Essay about Beowulf as a Messianic Narrative

1027 Words Jan 23rd, 2013 5 Pages
Beowulf as a messianic narrative has been a subject of great controversy. Given the time period, ‘Christianity’ was not completely established, and it was entwined with cultural paganism, as seen woven throughout the text. The definition of a messianic narrative (containing the ultimate messianic figure) is found in Isaiah 53, a prophecy spoken by God through the Hebrew prophet Isaiah. This is the standard to which Beowulf must be compared to determination the nature of the poem. Many scholars such as Harold Bloom (quoting E. Talbot Donaldson), Roberta Frank, Rich Lawson, Seamus Heaney, and J. R. R. Tolkien (quoting R. W. Chambers) have critically viewed Beowulf to determine the nature of the epic, resulting in a diverse range of …show more content…
Bloom and Donaldson argue that whilst Christian elements are present, heroic paganism is more prevalent in Beowulf. This is supported by the death of Beowulf, reading, “of all the world-kings, [he was] keenest for fame,” summarising Beowulf, and suggesting his life only amounted to self-glorification.

In assessing the Christianity of Beowulf, Frank suggests that, like King Alfred did of Remiguis’s commentaries, the author of Beowulf used pagan analogies for Christian concepts. Lawson explores this in the role fate has throughout the poem. “The Geat prince placed all his trust in...his Maker’s favour,” Then Beowulf speaks, “The Father...shall apportion the honours...to whichever side shall seem to Him fit,”. The poet wrote, “Fate had not assigned him the glory of battle,”. The composer’s personification of ‘Fate’ portrays the place it has taken – God’s place. Lawson writes of this, “The pagan concept of fate...is tied to God,” suggesting that Beowulf is resigned to fate, but the author is using this to illustrate the nature of God. Frank also states, “What matters is how the rulers...served God’s purpose,”, also calling Beowulf a, “Pagan prince of peace,”. While Beowulf demonstrates a pagan trust in fate, Lawson and Frank believe it was the author using paganism to convey the messianic narrative, and that Beowulf was instrumental in doing so.
In analysing Beowulf, Lawson concluded it was a messianic narrative including a messianic figure,
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