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Pride of the Anthropocentric World vs. the Theocentric World

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1486 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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Verna Drieas

Throughout The Iliad and the Tanakh, pride becomes an apparent theme, which frames characters and their worldview of humanity as a whole. Within the Tanakh, the Jews look down upon pride or admiring oneself, because they associate all their gain  to God. Yet, pride for the Greeks was about more than just one thinking highly of themselves, it was about being respected and honored by men now and those to come. The reason for this being that the Greeks live in an anthropocentric world, whereas the Jews live in a theocentric world. Living in an anthropocentric world means that the human is the main focus, so the Greeks felt that their Gods held no glory which they had to humble themselves before. Leading the Greeks to act as Gods themselves, therefore taking the glory away from the Gods of Olympus. For the Jews, God is the central element of their lives, so they associate [1]their prosperity to the glory of God, who they believe allowed them to have such blessings. Consequently, the Jews push aside their pride to acknowledge that they are nothing without God and ensure that God remains with them. Coming from different worldviews, causes the Greeks to put their pride above all others because humanity to them is greater than any divine, whereas the Jews associate[2] pride with sin, because they believe that all their gifts come from God so it is wrong to take credit for such blessings.[3][4]

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When David returned from war with the Philistines, the people chanted his name and praised him for his bravery. Saul, hearing this, became angry and sought out to kill David as he saw that David was a favorite among the people and feared that he would go after his crown. Fortunately, Saul’s son, Jonathan, told David of his father’s plan, so David escaped from Saul and fled from one place to another to hide from the wrath of Saul. As David was hiding in the cave of En-gedi, Saul came in to “relieve himself”, so David went and cut off a piece of his cloak. David then felt guilty for doing so to Saul, ” The Lord forbid I should do such a thing to my lord- the Lord’s anointed- that I should raise my hand against him; for he is the Lord’s anointed” (I Samuel 24. 7). Rather than killing Saul, he spares him because he is the Messiah, he was chosen by God. David feels as if he can not bring harm to Saul because then he would upset the Lord. Even though Saul insults David and continuously threatens his life, David puts his pride aside and does not kill Saul for the sake of God.

In contrast when Achilles was asked to put aside his pride for the sake of his comrades he was not willing to do so, for Agamemnon stole his war prize, Briseis and claimed her as his own. This was an attack towards Achilles as Agamemnon not only took away his trophy but his timê,  also known as honor. This humiliated Achilles, as Agamemnon continued to insult him and discredit his war efforts, Achilles then questioned “Should he draw the long sharp sword slung at his hip, thrust through the ranks and kill Agamemnon now?” (The Iliad I. 224-225). If Athena had not come down from Olympus to calm the fury in the heart of Achilles, he would have killed Agamemnon. To Achilles, his pride was far greater than the life of Agamemnon, as he was willing to kill him regardless of his position.

Although both David and Achilles were faced with an inner-conflict of whether or not they should kill their king, they deal with it in different ways. David puts aside his pride and stops himself from committing such a violent act, and even feels remorse for simply cutting off a piece of Saul’s cloak, because he is God’s chosen one. He fears God and is not willing to put his pride ahead, because he comes from a world where man’s focal point in life is pleasing God.

On the other hand, Achilles wants to kill Agamemnon for dishonoring him, he doesn’t try to stop himself, rather it is Athena who stops him. Achilles does not care about Agamemnon nor does he fear him, as he would rather Agamemnon be dead than his pride be aggrieved. Being that they come from different worlds, Achilles and David handle the situation differently. David fears God because his whole world focuses on God and pleasing the Lord. Whereas Achilles does not need to fear the Gods, since they hold no true holiness, and in his world, human beings hold the greatest significance, so Achilles cares more about what man will say about him and his honor, rather than what the Gods will say or do to him. So the different worldviews affect the way in which characters value their pride.

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After Nathan had come to talk to David about God’s wishes, of building him a temple and relayed the Lord’s covenant to David, David said to God, “What am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me thus far?…You are great indeed, O Lord God! There is none like you and there is no other God but you” (II Samuel 7. 18, 22). David reflects on all that he has gained over the time and he realizes that he has prospered immensely. Yet, he does not boast, rather he takes the time to thank God for all that he has given him and even vows to build the Lord a place for public worship. He does not become prideful and blame all his success on himself, instead he acknowledges that he is nothing without the Lord who blessed him with such riches.

When it comes to the Greeks, they however are not the same. As Patroclus goes to war, in the place of Achilles, he kills one man after the other, with Zeus watching over him. Until Hector faces him and stabs him in the guts and mocks him, but Patroclus answers right back saying, “Even if twenty Hectors had charged against me-they’d all have died here, laid low by my spear. No deathly fate in league with Apollo killed me” (The Iliad XVI. 991-993). Patroclus shows no thanks to the Gods, rather he takes pride in all his success thus far in the war. He says that he could have taken any man, as he was able to face Gods who could not kill him. Patroclus boasts in himself, because he sees himself as a man who is greater than even the Gods and could defeat even “twenty Hectors”.

Though both characters are blessed with gifts and talents, David connects his success to  the glory of the Lord, whereas Patroclus claims that all his talents and his ability to kill so many men was his doing alone. Patroclus is able to do so because he comes from a world where humans are held at a higher value than other beings, even divine beings, however he does not acknowledge that his gifts are given by the Gods. Instead he takes the glory of the Gods for himself and indulges in his own success, and forgets the Gods when he is able to gain such defeat over the Trojan warriors. In contrast, David thanks God for all that he has acquired, he knows that he was given all these blessings through the Lord. Unlike Patroclus, when David is faced with great prosperity, he humbles himself and questions the Lord saying “Who am I” to receive all these gifts from you. He does not claim all his success for himself, as he sees that he could not have done any of that without God’s doing. Since David does come from a theocentric world, his whole life revolves around God, so he does not take pride in himself, but rather he takes pride in the Lord being great towards him.

In conclusion, pride within the two texts is different in that the characters from the novels come from different worlds, so their pride reflects upon what their focus is. Being that the Greeks come from a world that focuses on man, they are not afraid to admire themselves as all they truly care about is their pride and honor because that is what is carried on through history, and what men will be talking about even when they are dead. However, the Jews fear the Lord far more than man, so they are willing to put their pride aside in order to please the Lord above all. When faced with similar situations the characters from The Iliad and the Tanakh, go about the situation differently, because their central focuses in life are different from one another.



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