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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 191

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The principal characters in “Gladius Dei” are not well-rounded, nor are they intended to be; instead, they are clearly identifiable types. Hieronymus represents the extreme view that art that is not unequivocally in the service of religion is an affront to God. Bluthenzweig, the spokesperson for the common person’s liberal faith, manages to win this battle, but the war between Christ and Apollo goes on forever. Indeed, even in defeat, Hieronymus thinks that he has triumphed: It is a personal victory to stand up for one’s beliefs.

The meaning of the story and the character of Hieronymus are evocative of the famous dream of Saint Jerome (Hieronymus, in Latin), in which the classicist writer Jerome is confronted by the Supreme Judge Jesus Christ, who accuses him: “You are a Ciceronian, not a Christian.” Interestingly, though Jerome promised his Master and Judge to give up classical studies and avoid pagan ideals in his writing, he continued to use pagan myths and classical images in his Christian writings. Like Jerome’s dream, “Gladius Dei” exposes the dialectical elements found in the nature of art and in the life of the artist.

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