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The Presence Of God And The Gods In Homer’s Odyssey Essay

The stories of Genesis and The Odyssey would be fundamentally different without the presence of God and the gods in their respective narratives. However, how their respective presences manifest themselves are markedly different. The singular God of Genesis plays a passive role in the development of His plan for the mortal realm, acting from a distance, while the plural gods of the Odyssey who walk amongst the mortals and play the role of outright, active manipulators in order to enact their own plans for the mortals.

These differences cause God and the gods to be perceived in different ways. While the God in Genesis becomes an ethereal, holy figure through His distance, the gods in The Odyssey are made more human through their interactions with the earthly realm. The distance between God and the earthly realm stems from Adam and Eve’s giving into temptation and their subsequent banishment from the Garden of Eden; however, God’s passivity is evident even before their fall.

God created the Garden of Eden and placed the Tree of Knowledge within the boundaries of the Garden. He tells his creations not the eat the fruit from the tree; however, it is ultimately the choice of Adam and Eve whether they follow the path God laid out before them or to stray from said path. They have the free will to make their own choices and God does very little to influence their decisions. There is no real deterrent to eating the fruit, only God’s command, which Adam and Eve choose to ignore.

This act of free will and God’s lack of active prohibition is what creates the separation between God and Man, a separation and distance that humanity strives to close and destroy as detailed within the following books of the Old and New Testaments. However, the gods and goddesses, particularly Pallas Athena, actively work against any deviations in their plans. While free will is still fully in play in the Odyssey and the choice is placed firmly in the hands of the mortals, the gods have no qualms about trying to influence mortal decisions through any means necessary.

Whether it be going down to earth and giving characters advice while disguised as a mortal, like Athena did in the first book of the Odyssey towards Telemachus, or sending down messengers and sending people prophecies. In the first book, after Homer’s invocation of the Muses, it opens with a scene in Olympus wherein the gods hold a council discussing a mortal who went against all the warnings the gods gave him. Athena manipulated the conversation towards her interests in helping Odysseus make his journey back home to Ithaca.

There is a sense that the God of Genesis has a plan for humanity, sets paths before them, and puts things in motion, then sits back and waits to see what the mortals will do. In Book _ of Genesis, he tells Rebecca that Jacob will become the father of a nation and allows Rebecca to manipulate events towards what she perceives to be the end goal. The God in Genesis gives vague instructions and allows humans to act as they please, regardless of whether or not they follow the morals that God commands them to follow in later books of the Bible.

Rebecca’s and Jacob’s fooling of Isaac and cheating Esau out of his birthright goes against that later Commandment against the telling of lies; however, this is what Rebecca did in order to carry out what God had more or less prophesized while Rebecca was pregnant. Later in Book One of the Odyssey, Athena disguises herself as Mentes and physically goes to Earth, visiting Odysseus’ palace in Ithaca in order to give Telemachus advice.

In contrast to the vague statements God gave to Rebecca in Book_ of Genesis, Pallas Athena disguised as an old mentor, gives Telemachus very specific instructions on how to drive the rowdy suitors away from the palace by finding his father and restoring the social structure based on the familial unit that she so supports, telling Telemachus to “fit out a ship with twenty oars, the best in sight,/ sail in quest of news of your long-lost father. ” Athena’s instructions are incredibly concrete, unlike the words the God in Genesis gave to Rebecca which spurred her into action.

God did not even call for Rebecca to act in any way whatsoever, merely telling her “The younger of the two/ will be stronger,/and the older son/will be his servant. ” Rebecca’s following actions – her favoritism of Jacob and her tricking of Isaac – were done independently and of her own free will, though they did serve to fulfill God’s plan and prophecy. It should also be noted that the verbs that are ascribed to the God in Genesis are mostly related to speech – “God said” or “the Lord spoke” or any other variations thereof.

While these are, by very definition, actions, speaking lacks the movement, dynamism, and sheer variety of verbs and descriptors used in relation to the gods of The Odyssey. Even when describing the very creation of the universe, the most common verb in that section was “said. ” Every passage detailing an act of creation followed a strict format by beginning with the phrase “God said. ” The repetition and parataxical sentence structure, which persists throughout the rest of the Book of Genesis and presumably the rest of the Bible as well, create what is, honestly, dull and stagnant images of the creation of the universe.

In contrast, the verbs used in the Odyssey are varied and kinesthetic, forming images of movement that create a sense of action and contribute to the lively and almost cinematic quality of the Odyssey. In her very first appearance, the goddess Athena is described as “sparkling-eyed” as she “drove” the other gods towards her end goal. Athena’s eyes would flash, she would rage and fly and inspire. These verbs cause Athena to come alive and make her appear to be more human and relatable towards the audience. God’s passivity in the Book of Genesis makes him completely un-relatable to the audience.

He does not have to be actively involved in the carrying out of his plans. He says “Let there be light” and light appears and light is created. His passivity creates distance, making Him otherworldly and ethereal, making him divine whereas the actions of the gods in The Odyssey causes them to take on more human characteristics, creating an emotional or psychological closeness to humans in addition to the physical closeness that the gods and humans share due to the gods being free to walk upon the earth and interact with humans.

Even when God has physical presence in Genesis, He still does not exhibit the type of action seen in the gods of the Odyssey. He comes disguised to Abraham and Sarah, and tells them that Sarah is to have a child, which causes Sarah to laugh due to the implausibility of that statement. While God visits them, though, he does not appear to show any emotion, the only indication that he found Sarah’s laugh to be insulting was the use of exclamation points in his speech and Sarah’s fearful reaction. Genesis does not try to make God appear human, because he is not human, He is God.

However, much of the appeal of the Odyssey is how relatable the gods are to humans. In a way, by making gods like humans, it causes humans to become god-like, which is the reason Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden in the first place. First and foremost, the Book of Genesis is a religious text. Any entertainment value the audience found in it was probably unintentional by the person who actually wrote the story down after what was probably centuries of oral tradition. God was never meant to be relatable, He was meant to be something to strive towards.

He is not a friend or a mentor, He is the end goal. The purpose of the Odyssey was most likely to entertain. No one who picks up the Odyssey hopes to find salvation within the pages, especially with the blatant manipulations, lies, and extramarital affairs. In order to appeal to an audience, the characters, the active players, must be relatable to the audience. The audience must be able to put themselves in the metaphorical shoes of each of the active players in order for the story to have any sort of meaningful impact, even the gods must be brought down to human levels.

Genesis and the Odyssey share many similar elements, mainly the very real presence of the divine in the rational world, an assurance and definitiveness that modern readers may not possess and may very much like to have. However, the differences in these elements stem from the very different purposes in the creation of these narratives. The God in Genesis is distant because He has to be in order for humanity to strive for salvation. He is distant because His passivity allowed for the creation of the distance and separation through the fall of Adam and Eve and the creation of the concept of original sin.

And God’s distance creates a sense of divinity and otherworldliness by making him appear almost completely unrelatable to humans. The activity of the gods and goddesses in the Odyssey make them appear to be more human in order for the audience to become attached to the narrative of the Odyssey and to be entertained by it. There is no reason for the gods to be distant and it is the supernatural’s closeness to humanity that allows for the creation of the story.

The gods are so closely intertwined with the mortals in The Odyssey that it is nearly impossible to discuss one without mentioning the other. The gods in the Odyssey are constantly telling stories, their activity and interaction in the mortal realm is what gives them so many human qualities. God in Genesis does not tell lies, he does not interact in the way humans would interact with each other. He is alien and implacable from his distant paradise while the gods of the Odyssey are human and movable as they walk freely amongst the mortals.

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