The question: How would you compare the teachings of Christianity, as described in the New Testament passages we read for this week, to the values cherished by earlier civilizations we have discussed (particularly the Greeks, and the values expressed in Homer’s works)? Conversely, can you see anything in common between Christianity and some of the great ancient thinkers we have discussed?
Christianity came about because of the teachings of Jesus Christ. He led a spiritual revolt from within the Jewish religion against their own oppression against themselves. Among his most significant messages, if we look at the Beatitudes which we can find in the new testament of the bible in Matthew chapter 5, we learn about the salvation of the inner soul; how to achieve Heaven by living a life dedicated to the wants and needs of others less fortunate. In Matthew 25, Jesus also talks about the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, which are obligations of all the faithful towards aiding their brothers and sisters. Spiritual works mean the works of mercy that nourish, comfort, and guide the soul, while corporal works mean those works of mercy which clothe, nourish, and house the body. All of the fourteen works of mercy are considered as leading to salvation, while omitting them leads you to damnation. But let’s not forget the two most important teachings the Jesus gave us: Love God above all others with your whole heart and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. These collective teachings of Jesus became known as Christianity.
Homer’s views opposed the teachings of Jesus in many ways. The great poet spun tales of Grecian heroes and their most precious values from his time of life. The soldiers of Homer’s focus realized that in battle, life could be removed as fast as it took to blink, so they made it their solemn duty to be forever remembered by dying in the most spectacular way possible. The surviving heroes were honored for their cunning and bravery and were rewarded with seriously creative sacrifices. (Because they had a lot of different ways to kill animals.) In fact, their glory in battle was more important to them than their families. Helping others was not on the top of their to-do list unless the rewards were great (like glory or honor). Thinking like Jesus was just not important.
Conversely, Pre-Socratic philosophers began to be dissatisfied with the Greek and Roman religions so they sought out and taught an ethically correct way of life. Many of their philosophies were geared towards Christianity. The new religion satisfied their thinking about greater things than themselves and what would happen to their souls when they ascended to the next world. In a weird sort of balance, Christianity adopted some Greek customs and intertwined them, excepting people who thought like Homer.