The Theophanies Of Homer And The Bible -- By: A. W. Burr

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 044:175 (Jul 1887)
Article: The Theophanies Of Homer And The Bible
Author: A. W. Burr


The Theophanies Of Homer And The Bible1

Rev. A. W. Burr

The thoughtful mind never comes from the study of Homer without a feeling of wonder. In the poet’s panorama of heroes and peoples there is mirrored a life that seems to belong both to the youth of the race and to its maturer present. The procession, also, of gods and goddesses appears under the rude forms of polytheism, yet their acts and the conceptions of their followers are continually revealing those grand, general principles of the divine nature and the divine relations that belong to a living theology rather than to a dead mythology. Some of our recent scholars, indeed, afflicted with what Ewald calls “the weak preference for heathenism,” have seen in Homer, as well as in the earliest books of the Bible, only traces of a rude savagism; but others, as Mr. Gladstone, Professor Tyler, Professor Blackie, Tayler Lewis, and Nägelsbach, have delighted to point out in Homer those great truths of the doctrine of deity that have made it in some sense, like the Bible, a book for all ages and races. They have wondered to see, in the attributes of the gods of this “Greek Bible,” in their sovereignty and providence in the affairs of men, and in their punishment of sin, so much of the one God. In no point, however, do Homer and the Bible compare so remarkably as in their representations of the

manner of the divine manifestation and revelation to man. The poet makes these divine appearances on their face so like those accepted by Christians as peculiar to the true God, and betrays so full and clear a conception of the closest and highest personal and spiritual relations of God to man known to the Bible, as to awaken at once the greatest interest and to require an earnest attempt at their explanation. To see how striking is this similarity, we will put side by side some of the accounts of divine manifestation in each, though, in this comparison of the manner of revelation, the wide differences in the nature of the deity and in the character of the divine message are not to be forgotten.

The Parallelism

In the Bible we are told that God himself has appeared to men. The form may vary in appearance, yet the form is recognized as the Deity himself. God came to Abraham on this wise:—

And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day: and he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground—[Gen. 18:1–2].

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