Bible Essays - Pain and Suffering in Homer's Odyssey and the Gospel of Matthew
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Pain and Suffering in The Odyssey and the Gospel of Matthew
In the "great works" of ancient Greece and of Christianity, suffering alone is portrayed as something to be feared. Both Homer's Odyssey and the Gospel of Matthew contend that suffering is virtually unbearable when the sufferer has not outside support. If, however, the tormented can find support from others, these teachings continue, suffering becomes more tolerable. Both agree that we wish to find supporters when we are tormented. Unfortunately, these sources diverge on how one finds such support. Homer teaches that one can find support by knowing that all of mankind suffers together, ultimately tormented by the gods. The Gospel of Matthew, however, teaches that by placing faith in God, the tormented can find support from God. More, it teaches that God hears the calls for help from humans and, if asked in true faith, will give support to all sufferers.
To illustrate the teachings of these two works, one short passage from each is sufficient to give the kernel of the respective teachings on this subject:
Rag of man that I am, is this the end of me?
I fear the goddess told it all to wellÄ
predicting great adversity at sea
and far from home. Now all things bear her out:
he whole rondure of heaven hooded so
by Zeus in woeful cloud, and the sea raging
under such winds. I am going down, that's sure.
How lucky those Danaans were who perished
on Troy's wide seaboard, serving the Atreidai!
Would God I, too, had died there—met my end
that time the Trojans made so many casts at me
when I stood by Akhilleus after death.
I should have had a soldier's burial
and praise from the Akhanians—not this choking
waiting for me at sea, unmarked and lonely. (Homer V.309-323)
"He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said 'I am God's Son." The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.
From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, "This man is calling for Elijah." At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.