How does the idea of the hero in Greek and Roman culture become integrated into the idea of the Christian saint in the process of conversion and totalization, as can be seen in the examples of...

How does the idea of the hero in Greek and Roman culture become integrated into the idea of the Christian saint in the process of conversion and totalization, as can be seen in the examples of either Saul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo, or Mohammed?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The Ancient Greeks originally believed a hero to be a demigod. A demigod can be understood as a person who can achieve divine stature after death, a lessor deity, or even a person who is born of both a god and a human being. The word hero also comes from the Greek word heros, meaning "hero" or "warrior" and is literally understood as referring to a "protector" or "defender" ("Hero"). Even more specifically, a hero showed not only courage but willingness to sacrifice himself for the "greater good of all humanity" ("Hero"). In Christianity, due to Hellenistic, or Greek, influence, Paul applied the concept of the Greek hero to both Jesus Christ and Jesus's followers. We especially see the Greek concept of heroism referred to in Paul's letter to the Philippians admonishing the Philippians to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their brethren just like Christ. He further reminds them to be like Christ who, even though he was in the image of God, did not see himself as equal to God but rather became a servant, humbling himself, even obeying to the point of death on the cross until God "exalted" him, meaning made Jesus equal to God, as we see in Paul's lines:

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name. (Philippians 2: 5-9)

In other words, just like a demigod, Paul saw Christ as having achieved divine status through his humble, self-sacrificial deeds. Furthermore, Paul is admonishing the Philippians to also be self-sacrificial as part of the process of conversion to Christianity and of totalization, meaning becoming fully one with God, as all saints do.

Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul after his conversion, saw himself as embodying the role of a hero portrayed through Christ. Paul especially saw himself as a hero through his self-sacrificial servitude to the ministry of Jesus Christ for the purpose of converting many into following Jesus, which would be something he viewed as being for the greater good of humanity. His servitude especially became an act of self-sacrifice when it led to his imprisonment and own persecution. Hence, according to Paul's own Hellenistic argument, Paul's own self-sacrifice, like Christ's, would have given him equal status with God, just like a hero or demigod.

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