Characteristics of Jesus in the Hellenistic Culture vs. Beowulf in the Anglo Saxon Culture How would one define a person as a “hero”? Those from different time periods have different cultural beliefs that could contribute to their definition of a hero. Those from the Anglo- Saxon culture, from which the character Beowulf comes, may have different views on various heroic attributes compared to those who were raised in the Hellenistic culture from which Jesus comes.
Although Beowulf, from the epic poem Beowulf, was known to be the greatest king and most favored warrior of the Anglo-Saxon time period, in Hellenistic culture, Jesus, whom ne would learn about from the Holy Bible, came face to face with the devil, was tortured, and in the end, crucified. Through all of the misery Beowulf and Jesus endured, both heroes remained humble and loyal to their people while showing tremendous amounts of courage and strength, proving themselves to be epic heroes of their time periods.
In the epic, Beowulf, the author introduces the readers to Beowulf, an incredible hero who exhibits immense amounts of strength, bravery, and loyalty to his people. One is first introduced to this brave hero at the beginning of the epic when Beowulf travels across strange waters to help innocent people, he Danes, from the wrath of Grendel and his mother. After the arrival, Beowulf and his men were greeted by one of the king’s men, Wulfgar, who brought a message from the king stating that they must leave their weapons behind prior to entering the kings home.
Once the weapons were left, Beowulf had to prove to the king of the Danes, Hrothgar, that he was worthy of terminating these beasts by boasting about former victories. Then, Beowulf was able to display his superhuman strength within the battles of both monsters, Grendel and his Mother. In the battle with Grendel, Beowulf’s strength aided in his victory y tearing off the arm of the beast, leaving Grendel with a fatal injury. Once the mother of Grendel noticed what Beowulf had done to her son, she started a blood feud with the people of the Danes in order to gain the satisfaction of avenging Grendel.
Although the mother fought a hard battle, the beast was unable to compete with the almighty Beowulf as he beheaded her with a magical sword. In the epic poem Beowulf, one may notice the way various characters behave within the story may contain similarities to the customs on the Anglo-Saxons. As the author of the epic writes, “My lord, the great king of the Danes ommands me to tell you that he knows of your noble birth and that having come to him from over the open sea you have come bravely and you are welcome… ut leave your battle-shields here, and your spears, let them lie waiting for the promises your words may make” (“Adventures in English… ” 149-156). In this text, Beowulf proved his bravery to the Danes by traveling across the sea to be of assistance in defeating the monster that has been invading the people. However, Wulfgar, one of the king’s men, ordered for Beowulf and his men to leave behind their weapons. Michael Delahoyde, a professor at Washington
State University, writes, “Occasionally some tribes temporarily grouped together for a larger war task, or against Viking invaders, but there was no national unity or any Round Table in these early years” (Delahoyde). Delahoyde also states that, “Fighting was a way of life” (Delahoyde). Although Beowulf was extremely brave to go across the sea to help the Danes, it was also very common within the Anglo-Saxon time period for different tribes to group together when help is needed. Also, the Anglo-Saxon people lived an extremely violent life in which fighting was custom to them.
This may explain the reasoning as o why Wulfgar ordered Beowulf and his men to leave behind their weapons before entering the king’s home. Beowulf’s men were new to the Danes and had not yet earned their trust. The Danes did not want there to be any act of violence as long as Beowulf’s men obtained their weapons. In order for Beowulf to gain the trust of the Danish king, Hrothgar, Beowulf needed to use the method of boasting, “I drove five great giants into chains, chased all of the race from the earth. I swam in the blackness of night, hunting monsters out of the ocean, and killing them one by one… (“Adventures in English… 174-181).
Boasting within the Anglo-Saxon time period was very important, since it acted as a verbal contract to prove that one may be worthy of completing a task. It also proved that one was a strong leader, “Kings should display the heroic ideal and be known for an extraordinary and courageous feat or for success in war, all preceded by some boasting” (Delahoyde). Beowulf was known by his people to be a strong leader, however, Hrothgar had heard these great things about Beowulf but still needed proof in order to trust him.
Since boasting was extremely honored within the time period of the Anglo-Saxons, Beowulf used that method to prove to Hrothgar that he has what it takes to defeat the monsters. Beowulf was able to use his superhuman strength in the battle of Grendel to tear off the beast’s arm, leaving Grendel with a fatal injury. Due to the death of her son, the mother of Grendel became furious, attacking and killing anyone she could get her hands on. In order to stop the killing, Beowulf went head to head with the terrifying monster, “And in an instant she had him down, held helpless.
Squatting with her weight on his stomach, she drew a dagger, brown with dried blood, and prepared to avenge her only son” (“Adventures in English. 620-623). Although some may believe that the mother of Grendel was being cruel and evil for the killing innocent people, it was actually custom for the Anglo-Saxons to react in this way when a family member died. As Michael Delahoyde writes in his scholarly article, Anglo-Saxon Culture, “and not to avenge the death of a family member was a social disgrace, so endlessly intricate blood-feuds generated perpetual excuses for going to war.
The two alternatives for ending a blood-feud were 1) paying “wergild” — the man price.. ” (Delahoyde). Due to the death of her son, Grendel’s mother started a blood feud with the Danes since they failed to ay weregild; although it may seem wrong, in the Anglo-Saxon culture, it was a way of life. Although Beowulf was considered to be an epic hero in Anglo-Saxon culture, the well-known and almighty Jesus Christ was considered both in the Hellenistic culture and today to be the ultimate hero. Jesus was a religious leader in the Hellenistic time period who has become the central figure of Christianity.
He was most known for His generosity, love, incredible miracles, uniting of different religions, and His resurrection from the dead. As Gerard Hall, the Head of Theology at the Australian Catholic University, writes, “Nazareth was a Jewish enclave. It was also relatively poor and overpopulated… there tended to be a fair amount of sickness and disease” (Hall). Jesus spent most of his life in Galilee, Nazareth, and Jerusalem, all of which were full of disease. Within this time, no one associated with the sick or dying.
If one were to see a leper out on the streets one must shun them. However, out of the goodness of His heart, Jesus did just the opposite, “And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers who stood at the distance and lifted their voices saying Jesus, Master, have mercy on us’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests. And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed turned back, praising God with a loud voice and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet giving him thanks” (“The Holy Bible. ” Luke 17: 11-16).
When no one else would, Jesus helped the ten lepers when they needed it most and showed them kindness, as well as healing their terrible disease by the grace of God. Jesus used His incredible miracles and teachings to help unite the people of Israel and turn them Word, but He could not have done it alone. Jesus had gathered up twelve men, which He called His disciples, to help Him on His the Glory of God’s ourney. The twelve disciples learned about the grace of God through the teachings of Jesus, but after Jesus’s death, they were to continue teaching others.
As the Holy Bible states, “And Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (“The Holy Bible.. ” Matthew 28: 18-20). The disciples were to take what that had learned from Jesus, emember, or memorize, His teachings, and use it to call upon others to God’s glory.
As William Craig, a professor of Philosophy as Houston Baptist University, writes, “In an oral culture like that of first century Palestine the ability to memorize and retain large tracts of oral tradition was a highly prized and highly developed skill” (Craig). In Hellenistic culture, the ability to retain a multitude of information and explain what one has retained back to another person was honored. The disciples were able to display this highly honored trait as they called upon others, as Jesus had commanded them.
Although there are many other ttributes from both Jesus and Beowulf that can relate back to their time periods, the few that were named seem to be among the most important. However, both the Anglo-Saxon culture and the Hellenistic culture contain behaviors that may compare to one another. One of which would be the requirements of a king, as Delahoyde wrote in his article, Anglo-Saxon Culture, “Kings should display the heroic ideal and be known for an extraordinary and courageous feat or for success in war…
The king must be a generous “ring-giver” too — that is, he must dish out the spoils of war to his thanes rather than hoard the reasures won in tribal warfare” (Delahoyde). A king in this time period must exemplify generosity and must be a “ring-giver”, meaning that one must be able to use the winnings that may be obtained and use it to give back to the people, and in return the people will give back to the king. This Anglo-Saxon requirements ? may also apply to Jesus in the Hellenistic culture.
Jesus displayed immense amounts of love and generosity to His people, going out of His way to make sure His people felt loved. He healed the sick and the lame, cleansed the sins of everyone, and even laid down His own life for His followers. Jesus would have been considered the “ring-giver” of the Hellenistic time period. One other behavior of the Anglo-Saxon people that could compare with that of the Hellenistic culture is boasting. In the AngloSaxon time period, boasting was taken extremely seriously and was considered a verbal promise.
When Jesus would boast, He was promising the people eternal life in heaven, claiming that He was the Son of God and that those who follow Him and believe in Him will be saved. Jesus was verbally promising that, and it was taken very seriously, but not in a positive way. As the Holy Bible states, “I and the Father are one. ‘The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me? The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God'” (“The Holy Bible… ” John 10:30-33). Because of Jesus’s boast, it worried the Roman empire, they then became angry that a former carpenter from Nazareth claimed to be more powerful than them. Because of anger the Roman’s had with Jesus, it ultimately lead to His crucifixion. Beowulf and Jesus both could both be considered heroes within their culture and time period.
However, there are some significant differences within the two. Beowulf’s use of boasting of prior victories and physical strength gained him trust with his followers. However, Jesus convinced people to trust and follow him using meekness, kindness, love, and the promise of God’s forgiveness. Both men exhibit exemplary qualities as leaders, but in the end, the lesson learned is that goodness and unconditional love is timeless, explaining why Jesus is a hero for all ages.