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Themes in Ancient Texts—Applicable from Past to Present

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The ancient texts studied in any western civilization course obviously have relevance to today’s society either through the values they themselves possess or the works that they inspired; however, not all of the values presented in these works are still relevant in the modern world. The Tanakh, Sophocles’ Antigone, and Plato’s Apology are not exceptions to this rule. Each of these works has central ideas that are incredibly applicable to our modern culture and ideas that are less than appropriate in the twenty-first century.

Across cultures and religions, perhaps one of the most recognizable passages from the Tanakh is the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-14). Here, God gives Moses ten laws, which are to govern the Israelites. While this passage may seem relevant because many people, especially those of the Jewish and Christian faiths, still observe these laws, it is relevant to today’s society for an entirely different reason. These Ten Commandments are one of the first sets of written laws and today, countries all over the world still have sets of written laws to govern themselves. More guidelines and laws are presented in Exodus 20:22-23:33 that cover topics that range from slavery to the murder of other people and all of these laws together were “a remarkably humane and ‘egalitarian’ body of social legislation” (Trulove 34). For any society to function properly, whether past or present, it is crucial that there is some set of universal guidelines guiding the people and organizations that the aforementioned society consists of.

Another characteristic element of many of the books of the Tanakh is the long lists of family lineages. For example, the entirety of the fifth chapter of Genesis, 32 verses in all, is a “record ...

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...me” (34). Additionally, Socrates comments on the corruption that stems those who use emotional tactics or appeals related to their family to try and escape harsh punishments for criminal charges (36-37). Obviously, with fraudulent charges and defenses riddled with emotional appeals, the judicial system in Athens during Socrates’ time was less than ideal. In America, the legal system obviously is more regulated than this; however, keeping past corrupt judicial systems in mind can help keep that negative aspect of Athenian life out of our own lives.

As demonstrated, many of the early works of western civilization are still applicable in today’s society. Although some of the ideas in these ancient texts have had relevance throughout time and are still applicable today while others have no place in current times, there is much to learn from the works of the past.
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