In Metamorphoses, Ovid gives an account of creation and then describes the Ages of Man. Ovid’s creation account is interesting partly because he attributes it to a single, unknown god. Ovid even refers to him as “whichever of the gods this was” (quisquis fuit ille deorum). This god roughly follows the pattern in Genesis, separating the waters from the land, fixing the days from nights, The god creates mankind – so to make a better world, perhaps, says Ovid. Maybe, or maybe not! He leaves the question open.

There’s no Garden of Eden, no Adam and Eve, with Ovid, instead there’s a Golden Age of Man. This was an idyllic scene which is reminiscent of Eden, however. In this age no law existed — it wasn’t necessary. Honor ruled the day. War was unknown, no conquests or even any seafaring. Men were content with what they had around them for abundance was everywhere. Strawberrys picked from mountainsides, honey dripping from boughs, springs were gushing forth milk. Springtime was eternal, men lived unsheltered and even unclothed (it’s said in other sources). This was the reign of Saturn, but he fell and Jove rose bringing with him the seasons and a new age for men, the Silver Age. This brought farming and building shelters and using oxen and other animals. The Bronze Age came next rapidly, and with it introduction of war — yet men were still held by Ovid to be free of wickedness despite this. Lastly the Iron Age came, and with it honor, truth and loyalty gave way to fraud, deceit, treachery, conquest, rape of the earth for gain. Also, like the Hebrews, Ovid’s age here has a legendary race of giants! — and then, like in the bible, thanks to the wickedness of man Jove sends a Great Flood.

Here’s where Law got in through the window, because apparently the need was pressing! It is a striking parallel to 1 Timothy 1:9 which says the law isn’t for the just, but for the wicked. 

Another thing to note is the regression of humanity. Man falls farther away from the divine, farther away from perfection, with every new age, and to wickedness and greater separation. The bible’s stories have that same dynamic. It’s backwards, isn’t, from the mythos that animates the modern man? That one assumes the perfectibility of man. Ovid has openly doubted that and wondered if men bless the world or blight it! And the modern progressive world view assumes an always upward trajectory, always towards that perfection of man. 

 

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