get circumcised- then- while recovering ‘from surgery’- the sons went in and wiped out the city- to their fathers dismay!
In the story- Achilles is a warrior- who displays extreme violence- and also the human traits of a man who acts out of selfish motives.
At one point in the war- he removes himself from battle- because he feels his honor was betrayed.
The only thing that brings him back is the killing of his close friend Patroclus- by Hector.
Achilles leads the Greeks to victory- and reflects the struggle between living a long life- or dying young- yet dying for a just cause.
One of the more famous quotes form Homer’s Poems- attributed to Achilles- is ‘I carry 2 sorts of destiny to the day of my death. Either, if I stay here and fight beside the city of the Trojans, my return home is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting; but if I return home to the beloved land of my fathers, the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be a long life- left for me, and my end in death will not come to me quickly.’
There has been some debate over the historicity of the war itself.
Some scholars believe it was Myth [I’ll get to this in a moment].
That is- they believe the war itself was not true- but a sort of Oral Tradition- that encompasses the reality of the human condition- and that Homers Poems are simply mythological ways to reveal the true condition of man.
Yet- much like the debate that took place in the 19th century German universities- over the ‘Myth’ of the bible- later on- the rise of what we now call Archaeology [because of the Industrial revolution- a new field arose- men started digging up the ground- for the primary purpose of extracting materials from the earth- and at this time we also discovered ‘lost worlds’- that is we could actually trace cities and lands that were once deemed fake].
So- as with Homers Troy- and bible lands- these archaeologists did indeed find Cities that matched the stories.
In 1870 the German Archaeologist Schliemann discovered remains that seemed to find the city of Troy- the area is known today as modern day Turkey.
This same thing happened with the bible- we did indeed find historical evidence that seemed to back up the historicity of the stories we find in the bible.
As a matter of fact- a famous doubter of the bible embarked on a search- to prove the bible was ‘myth’ yet- after researching carefully the historical names and places we read about in the book of Acts- he came to believe that the book of Acts- written by both an historian and doctor [Luke] was the most historically accurate writing that came from the first century [Acts has lots of names of political figures- court proceedings- stuff like that- and when doing research like this- it is quite easy to debunk the historical reality of a fake work- but- when these names and places were researched- from actual historical records dating back to the first century- it was amazing how the pieces fit].
The Trojan War is found in many works of Greek literature- and art.
But the most comprehensive account comes from Homer’s 2 poems.
Now- in Homer’s poems there are obvious references to Mythology- Goddesses- Golden apples- the Greek gods intervening in the affairs of men.
So yeah- we see that there are obvious mythological aspects to the work.
Yet- the ancient Geeks did indeed believe the war itself was a real war that took place at around the 12th century BCE.
Some believe that Homer never actually wrote the poems- but that he told the stories- like Oral Tradition- and they were later written down by others.
Sort of like the classic- Paradise Lost- by John Milton. Milton was blind- and told the story to his daughters [oral tradition] and the actual work was penned by those who heard it.
Jesus himself used this method- he never wrote a book- or letter in the New Testament- yet the gospels were compiled by his men after his death.
We read about this when Luke [who I mentioned above] gives the reason for his documenting stuff in the book of Acts [read Acts chapter one].
Luke also wrote his gospel a few years after the death and resurrection of Christ.
So- some believe the same thing happened with Homer- those who heard him tell the story multiple times- simply put it together later on.
Most scholars believe that Homer did indeed write the poems- and that the famous Trojan War was a real historical event.
Last year- when in North Bergen- my atheist friend Daniel said he watched a PBS show- and he said ‘even a priest said the bible was Myth’.
I explained to Daniel that when the more liberal scholars use this term [like in the writings of Bultman] that they do not mean ‘fake’- like Greek Mythology.
But they mean that some of the stories in the gospels might be a compilation of the many Oral teachings of Jesus- and they were put together as one story [some think the Sermon on the Mount was actually multiple teachings Jesus did- and they were compiled into one event].
Now- when I explained this to Daniel- he said ‘see- even you believe it was Myth’.
I told Daniel that no- I do not hold to this theory [not 100%] but that I was simply telling him that even those who use the term Myth- when talking about Theology- they do not mean Myth- as in fake.
So- I find it interesting that both the New testament- and Homers poems- got the same scrutiny.
In these poems we do indeed see the condition of man- which Homer depicts as one of constant war- not peace.
James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
Homers poems are considered by some to be the beginning of the great works of Western literature- of which there are many.
The great writer C.S. Lewis- who rejected Christianity for many years- later became a believer.
He attributed his conversion to the fact that he could not escape the reality of the Church- or Christian themes- found in all the fields of study.
Whether it was the classics- or history- philosophy.
He said every were he read- studied- he could not escape this scarlet thread that ran thru out all the fields of knowledge.
Yeah- in the end- his thirst for knowledge- his intellectual search- led him to the Cross.
Jesus- in a way- was a 1st century Achilles- he battled the forces of darkness- for the honor of a woman- the Bride- the church.
He- Like Achilles- chose a just death- for a just cause.
There’s a prophecy in the Old Testament- it speaks of Christ ‘the zeal of thine house has eaten me up’.
Jesus was a righteous warrior- a prophet, priest and king- and he had a zeal for the church- that far exceeded anything we find in Homers poems.
THE WEDDING PLANNER
Sunday I visited Dirk in jail- he’s still waiting to see if they will indict him- on the stabbing of my other friend- Tennessee.
I had a good talk with him- he seems to be doing well.
He told me that some guy started a bible study in the county jail- and he has about 30 guys attending.
Dirk told me the guy’s good- knows what he’s talking about.
He said ‘he’s the Wedding Planner’.
I remember reading about his case in the local paper- he bilked some people out of around 100 thousand bucks- he ‘planned’ their weddings- took the cash- but never did the job.
If I remember- they gave him about 17 years in prison- I guess he's waiting to get transferred to TDC.
Dirk told me he doesn’t go- because the guys ‘BI’ [sexual].
Yeah- Dirk is a homophobe- I don’t say this kidding- over the years he has accused lots of people of being ‘undercover’ homo’s’ and he really fits the classic case of a homophobe.
I got some info from him- he wanted me to put some money into his trustee account- I did it legally on-line.
I do have his bank cards- and Drivers License.
He trusts me- that’s good actually- because he would not be able to get money- his other friends would rob him blind.
I asked about his dog Gunner- who I have at my house- my daughter needs to know if he had his shots- if not- she would take him to get his shots.
Dirk said ‘why do you want to know- are you gonna keep him’.
He was worried that I wanted his dog- now- Gunner does lay down with me- he sat with me in the yard the other day- In the rain!
Gunner remembers me from the streets- so he sees me as a surrogate dad.
I haven’t seen Dirk in a few weeks- being I was out of state and stuff.
He has called a few times- like some other friends from Texas- but being I am very busy- I decided to go back to the old habit of not answering the phone- unless I recognize the number [I don’t listen to messages either- too many].
So- he thought I was mad at him- he said he kept going thru his mind- trying to think of what he said to get me mad.
I told him ‘no Dirk- I’m not mad- I miss lots of calls- you’re not the only one’.
Dirk told me about his plans- when he gets out- get another van- camp at the beach- make trips to East Texas- all things he has talked about for many years [and has done].
We go back a long way.
I told the local crew that I saw Dirk- some said ‘why- he’s getting what he deserves’.
I told them he’s a friend- and I don’t excuse what he did- I mean he almost killed my other friend- but- God is about redemption.
He shows mercy- that of course does not mean we should get off Scott free- no- the law is God given.
The apostle Paul says ‘he beareth not the sword in vain’.
Talking about the law- yes- in the letter to the Romans Paul says ‘he is the minister of God to thee for good- if you do right- then the law will honor you- but if you do wrong- then fear- the law will come down on you’.
So yes- God is not against people paying a just price for their crimes.
God forgives us- if we are truly sorry.
Yet- society has mechanisms in place to punish sin- crime.
These laws are for all of our benefit- and yes- at times we might be the ones who are on the cutting edge of the sword- but that’s ok.
God will do a work in us- even if we are being punished for our crimes.
Dirk offered again to pay for the shots for his dog- or to pay for the dog food- I keep telling him ‘no- don’t worry- I’ll cover it’.
He got mad- for real [I’ve seen him mad before- and he has seen me mad too].
I just don’t want to use his money- for anything.
He gets his money from disability- but when you’re in jail the payments stop.
Often the guys keep getting paid- until Social Security figures it out.
Then when they get out- they cut their check.
I’m not sure what will happen to Dirk- I don’t know what evidence there is- I know the friend he stabbed wants no part of testifying- he said he was leaving the state- going back to Tennessee.
I heard he is already gone- but who really knows.
Either way- Dirk will be in jail for at least a few more months.
I don’t take sides- if he gets some prison time- that’s fine.
I’ll write him- like I did for many years with my other friends.
I have written my friends in prison- gave them advice- kept them informed about the ministry.
Guys in prison look forward to letters- and they are open to advice- being they are a captive audience.
You know- God does work in mysterious ways- who would have thought the Wedding Planner would start a church in jail- yeah- Jesus gave a parable about some guy who invited lots of guest to a wedding.
The high class folk turned down the invitation.
The master got mad- and said ‘go back out- invite all the low class- the dregs of society- the killers- the cheats- they will come’.
Sure enough- Jesus said they filled that banquet with the low life’s.
So- I guess the Wedding Planner is just doing his job.
THE PROMISE CAME
This week I’m teaching Acts chapter 2 in our home groups.
In the chapter we see the promise that Jesus made to his men- that after he left them- he would send the promised Holy Spirit- and the Spirit would bring ‘all things to memory- the things I taught you’.
So- Jesus invested 3 and a half years into his men- he taught them- did miracles- and was laying the groundwork for the Kingdom.
Before he ascended into heaven he gave them the ‘Great commission’- ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone- teaching them to observe all that I commanded you- those who believe and are baptized will be saved’.
He told them to wait at Jerusalem for the promise of the Spirit.
So- the day the Spirit came- Pentecost- was a strategic day.
For hundreds of years the Jews observed various feasts that God gave them- There were 3 main ones.
These feasts represented major acts of deliverance/goodness that God did on their behalf.
Jesus was crucified during the Passover feast- which was the feast that marked God delivering the Jews from Egypt.
They sacrificed a spotless lamb- and put the blood on their door posts.
Ok- Jesus was called the Lamb of God- and he was the fulfillment of this feast- on the actual day they also sacrificed the lamb.
Now- 50 days later- in the Jewish calendar- they would celebrate another feast- Pentecost.
These feasts have various names- and meanings.
One for Pentecost was called First fruits- and this represented one of the harvests that the Jews had.
In the Jewish agricultural calendar- there were 2 main harvest times.
They got early rain- and latter rain.
They would offer the first harvest [or parts of it] to God- like a first fruit offering.
So- when this feast day came- in Acts chapter 2- there were Jews from all over that came to Jerusalem for this feast.
While they were there- the disciples and about 120 followers of Jesus were all together in one place and their came a sound from heaven- like a ‘rushing mighty wind’.
It filled the room- and they all spoke in other languages- languages they did not know.
All the people that were there were shocked- they said ‘are not all these from Galilee- then how do we hear them speak in our own dialects’.
Some said they were drunk- others said it was too early to be drunk.
Then Peter stood up with the other 11 disciples and said ‘no- these are not drunk- but this is the prophecy that Joel made years ago- that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh’.
Peter explains that this strange event- was a promise God had made centuries before.
So- Peter then preaches Christ- that he was sent from God- did signs and miracles among them- and that God chose him to be the judge of all men.
Then Peter gets bold ‘and he is the one you killed’!
All the people witnessing this are in terror ‘what should we do?’
Peter says ‘repent- and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ- your sins will be forgiven- and you will too receive this Holy Spirit’.
This day there were about 3 thousand who believed- and this is what most see as the beginning of the church.
These first believers then sold their stuff- shared with each other- continued learning from the apostles and lived a communal life.
It is important to see that God strategically poured out the Spirit at a time- and place- that would have maximum impact.
Many of the people that came from all over for the feast- they then went back to their cities and the good news spread.
There were some that came as far away as Rome- these were probably those who started the church at Rome.
Paul the apostle wrote letters to the churches- most of them were churches he himself started- but when he penned the letter to the Romans- he was writing to a church that he did not plant.
The importance of this feast day- and how its true meaning [like the Passover] would be fulfilled thru Christ and his ministry- is that believers don’t just have a set of rules to live by.
Or simply try real hard to keep God's law [the Old covenant].
But no- we actually have the Spirit of God in us- and that’s the power for us to live the Christian life.
In his letter to the Romans Paul said that we have died with Christ in Baptism- and the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will also ‘quicken’ [make alive] our mortal bodies.
This verse- found in Romans 8- can apply not only to our future resurrection body- but also to our lives now.
Meaning that the Spirit in us enables us to live Holy.
The apostle Paul puts strong emphasis on God making us new creatures- thru the Spirit that dwells in us.
If you read the chapter- Peter’s message to his Jewish brothers was quite amazing.
Peter taps into the promise that God made to king David centuries ago- that God would place one of David’s sons upon his throne ‘forever’.
And Peter quotes a few of the Psalms that David wrote ‘you will not leave my soul in hell- or suffer your holy one to decay in the grave’.
Peter says ‘David was not speaking about himself- no- we have David’s grave with us till this day. But being a prophet- and knowing that God promised him that one of his sons would sit on his throne- David was talking about Jesus- and his resurrection’.
Peter ties in the former promises of God to King David- and says the resurrection- and ascension of Christ is God keeping these promises.
The last words of Jesus in the bible- found in the book of Revelation- are ‘I Jesus have sent my angel to testify about these things in the churches- I am the root and offspring of David- the bright and morning star’.
Yeah- the Jewish people were waiting for David’s son- a future Messiah- who would come and rescue them from their oppressors [like the story in Exodus- and the first Passover].
On this Pentecost day- Peter said the promise was fulfilled- that those seeing these things- these very strange events- they were in a way a first fruits harvest unto God.
They were just the beginning of a worldwide movement- harvest- that was destined to ‘take over the world’.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
Acts 2:3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Acts 2:6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
Acts 2:7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
Acts 2:8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
Acts 2:9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
Acts 2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
Acts 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
Acts 2:18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
Acts 2:40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Acts 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
Acts 2:45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
Acts 2:47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?Romans 6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Romans 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
Romans 6:8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
Romans 6:9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
Romans 6:10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
Romans 8:4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Romans 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
Romans 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John. Don’t forget to scroll down on the timeline [FaceBook#] - I have posted lots.