Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Iliad

My husband and I (having finished That Hideous Strength) are now listening through The Iliad during our evening chores. I thought I'd write up my impressions on it since it's been (wow) over ten years since I last read it. Note: some of these impressions are of the story, some strictly of this particular audio version. Also, this is just of the first section of the story (we're not that far along yet).

-When I heard Zeus called "the almighty" by the narrator, I thought, "well, sort of." Seriously, it comes across kind of unbelievable after all these years of studying the Bible and following Jesus. Calling Zeus "almighty" in the context of, well, reality, is laughable. Somehow, this hadn't really struck me before.

Which got me thinking: I see now, with this contrast between Zeus and God, why it's a necessity that the Almighty is also the All-Good. Looking at Zeus, you see that his weaknesses are all moral weaknesses . . . it's his pettiness, his lust, his changeableness that lead to his lack of real power. If he did not have these vices, he might be able to really have a will that is, as the poet says, "never thwarted". As it is . . . nah.

But I'm grateful for the insight that contrast gives me into the real God: I see now that you could not have someone who was all-powerful without him also being all-good. The very, very comforting off-shoot of this realization? Given the actual existence of the All-Good, you're never going have a final triumph of evil. Because an evil power would never be able to be have or maintain absolute power . . . its vices would eventually be its downfall. Moral weakness is real weakness.

-For a very long time, I wondered why the narrator was calling Apollo "Shutefar". I finally figured out that it's "Apollo Shoot-Afar". Ah.

-I hadn't actually forgotten this but . . . The Iliad is very gory. Wow. If the violence in the Bible ever surprised you when you finally got around to reading all the Old Testament, be assured that it's actually very restrained compared to other ancient texts.

-Actually, to me, as a Christian who's been reading the Bible for a couple of decades, one of the most interesting things about reading The Iliad is that it gives me a contemporary text to compare the Bible to. (Well, contemporary to some parts.) It's interesting to see what's similar because of culture and time, and what's very different because of theology or philosophy or culture (yes, culture falls on both sides).

-I also am immature enough that the poet's constant use of "the nipple" as a geographic landmark (as a sort of reference so you know exactly where the spear went in before "the darkness closed over his eyes") makes me giggle.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell


Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Apparently I am still immature as well, because that made me giggle ten years ago and I giggled again today reading your post. :)

Gabe said...

which translator / reader? Do you recommend the recording?

MomCO3 said...

Ah yes, and darkness closed over his eyes. That may be the most-repeated phrase in Iliad... if you don't count "Dawns rosy fingers".