Warrior Savior

Adam Renberg writes for Patheos about the adjustments made to biblical texts to appeal to broaden their appeal to medieval Saxons. The audience was a Germanic warrior society after a forced conversion to Christianity by Emperor Charlemagne. Renberg specifically references The Heliand, a Gospel paraphrase written as a poem in the 9th century. Some of the changes to the original content are enough to raise eyebrows.

Perhaps most egregious of all is the use of magic. The creation of the world and the writing of the gospel are called secret runes’, or word magic ordained by God (Song 1). The author records that the deceiver, that is Satan, uses a magic helmet” to frighten Pilates wife (Song 65), and even speaks of the eucharist as magical. Most jarring is, perhaps, the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer: Do this for Your own followers—teach us the secret runes” (Song 19). This implies that the repetition of the Lord’s prayer was as powerful as a spell or Germanic charm, when spoken with bowed head.

The Saxon society isn’t unique in adapting Christianity to fit in with their long-held cultural beliefs, but rarely do you read about the biblical text itself being changed to incorporate such a hybrid.

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