Beowulf comparison to Christ

Beowulf comparison to Christ

?Within the story of Beowulf, you can find many elements of Christian philosophy: that man only survives through the protection and guidance of God, all earthly gifts are given from God, and that man is to be meek and unselfish. However, Beowulf holds a strong sense of pride within himself at certain points within the story, which conflicts with Christian values. We end up seeing pride vs. humility and sacrifice vs. selfishness. When at the celebration Hrothgar reminds Beowulf of the lessons of the Greek tragedians: that pride, unhardened by humility, will result in the horrible consequences.

He also teaches the lessons of Christian philosophy: that wealth, gained through the grace of God, must be shared unselfishly. Consistently throughout the story Beowulf  acknowledges God as the protector. When Beowulf  battles with Grendel’s mother, he states that “But the Lord of Men allowed me to behold” (lines 1661). With further explanation he powerfully stated “for He often helps the unbefriended” (lines 1662), showing that there is a sense of divine protection permeating all of Beowulf’s actions.

However, there is also a strong sense that God’s protection must be earned. A warrior must always be true to his values, courage, honesty, pride, and humility and only then will he earn God’s protection. There is also the sense that all earthly good, whether success or wealth, comes from God. For example, when Beowulf was about to fight Grendel’s mother, he sees a great weapon hanging on the wall. But Beowulf does not take credit for this finding. Instead he gives the credit to God: “an ancient sword shining on the wall” (lines 1663).

Later in the passage, Hrothgar tells Beowulf that even the statues of king are achieved through the grace of God. When telling about Heremod, a king who fell victim to his own pride and selfishness, Hrothgar tells Beowulf “who cut himself off from his own kind, even though Almighty God had made him eminent” (lines 1715-17). Once again, space space space “It is a great wonder how Almighty God in His magnificence favors our race with rank and scope and the gift of wisdom;” (lines 1724-27). This means that a king’s earthly power is only an illusion, the true power lies with God.

Any delight that a man enjoys is achieved only through the power and grace of God. Hrothgar also tells Beowulf that earthly success, given by God, must be handled with humility and a sense of sharing or the earthly king will bring on his own doom. Hrothgar continues to tell Beowulf of a selfish king: “He covets and resents; dishonors custom and bestows no gold; and because of good things that the Heavenly Powers gave him in the past” (lines 1749-51). The phrase “he covets” is strongly similar to that of the Christian Ten Commandments.

Material desire leads to wanting more and more until there is nothing left for a person to be pleased. Beowulf now knows that a good king is willing to share his earthly possessions; he is one who “does not give way to pride” (lines 1760). Hrothgar tells Beowulf that life itself is a gift from God, that even the human body is not rightfully ours and will soon decay and bring doom. Beowulf. Trans. Seamus Heaney. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Eds. Stephen Greenblatt, et al. 9th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 2012. 41-108. Print.