Monday, September 05, 2005

Jesus quoting Hesiod

I was reading my way through some classical literature and came across this:

"Badness can be got easily and in shoals: the road to her is smooth, and she lives very near us. But between us and Goodness the gods have placed the sweat of our brows: long and steep is the path that leads to her, and it is rough" (Works and Days 287-290)
That was written by Hesiod, a Greek poet, in ~700BC.

It reminded me of this, spoken by Jesus in ~28AD:
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)

Can there be any reasonable doubt that Jesus' statement is ultimately dependent (probably indirectly through other sources) on Hesiod here?

A more difficult question: What is Jesus' point?

Presumably he knows its a well-known quotation (the Greeks considered their ancient poets to be Divinely Inspired Scripture, so a lot of people are going to recognise such a quote). I've heard a few people comment in the past that in this passage Jesus is saying that there will be more people in hell than heaven. A possible interpretation that comes to my mind is that he's saying that people who are virtuous need to make an effort to teach it to others because it is not something that a lot of people find easily or naturally, and the lifestyle of the masses can be self-destructive unless they receive the help of others in this respect.

I'm not entirely convinced. Any other ideas or thoughts?