Hebrews 1.1-5 and The Odyssey 1.1-5

From: D. Anthony Storm (dstorm@2xtreme.net)
Date: Mon Apr 27 1998 - 22:57:02 EDT

When I read literature, I am always on the lookout for allusions to
other works. On this occasion I'm afraid my imagination is a bit carried
away. But here goes. Laugh if you must....

I see a resemblance between the first few verses of the Epistle to the
Hebrews and the first few lines of the Odyssey. Note the following:

1) Both passages are concerned with events long ago, from an age well
before that of the author: The Odyssey is about a man from the heroic
age. Hebrews begins with the prophets who communicated from of old

2) Both passages have to do with divine utterance. The Odyssey begins
with an address to the Muse (though this is admittedly a standard epic
device), while Hebrews, as we have just said, mentions prophetic

3) Both passages, indeed both works, track the exploits of their
respective heros. In Hebrews, Christ is compared to angels (who are
mighty beings whom he is superior to), and he attains glory (DOXA).
Throughout the epistle, he is seen to be superior to all others.
Odysseus, through his cunning, achieves renown (KLEOS), as he defeats
powerful beings and human adversaries. Neither Odysseus or Christ
succeed through raw power. In this sense, neither is a typical hero.

4) Both passages are alliterated with the letter pi.

5) Both heroes are sufferers. Odysseus suffered many things (line 1).
Christ is our sacrifice (verse 4).

6) There is a measure of identification with others: Odysseus came to an
understanding of men (NOON EGNW, line 3). Christ identified with man by
becoming a man, in the role of high priest (passim).

7) Od. 1.1 uses the word POLUTROPON to describe Odysseus. That is, he is
a man who has suffered many turns. The author of Hebrews uses the adverb
POLUTROPWS in verse one, though there it is applied to prophetic

Well, now. I have taken a risk with this message, because I will surely
be scoffed at. But to be honest, I am not even myself convinced. I do
think it an interesting possibility. I so much enjoy the comments of
people like Carl who employ their expertise in both Classical and Koine
Greek. He and others are welcome to respond -- but just go easy, okay?

D . A n t h o n y S t o r m


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