Erich Auerbach (Mimesis, 14-15) writes that the intent of biblical stories:
“is not to bewitch the senses, and if nevertheless they produce lively sensory effects, it is only because the moral, religious, and psychological phenomena which are their sole concern are made concrete in the sensible matter of life. But their religious intent involves an absolute claim to historical truth. . . . Without believing in Abraham’s sacrifice, it is impossible to put the narrative of it to the use for which it was written. . . . The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be a historically true reality—it insists that it is the only real world, is destined for autocracy . . . The Scripture stories do not, like Homer’s, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us—they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.”
HT: A. Philip Brown II, Hope Amidst Ruin, 28 n. 23.
Dr. Hamilton, nice blog! I have sat at the feet of Homer, and afterwards I felt shortchanged by the Bible. There was something missing in the Scriptures. Homer’s epics were beautifully crafted, and the Bible’s was boring. This is how I felt. The differences were not attributable to just Greek and Hebrew (some parts of Isaiah stirred me like the Iliad, but only some). I read book 24 of the Iliad where it says, “He [Priam] sat at his (Achilles) knees and clasped his hands, those manslaying hands which had killed so many of his sons.” I thought, “Why can’t the Bible read so beautifully?” I sought to find the reason for my preference for Homeric verse over againts biblical poetry. I found that Chesterton and Lewis had poignant remarks. Lewis said that he was affected by eroticism when he read mythological texts, but he doesn’t seem to think it was a bad thing. Chesterton said that all myths lead to eroticism, even if they were never intended for that end. Chesterton thought that this was a bad thing. I agree with Chesterton. Your post gives me another explanation for how I felt: Homer enchanted me. The Bible didn’t. It was eroticism. As the title of your post says, it was rebellion. Homer made me think that war was beautiful, erotic. The Bible wouldn’t deceive me. I’ll definitely get a copy of Auerback’s Mimesis, just for the sake of having the quote you posted here.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Matt, great to hear from you!
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