[this is the final section of this collection of stories, a single-story epilogue titled Love]
I remember sitting at the Hill of Ares in the great city of Athens. The wisemen of the city were there too, famed for their love of learning. So how surprising for us to hear a commotion one day coming from a Jew! He seemed to be peddling some god or another. Here and there you could see the furrowed brows and the puzzled looks as the greybeards humoured him and heard him out, this strange man.
He told us that he admired our piety to the gods – I’d thought it was our wisdom that impressed most? – but told us what his god was like. This god was the one who’d fated all things to be where they were, when they were. We were all in fact like the children of this god, the Jew said, this god who apparently was so above the rest. He had overlooked how we’d never known him or his laws, but now demanded we all turn and serve him. For there would be a man, the Jew said, who would judge all of us at the end. This man was raised from the dead as proof of the god’s power.
And understandably at this our wisemen shook their heads. Some scoffed while others demanded further explanation. The Jew left soon afterward, but I and some others followed him and pressed further. Who is this man raised from the dead? What possible proof could there be?
The Jew was curt, more sane and composed than I’d expected. There is a tomb outside the city of Jerusalem, he told us, where that man had been buried. It was now empty, and what’s more, this man had shown himself alive and well to many there, even women. And the men of that city could vouch for all this. As for the man himself, the Jew looked at me and said “He was fated by heaven from before your birth and mine. This man followed the laws of the God who is his father, and sacrificed himself so that this God might overlook our failure to keep the laws.”
We had nothing to say to this of course. A man from beyond time who was also the son of a god? Who was killed as a sacrifice by his father-god for the sake of others? Who was raised from the dead, and whose father-god now demands that we therefore turn to him to escape judgement?
The others seemed to have less issue with these questions, for they followed this Jew and left me there. I’ve kept these thoughts in my heart, though. What was I to make of all this?
[Afterword: This piece began as a collection of short stories adapted from the Greek writer Herodotus and the Roman writer Livy. It was a tribute to all I’d learned in my time at King’s College London, and a welcome outlet during a frustrating period of unemployment. Later it turned into a useful tool for some impromptu English lessons. If you’re reading this, Hanyong, Hanna, Sora, Heesun, Pinoki, Suhee, Sujyon, Koichi, Hyunsook, Mihyun and Chanhyun, wherever you are, I hope you’re doing well, and I hope this brings back a few warm memories.
As I wrote more and more the story developed into something else. Call it divine inspiration or my own changing tastes, anyway it evolved into what it is now – basically a pagan Old Testament. The idea was to show how the themes of the Judeo-Christian Old Testament could be found in the stories of the classical cultures as well, and how the same lessons could also be drawn: unforgiving laws, the immutability of heaven, the need for sacrifice, and how that sacrifice will consume everything. If you want to look deeper into this idea, I recommend L. Markos’ From Achilles to Christ. And of course see for yourself what Herodotus and Livy have to say in their histories.
My hope is that these stories have been enjoyable in and of themselves. Some of them were picked simply because they are less well-known, others because they are just good stories that deserve to be told and retold. But more than this, my hope is that these stories have taught a few deeper truths about who we are and how we relate to things like fate, perfection and sacrifice. My even greater hope is that these stories would inspire you to look into the claims made by the Christian Bible about the man Jesus. Definitely worth seeing for yourself what and who he says he is.]
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