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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  September 2004

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION September 2004

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Subject:

Christ the Warrior

From:

Terrill Heaps <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 19 Sep 2004 06:30:57 -0800

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text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

We have the idea of Christ as warrior not only in images but also in
literature. The idea of Christ's harrowing of hell comes to mind, when
he descended into hell, following the crucifixion.

The concept of Christ harrowing hell is mentioned in the apocryphal
Gospel of Nicodemus.

Another poster has rightly mentioned the Old English poem, "The Dream of
the Rood." In "Dream of the Rood" there are many illusions to battle and
to victory in battle. The nails used at the crucifixion are referred to
as spears or darts. Christ is the "Lord of victories." The Cross is the
"tree of victory."

For those on this list who are not "up" on Old English, I should mention
the Old English poem in the "Exeter Book" called both "The Harrowing of
Hell" and "The Descent Into Hell" (Exeter Book folio 119b-121b; Ker
116). Here we see the harrowing of hell likened to a divine attack on a
fortified city:

Fysde hine a to fore         frea moncynnes;
wolde heofona helm         helle weallas
forbrecan ond forbygan,         re burge rym
onginnan reafian,         reust ealra cyninga.
Ne rohte he to re hilde         helmberendra,
ne he byrnwigend         to am burggeatum
ldan ne wolde,         ac a locu feollan,
clustor of am ceastrum;         cyning in orad,
ealles folces fruma         for onette,
weoruda wuldorgiefa.            (33-42a)

Mankind's Lord moved swiftly on His way,
heaven's Guardian would destroy hell's walls:
the fiercest of all kings wished to crush
and to plunder that city's power.
To battle He brought no helmet-bearers.
nor would He lead armed warriors
to the fortress-gates; but its locks fell
open, its bolts drew back. The King rode in.
Onward he advanced, the Lord of all people,
the multitude's bestower of glory.

In art we see representation of Christ as a warrior, in battle array.
However, in the poem "Harrowing of Hell" there are no helmet-bearers and
no armed warriors. At his very appearing the city's gate falls open, as
the application of his victory. We have to understand that the ultimate
weapon in this battle is the person of Christ himself.

Terrill Heaps

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