God and Athena s Relationships With Man
All across the world people have their own cultures, customs, and beliefs. A belief in a god or some superior deity is almost seen in every society in history. Of the most widely believed gods is the god mentioned in the Bible. Even though the God mentioned in the Bible is very impersonal, he still maintains a direct personal relationship with many of his followers, such as Abraham. Although many people still believe in God today, Greek gods are now simply viewed as myths and stories. However, the relationships the gods have with man kind shows a striking similarity between the evolving cultures of the Greeks and the Hebrews. In Homer s The Odyssey Odysseus, who is the main character, shares many adventures and even develops a very close relationship with the goddess Athena. The Hebrew God is a monotheistic god and seems to be more impersonal then the Greek gods; however, he still shows his love and kindness towards Abraham. Considering the different religion, beliefs and cultures, these two relationships on the surface seems very different. However, despite these differences Abraham’s relationship with God is similar to the relationship shared between Odysseus and the Greek goddess Athena, in that both relationships are very personal and that the gods are here to aid Abraham and Odysseus.
Even though both God and Athena help Abraham and Odysseus, one major difference between the two gods is how they present themselves. Athena appears as many different human forms in order to guide Odysseus. She appears as Mentor, Mentes, and several other characters as she sees fit. In the Bible, it is assumed that Gods voice directly speaks to Abraham. Abraham must obey God s commands without question. When God wants to test Abraham s loyalty to him he speaks down to him:
Abraham! And he said, Here am I. He said, Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you
Gods condescending tone shows that Abraham s relationship is less personal then that of Odysseus and Athena. Unlike Athena, God never appears before Abraham in any human form. In this manner, Athena appears to have a more personal relationship with Odysseus because they are able to interact in a less threatening manner. While God and Abraham do have a close relationship, God remains well above Abraham in most cases. God does not literally walk with Abraham whereas Athena literally walks with Odysseus. The relationship between Odysseus and Athena is more personal, while the relationship between God and Abraham seems to be more distant. However, this is not entirely true in all cases, as we will later see. But despite these differences the relationship between Athena and Odysseus is similar to the relationship God has with Abraham in that both God and Athena are there to help.
God s and Athena s views and actions towards Abraham and Odysseus may seem similar, but many people argue the way Abraham and Odysseus treat their gods quite differently. It can be said that Abraham has more respect and loyalty to God then Odysseus has for Athena. Odysseus seems to have a more personal and equal relationship with Athena. In fact, Odysseus is often called God-like Odysseus, symbolizing his equality among the gods. When Odysseus sees Athena, he is delighted as he confronts the suitors:
Odysseus was happy when he saw her, and hailed her, saying: Mentor, help me from hurt, and remember me, your companion and friend, who have done you much good. We two grew up together (Book 22, 207-209)
When Odysseus refers to himself as a friend of Athena s he is showing his personal relationship he has with her. He also uses we to include himself with Athena, showing he sees himself as an equal to a god. Despite what people believe Abraham, much like Odysseus also has a very personal relationship with God. Abraham is one of the few characters that has the courage to talk back to God:
Abraham laughs and even questions Gods authority and power. Abraham s comfort and ability to question God shows the true closeness and understanding of their relationship. Like Odysseus, in this passage, Abraham does not seem to see God as a higher being then him. When Abraham talks back to God and convinces him not to destroy Sodom, it further becomes evident that Abraham indeed has a more personal relationship with God then what most people think. It is evident that both Abraham and Odysseus have a very close and personal relationship to their respective gods, thus making the two relationships similar.
The protection both God and Athena provides through Abraham s and Odysseus many journeys shows how they both act as benefactors. Athena and God are always there to watch over Abraham and Odysseus and to ensure that no harm befalls upon them. God aids Abraham through wars and to conquer lands for his descendants. While Athena aids Odysseus through the Trojan War and eventually helps him defeat the suitors as he ends his long journey home. God and Athena are always looking out for their loyal followers and are always there to protect them when they are in need. God speaks to Abraham: Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great (Genesis 15.1). God is protecting Abraham here. He almost looks out for him like how a father would look out for his son. Athena also protects Odysseus similarly to how God protects Abraham: and yet you never recognized Pallas Athene, daughter of Zeus, the one who is always standing beside you and guarding you in every endeavor (Book 8, 300). Like God, Athena is Odysseus shield . She has always been there for Odysseus, even when he does not know it. Both God and Athena ensure that no harm will come to Abraham and Odysseus. In this manner we can see how these two relationships are very similar, in which both gods act as guardian angels over Abraham and Odysseus.
On the surface it may appear God s relationship to Abraham is very different then Athena s relationship to Odysseus, but underneath it all the two relationships show some striking similarities. It seems like God and Abraham have a very distant relationship, with God being well above Abraham. However, this is not true, Abraham in fact has a very personal relationship with God, similarly to Odysseus close relationship with Athena. God and Athena s main mission is to aid and protect Abraham and Odysseus. This is what makes this father-son like relationship so similar. In most religions there is usually a human character that god or some deity has a direct personal relationship with. This god to human interaction is an essential part of a developing religion. The human and god interaction provides a way for god to deliver his message to the rest mankind. For example, the god-human relationship is also seen in the Islam religion between God and Muhammad. God chooses Muhammad as his prophet to deliver his message to the Muslims through their personal relationship. Thus it is evident that, that despite all the different religions around the world, we can still find many similarities underneath the surface