Well, I just finished reading The Odyssey last night. As you probably already know, the same author who wrote The Iliad also wrote The Odyssey…Homer. I wonder who that guy was? I’ve read briefly that people are amazed at his familiarity with the Mediterranean Islands at a time when maps weren’t anywhere near accurate. In The Odyssey, there is a ton of boats going hither and yonder to various islands, and apparantly, Homer always seemed to know the right direction and where islands fell in relation to others. So, he must have done a lot of traveling himself, one would think. I don’t even know if there is anything that we actually know about the man besides the rough dates of his existance and the two pieces of literature that are left to us.
Now, The Odyssey is named after the main character, Odysseus, though in Latin, his name is written as Ulysses. Almost without fail, or as many versions (6 or so) that I have checked, English translations use the Latin name. I’m not sure why that is when they are translating directly from the Greek. It would be like reading the New Testament and translating THEOS as Dei because that is the Latin form. But, I’m sure there’s a rhyme to the reason.
So, here’s the direction I want to take this post. I’d like to compare the worldview of the ancient Greeks (as best I understand it from Homer) with modern Christians in regard to finding/knowing/etc the WILL of God or the gods. What I think I want to argue is that there is very little difference. In fact, if you compart modern Christians’ belief about God’s will for their lives with any polytheistic/animistic religion, you’ll find similar thoughts.
For instance, if you want to know what to do in ancient Greece, for instance do or don’t go to war, you go ask the oracles, a soothsayer/prophet, or the life. They will tell you before you do anything whether it will succeed or fail. When I hear most Christians (and I have been and still am guilty here as well) talk about discerning God’s will, they want a definitive pre-determined, clearly specified plan of action, but the Bible reveals a God much different from the oracle at Delphi or Tiresius the famous Greek soothsayer. Most of the time, the Bible shows David begging, “How long, Oh Lord?” or Paul trying to get into Asia or Bithynia and being prevented by the Spirit (Acts 16). This isn’t to say that God doesn’t ever speak clearly and all up front (or at least mostly up front), but I think one can argue those instances as very rare exceptions to the rule.
Not only do we want to know everything clearly and upfront, but we also want a confirming “sign.” We want writing on the wall or our Spaghetti-Os to spell-out “Go to Africa.” In much the same way, you often see Ulysses or some other Greek asking Jove (also known as Zeus) for a sign that Jove will bring about the good plan. Again, we see in the Bible that God can and has given signs, but for every Gideon in the Bible, there are a million who say with James, “if the Lord wills, we will…(fill in the blank).”
You know, I’m not sure how reading various individual Western Classics is going to change my life. I’m sure there will be a number of things that I (either initially or forever) think are a waste of time, but my prayer is that I begin to understand more and more how mankind has lived and thought so that I might better understand how men live and think today. Along the way, I hope to hold those things up to Scripture and ask, “Is this God’s way?” And, I think we fall well short of God’s best in the area of walking in His will. Maybe I can post more on that topic another time.