Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Greeks substituted goddess Athene for angel Raphael (Azarias)


The Son’s Travels

(a) The Heavenly Visitor

The prayers of Tobit and Sarah, on the one hand, and of Odysseus and Penelope, on the other, were heard. Almighty God appointed the angel Raphael to assist the former two. And Zeus (supreme god of the Greeks) appointed the goddess Athene to assist the latter two.

With Odysseus still languishing as Calypso’s captive, and the suitors at play back at his home, “the almighty Father” sent Athene to Ithaca. “… she bound under her feet her lovely sandals of untarnished gold, which carried her with the speed of the wind …. Thus she flashed down from the heights of Olympus. On reaching Ithaca she took her stand on the threshhold of the court in front of Odysseus’ house; and to look like a visitor she assumed the appearance of a Taphian chieftain named Mentes, a bronze spear in hand (I, 27-28).

The reader will quickly be able to pick up the similarities between this text and this relevant part of the Book of Tobit: “The prayer of [Tobit and Sara] was heard in the presence of the glory of the great God. And Raphael was sent (3:16, 17)”. “Then Tobias … found a beautiful young man, standing girded, as it were ready to walk. And not knowing that he was an angel of God, he saluted him …. ‘I am Azarias, the son of the great Ananias’” (5:5, 6, 18).

(b) The Questioning

Tobit had interrogated the angel about the latter’s identity, asking: ‘My brother, to what tribe and family do you belong? Tell me …’ (5:9-12). Later Raguel would do the same: ‘Where are you from brethren? …. Do you know our brother Tobit? …. Is he in good health?’ (7:3, 4). [Cf. Isaiah 39:3; Judith 5:3, 4; Jonah 1:8].

In the Odyssey, too, the pattern is again most frequent, almost monotonous but with a Greek seafaring slant – e.g. the mention of a “vessel”). Telemachus, for instance, quizzes Athene: ‘However, do tell me who you are and where you come from. What is your native town? Who are your people? And since you certainly cannot have come on foot, what kind of vessel brought you here? (I, 29). [Cf. also pp. 72; 118; 164; 175; 208; 220].

Athene then replied to Telemachus, using a phrase that I suggest may have come straight out of the Book of Tobit, towards the end of which story the angel Raphael says (emphasis added in both cases): I will not conceal anything from you’ (12:11). Thus Athene: “‘I will tell you everything’, answered the bright-eyed goddess Athene. ‘My father was the wise prince, Anchialus. My own name is Mentes, and I am a chieftain of the sea-faring Taphians’.” Now Anchialus, the name that Athene (in masculine guise) gave for her presumed father, has at least a vague resemblance to the name, Ananias, which the angel Raphael (also in masculine guise) attributed to his presumed father from the tribe of Naphtali. Athene also describes herself as a Taphian, in which name we might perhaps also glimpse Naphtalian.


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