Revisiting Rage: Homer, the Hebrew Bible & Modernity

The most popular posting on my previous blog was a meditation on the opening lines of the Iliad, particularly the first word, μῆνις menis – wrath or rage.

Wrath—Sing, Goddess, the wrath of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and the birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.
(Iliad, 1.1-8; trans. Robert Fagles with some changes)

A new book reopens the issue of wrath in the Iliad and in the modern world.  See Mary Beard’s review of the book here.  I haven’t read the book yet, but hope to soon, since I do love the Homeric epics.  But there are some issues raised in the review that I would like to address from my own perspective as a Bible scholar: (1) Disproportionate Responses (Bad Rage, Vendettas); (2) Self-Criticizing Works; (3) Humanizing the Enemy; (4) and Varieties of Anger – that is, are all forms of anger bad?

I strongly hold to the view that – whether or not one can establish “influence” or, even if one can, whether or not such influence is significant – that classical and biblical materials inter-illuminate one another.

Each of these issues is big, so I will divide up the blog postings between them.  When I am finished with each, I will provide a hyperlink above.


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