Old Testament vs. Hellenic Divine Intervention


The Old Testament and Hellenic texts we have studied have numerous
examples of divine intervention. The range and complexity in human affairs that
these interventions occur have similar, yet different attributes. Both texts
describe divine intervention as a way of explaining "why things happen(ed) and
being "chosen" by God or gods to fulfill a destiny. Both also see divine
intervention as something that can not be understood by humans; God or the gods
have their reasons why people are "chosen" and why certain gifts, events, and
catastrophes happen and we will never understand the reasoning. Differences in
the texts stem from the reasons they are the same; why certain people are chosen,
why events happen, etc.
The range and complexity in human affairs of divine intervention as
described in the Hellenic texts and the Old Testament are similar because of the
interference in human affairs, yet they are different because of why certain
people are chosen to fulfill a destiny. For instance, in the Old Testament, God
chooses Noah and his family to be the only survivors after the flood that wipes
out the earth. His destiny was to build the ark and take a pair of every living
creature to help repopulate the earth after everything is wiped out. This is
similar to Oedipus at Colonus, in the Hellenic texts, because the gods choose
Oedipus to save the city of Colonus from his own sons. They differ because God,
in the Old Testament, chooses rather blindly. He does not choose people for any
reason except that is who He wanted. If He does choose, it is based on goodness
or loyalty to Him. The gods of Hellenic texts, like in Oedipus at Colonus, the
gods choose Oedipus because of his wisdom and his family line. The Hellenic
texts choose based on prestige, family, and honor. Another example of this is
the story "Joseph" in the Old Testament. Joseph was chosen to be a powerful
ruler in Egypt for no reason whatsoever, just because God wanted him to be. In
The Illiad, this would never happen, Achilles is chosen to defeat Hector because
of his prestige, honor, and family line. Achilles is not chosen because Zeus
just wanted him to. Not just anybody could have killed Hector, it had to be
someone famous.
In the Old Testament, divine intervention, especially in "Genesis,"
plays a very important part. For example, in "The Creation of the Universe,"
God wills everything into being. "God said, ‘Let there be light,\'" (Genesis
1:5) "Then God said, ‘Let the earth produce growing things,\'" (Genesis 1:11)
"God said, ‘Let the earth bring forward living creatures,\'" (Genesis 1:24).
These things, and others, are a way to explain why we have light, plants,
animals, etc. Also in "Genesis," in the story of "Adam and Eve," the punishment
that mankind receives for Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit explains man\'s
hardships. "To the woman he said: ‘I shall give you great labour in
childbearing...... You will desire your husband, but he will be your master,\'"
(Genesis 3:16). "To the man he said: ‘.... the earth shall be cursed. You
will get your food from it only by labour all the days of your life; it will
yield thorns and thistles for you,\'" (Genesis 3:17- 18).
The Hellenic texts are different because certain events, good or bad,
may only happen because of a god\'s fondness or dislike for a mortal, or just for
the gods\' own amusement. An instance of this occurs in The Illiad, when Paris
and Menelaus are in combat in Book Three, Aphrodite saves Paris from defeat, and
takes him away to his bedroom. She interfered because of her fondness of Paris
for her own amusement. Also, in The Illiad, Zeus\'s fondness of Hector results
in Hector\'s almost invincibility through most of the story. Zeus protects him
in every way, except when the other "chosen one," Achilles, comes into battle,
which results in Achilles killing Hector.
There are; however, several examples in which the Hellenic texts are
similar to the Old Testament in respect to divine intervention. For instance,
in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus is destined to become king
of Thebes only to be exiled from Thebes to fulfill a greater destiny. "No
sickness can destroy me, nothing can. I would never have been saved from death-
I have been saved for something great and terrible, something strange. Well let
my destiny come and take me on its way!" (Oedipus the King, p. 246 lines 1594-
1598). "The gods are about to raise you to your feet- till now they