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Thursday, February 5, 2015

This Divine Aeneid


I recently finished reading The Aeneid by the Roman poet, Virgil. It’s part of my personal challenge to read (or re-read) some of the classics of western civilization.

As I was reading it I was struck by an idea – a comparison that could be made to some parts of the Bible, but I hesitated to write them up, thinking that perhaps I was reaching.  That I was stretching too far.  But a blog post from that perpetual snark, Dr. Jim West, has convinced me that I was on the right track and that I shouldn’t have succumbed to my self-doubting. 

It occurred to me, as I read Virgil’s epic poem, that a comparison could be made between Aeneus and Abraham.  Both commenced upon long and dangerous journeys in order to find a promised city, Aeneus for the city that would become the great and powerful Rome, Abraham for a heavenly city.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11: 8 – 10)

And, apparently, Martin Luther thought that comparison valid as well.  Tucked in among the very last things he wrote were these lines:
Nobody can understand Vergil in his Bucolics and Georgics unless he has first been a shepherd or a farmer for five years.  Nobody understands Cicero in his letters unless he has been engaged in public affairs of some consequence for twenty years.Let nobody suppose that he has tasted the Holy Scriptures sufficiently unless he has ruled over the churches with the prophets for a hundred years. Therefore there is something wonderful, first, about John the Baptist; second, about Christ; third, about the apostles. ‘Lay not your hand on this divine Aeneid, but bow before it, adore its every trace.’ We are beggars. That is true.








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