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Greek Religion.

1. The origins of Gk. religion are largely still obscure. Three tendencies: personification of natural forces (e.g., Naiads, dryads), survival of primitive magic and taboo, and the continuity of a primitive cult of the dead (hero worship). Gk. religion throughout its hist. was concerned with sanctity of places and of human life and purification of men.

2. By the time of Homer, if not earlier, Gk. religion was fairly well fixed in the form of the Olympic pantheon. Traditional gods: Zeus (god of the sky; supreme god), Poseidon (god of the sea), Hades (god of death and the underworld), Hera (sister and wife of Zeus), Athena (virgin goddess; patroness of cities; goddess of war). Ares (god of battle), Apollo (god of music and prophecy), Hephaestus (god of fire), Aphrodite (goddess of love and beauty), Demeter (goddess of vegetation), Hermes (god of flocks; messenger of gods), and Artemis (goddess of hunting and virginity). This “state religion” was a rationalizing of religious feeling, primarily ritualistic, not moral.

3. As time went on, religion underwent modifications and additions; most were completed by the end of the OT (a) Philosophic religion, emphasizing ethics, challenged the anthropomorphic nature of the gods (e.g., Xenophanes,* Stoicism,* Euhemerus*). Epicureanism* tried to show that gods were not concerned with men. (b) Religious accretions, more or less official, came in. Gods such as Dionysus (god of wine) and Bendis (similar to Artemis) had come in early. Prior to the NT many E religions gradually made their way into the Gk. world, e.g., Isis* worship from Egypt, Mithraism* from Persia. These religions emphasized immortality and afterlife. (c) These more or less gen. religious beliefs involved countless folk beliefs, many of which survived longer than the official religion.

See also Mystery Religions.

M. P. Nilsson, A History of Greek Religion, tr. F. J. Fielden, 2d ed. (New York, 1949) and Geschichte der griechischen Religion, I, 3d ed. (Munich, 1967), II (Munich, 1950); A. M. J. Festugiere, Personal Religion among the Greeks (Berkeley, California, 1954); G. Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion (London, 1935). EK

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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