Faith and Retribution in "Genesis" and Homer's "Odyssey"

Essay by simarmaUniversity, Bachelor's October 2002

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Both the Old Testament of the Bible and Homer's Odyssey posit a natural order that existed at the beginning, a time when everyone knew their place, man was in concord with God (or the gods), and everything was just as it should be, In the Bible, this was the time when Adam and Eve first lived in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall; in the Odyssey, it can be presumed to be the era before Odysseus left Ithaka to fight in the Trojan War. However, both these balanced situations were upset very soon. Adam and Eve sinned against God, were exiled from Paradise, and stuck in a repetitive cycle of sinning; Odysseus left his home and family and was gone for twenty years. By the time we come down to the Great Flood in Genesis, and the opening chapters of the Odyssey, things in both stories are markedly off kilter.

Each of these stories -- that of Noah and the Ark in the Bible, and that of the carousing suitors in the Odyssey -- illustrate what happens when unprincipled people take over and virtuous people are unable to stop them. During Odysseus' twenty-year absence in the Odyssey, everyone back home in Ithaca has assumed he is dead. He leaves a large home and a hefty legacy, and consequently, suitors for his wife's hand (and, by extension Odysseus' lands, money, and title) are swarming all over the palace. The modern reader may wonder why Odysseus' wife Penelope simply did not send these unwanted suitors packing right away. The answer is, she couldn't. Their son Telemakhos for most of this period is too young to fill his father's shoes. By Greek custom, then, as soon as it has been definitely ascertained that the old ruler is not coming back, a new...