Please explain the ways in which the deeds of the heroic Aeneas and the Aeneid parallel the Christian Gospels in their depiction of the deeds of the heroic Jesus, with a  response based upon what...

Please explain the ways in which the deeds of the heroic Aeneas and the Aeneid parallel the Christian Gospels in their depiction of the deeds of the heroic Jesus, with a  response based upon what Virgil and the Gospel writers say. Remember Virgil was not a Christian, and the Gospels are treated here as pieces of literature, not divine revelation.

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Karyth Cara | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Aeneas

Aeneas was a survivor of the Trojan Wars. He fled to what came to be called Italy and is noted as the founder of Rome. A demigod, the son of Anchises and Venus, he is noted (briefly) as being heroic--as well as pious--because:

  • he humbly attributes his actions to his birthright, not to his own volition (he acknowledges the special characteristics he possesses regardless of his choices as a condition of being the son of an immortal and a mortal)
  • he bravely accepts the role of fate in his destiny: he is the agent of the out-workings of fate
  • he respects the role of prophecy in his destiny and fate
  • he has emotional impulses that conflict with his fated and prophesized actions and ultimate destiny
  • he has the gods' favor and honor, which they bestow as a mark of their acknowledgment of his piety and single-minded determination to follow his fated path
  • he has great compassion for others, which extends to the depths of their sufferings
  • he strengthens his wearied followers with encouraging, uplifting and exhorting speeches as they travel on their wearisome journeys
  • he goes to the land of the dead to visit his father

Jesus

[Since Jesus in the context of this question is not being spoken of in relation to his attribute of deity and divinity, it is incorrect to refer to him as "Jesus Christ" as "Christ" is the translation of the Jewish Messianic title of the Messiah who is expected by the religious of the Jewish people. In the context of New Testament analysis as literature, it is correct to call him only "Jesus" except in cases where his attribute of divinity is clearly and expressly being discussed.]

Jesus was born into the family of Joseph, a carpenter, and Mary. They fled to Egypt at the occurrence of rumors that indicated Jesus' life might be in jeopardy from King Herod who wanted the death of the child who was born on the night described by the astronomers from the East. Though Jesus was born to two mortals, he was considered to be divine as was witnessed by the seer who prophesied over him at the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the family's pilgrimage. Whereas Aeneas was born to a mortal and an immortal and was a demigod, Jesus was born to two mortals and was considered to be God incarnate. Jesus is noted (briefly) as being heroic--and pious--because:

  • he humbly acknowledges his relationship to God yet, equally humbly, set aside glory and lived on equal terms with Hebrews
  • he bravely accepts the temptations and the rejection and betrayal of the Jewish people, the leaders of whom he has offended by claiming to be the "I Am" (Jehovah): he accepts that he is the agent of the out-workings of fated events
  • he respects the role of prophesy in his destiny and fate
  • he has emotional impulses that conflict with his fated and prophesized actions and ultimate destiny: this is most remarkably demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane after the visitation of Moses and Elijah and his transfiguration (the temporary restoration of his glory, which he laid aside)
  • he has Jehovah's pronouncement of acceptance, favor and honor, which occurred at a public gathering when John the Baptist baptized him and a dove descended from the skies while a voice pronounced kinship
  • he has great compassion for the suffering of others, which he demonstrated by healing their suffering and forgiving their sins, a function of divinity
  • he strengthens his wearied followers with encouraging, uplifting and exhorting speeches as they travel on their continual journeys, in addition to which, he feeds them and quiets a storm at sea to protect them
  • he goes to the land of the dead where, unlike Aeneas, he is separated from his Father, who he attests is Jehovah God 

Differences in Heroism

The three elements that separate the heroism of Aeneas from that of Jesus are:

  • the ironic circumstances of their parentage and their divine status (Aeneas: one mortal, one immortal, he is a demigod; Jesus: Joseph and Mary, he is attested as being fully divine)
  • going to the land of the dead unites Aeneas with his father while going to the land of the dead separates Jesus from his divine father
  • in the end, Aeneas retributively slays Turnus in an enraged act of punishment when he suddenly sees that Turnus is wearing the belt of Pallas as a battle trophy
  • in contrast, in the end, Jesus is hanging in death throes with similarly dying thieves and robbers, whom he forgives and to whom he offers "rooms" in his "father's mansion"
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