Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fullness of Time: Greece and the Birth of Liberty.

After Adam fell, the spiritual pendulum swung far and low into the dregs of idolatry. Whatever knowledge or ritual Adam passed down to his offspring about God eventually deteriorated into only a sinister, shadowy, distorted version of the truth. Adam surrendered his dominion over the world and his offspring to the devil and God allowed it. So God let the disease of sin run its course and the devil threw a party. Religion transformed into a devilish carnival throughout the world. In some cultures children were sacrificed to appease an angry idol while in others, beating hearts were torn from the warm chests of screaming men to placate the gods that brought rain to their crops. The atrocities are even worse but I’ll spare you stories about young boys raised for the purpose of being raped to death as a reward to the tribe’s returning hunting party. And all that was AFTER the flood.

Then, finally, at the bottom of the pendulum, amidst the filth, God appeared to the Abraham and a new nation was born. His true character was revealed again, His covenant established, and man’s redemption set in motion. But the road of the Jews was not one of blissful evangelism. It was a hard and harsh road filled with disobedience and discipline. Somehow, they handled it better than all of the rest of human kind would have. The law was preserved the line was unbroken. And that is why they were chosen.

But what about the rest of humanity? Eventually the pendulum swung out of the mire and excrement and as close as it could to knowing the God of the universe on its own, peaking about four-hundred years before the birth of Christ in the city of Athens.

What was so miraculous about the Greeks?

Well, it all began somewhere in the rough and rugged terrain of ancient Greece when man’s mind turned from dwelling on death, to dwelling on life and something new was born of this: Play.

The Greeks were the first people to really play and play they did. It sounds strange but it is true. The Egyptians didn’t truly play for the sake of play. If they did, there is nothing to notate or show evidence of it. There were a few Egyptian contests to be sure, but the contests served a purpose and the loser often lost his life, or his testicles. The stark contrast between Egyptian and Grecian play can be summed up with a quote from a Egyptian priest to great Athenian, “Solon, Solon, you Greeks are all children.”

All over Greece there were games, all sorts of games; athletic contests of every description: races – horse, boat, foot, torch-races; contests in music, where one side out-sung the other; in dancing – on greased skins to see who would fall on their butts; a game of balance of body; games where men leaped in and out of flying chariots… and the list goes on. And I mean ON. (Check it out sometime… stuff like “dancing flutists competition.” Waaaay cooler than American Idol in my opinion.) The greatest honor in Greece of course went to the Olympic victor. The Olympian victors were absolute heroes.

When Greece died, the spirit of their games died with them and lay dormant for hundreds of years. The brutal, bloody games of the Romans that replaced them had nothing to do with the Greek spirit of play. It was from the Roman idea of play that Christians were fed to lions and gladiators were bread to murder each other. This was not Greek. To be Greek was to rejoice in life. The joy of life is written in everything the Greeks left behind. Even in their great tragedies they show this. It is the depressed and numb-minded that cannot both greatly rejoice and greatly sorrow in life. The Greeks knew all too well the brevity of life and how little time we have to enjoy the wonders of the world and their tragedies reflected this. The old Greek definition of happiness goes something like this: “The exercise of vital powers in a life affording them scope.” It is a philosophy that is abounding with the joy of living.

In Greece, individual liberty was born. No man was a slave in Greece. Somewhat common today, but NOT common then. The rich didn’t rule Greece or the priests, it was ruled by law and even the law was questioned and refined for the good of all. The Egyptian priest said, “Thus far and no further, we set the limits to thought.” The Greeks said, “All things are to be examined and called into question. There are no limits set to thought.” It is astounding that in Greece alone, the Priest played no role of real importance in governing the society. The Greek priests had their temples and sacrificial rites, but other than that, they were told to mind their own damn business. Men and gods fought the Trojan War with no intermediaries. The Greek never went to a priest for guidance. If he wanted to know something he went to Plato, not to the castrated priest.


The Greeks were the first intellectualists, the first philosophers.
Our word for school comes from the Greek word for leisure. To the Greek man who was afforded some R & R, what else would he do but spend his time “finding out” about things? To chill out was to learn. Today for leisure, our children eat tater tots and watch cartoons, right beside their parents.

The Greeks were the first to call their healers physicians. The Greeks used their minds in a way that engaged nature and learned from it, rather than looking for an outside source to intervene combined with a strange concocted potion of crap and piss. (Real remedy used by Egyptians.) The Greeks were the first scientists and all modern day science goes back to them. The Greeks dared to look into the face of superstition and set their minds to it. Sure Galileo can be commended for his “humanist” ventures, but his lonely and brave venture pales in comparison to what the Greeks accomplished. They were the master of none and were free to think in a way that is hardly rivaled today here in America. For instance, imagine the turnout to a play during WWII where Roosevelt was portrayed as a power-hungry goofball and Uncle Sam were portrayed as a stupid oaf. Exactly that happened when Greece was fighting for its life and pro- and anti- war alike showed up and loved it. To think free was to be free.

Socrates drinking his hemlock was the one exception in all of Greek history, but he was an old man by then and had spoke his mind his whole life and Athens had just gone through a bitter defeat, rapid change of government, and the people basically panicked as they always do for a patsy. But even then, a small majority only charged Socrates and Plato went on teaching in his name and honored for it. Socrates was the only man to suffer death for his views. Three others were exiled from the country and that’s it. That’s the whole list of people that were persecuted for their views compared to the gazillions who are killed, beaten, and tortured in the last five hundred years alone. Never before or since has a whole culture and country welcomed learning and liberty, as the Greeks, not even in the Renaissance, and no, not even America.

And it was just at this time,
when mankind was at his peak and most likely to understand and grasp what God would demonstrate, the Messiah came into the world through the virgin womb of a young Jewish girl surrounded by a dark and dank cave in the city of David.

Next up: The Jews.

4 comments:

Bill Hensley said...

No man was a slave in Greece.

That's news to me. I thought slavery was ubiquitous in ancient Greece. To be sure, it was less virulent than slavery in many other cultures (such as the slavery of African-Americans in America).

Seth Ward said...

As far as this point is concerned, it is to this date, a matter of historical debate amongst the experts. It goes like this in a nutshell: "Did the Greeks have a slave society or where the slaves a social class?"

Seth Ward said...

The statement should be modified: "No Greek was born a slave."

Even there, the term "slave" did not have the meaning that it did today, as Paul knew this in his statement "Slaves, obey your masters."

Wikipedia has some pretty good scholarship recorded about the terminology of slaves in Ancient Greece:

" During the classical period, the Greeks frequently used ἀνδράποδον / andrápodon,[5] literally, "one with the feet of a man", as opposed to τετράποδον / tetrapodon, "quadruped", or livestock.[6] The most common word is δοῦλος / doûlos,[7] an earlier form of which appears in Mycenaean inscriptions as do-e-ro,[8] used in opposition to "free man" (ἐλεύθερος / eleútheros). The verb δουλεὐω can be used metaphorically for other forms of dominion, as of one city over another or parents over their children.[9] Finally, the term οἰκέτης / oikétês was used, meaning "one who lives in the house", referring to household servants.[10]
Other terms used were less precise and required context:
θεράπων / therápôn — At the time of Homer, the word meant "squire" (Patroclus was referred to as the therapôn of Achilles[11] and Meriones that of Idomeneus[12]); during the classical age, it meant "servant".[13]
ἀκόλουθος / akólouthos — literally, "the follower" or "the one who accompanies". Also, the diminutive ἀκολουθίσκος, used for page boys.[14]
παῖς / pais — literally "child", used in the same way as "houseboy",[15] also used in a derogatory way to call adult slaves.[16]
σῶμα / sôma — literally "body", used in the context of emancipation.[17]"

Stephen said...

Thanks, Seth, for taking the time to write this out. It's an interesting read.