Xenia vs. Love Thy Neighbor

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Bob

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In Acts 28: 1 - 7, the Apostle Paul describes (after being shipwrecked on Malta), how the pagan islanders showed them unusual kindness and generous hospitality. Elsewhere (Romans 2: 14,15), Paul noted that even though the gentiles do not know the law (of Moses), they behave as if it were written on their hearts.

By “law written on their hearts,” was Paul merely referencing their generous hospitality, or did he observe them practicing Love Thy Neighbor in general (e.g., caring for all needy people in their communities)?

We now know that the Ancient Greek custom known as Xenia was an important part of their culture. Its pagan origins stem from Zeus, the patron saint of guests, who purportedly would disguise himself as a traveler and test hosts on their treatment of him. It was understood that a poor host would receive instant punishment from the god.

For comparison, we note Matthew 25: 35,36—
‘35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Per Jesus, those who failed to act accordingly could expect eternal punishment.

Questions:
1. Was the Greek Xenia truly analogous to the Christian commandment Love Thy Neighbor?
2. Can we assume that behind the pagan Xenia, God was at work influencing gentile behavior positively, so that their transition to Christianity under Paul’s guidance would be seamless?

All responses cheerfully welcome.
 

quietthinker

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In Acts 28: 1 - 7, the Apostle Paul describes (after being shipwrecked on Malta), how the pagan islanders showed them unusual kindness and generous hospitality. Elsewhere (Romans 2: 14,15), Paul noted that even though the gentiles do not know the law (of Moses), they behave as if it were written on their hearts.

By “law written on their hearts,” was Paul merely referencing their generous hospitality, or did he observe them practicing Love Thy Neighbor in general (e.g., caring for all needy people in their communities)?

We now know that the Ancient Greek custom known as Xenia was an important part of their culture. Its pagan origins stem from Zeus, the patron saint of guests, who purportedly would disguise himself as a traveler and test hosts on their treatment of him. It was understood that a poor host would receive instant punishment from the god.

For comparison, we note Matthew 25: 35,36—
‘35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Per Jesus, those who failed to act accordingly could expect eternal punishment.

Questions:
1. Was the Greek Xenia truly analogous to the Christian commandment Love Thy Neighbor?
2. Can we assume that behind the pagan Xenia, God was at work influencing gentile behavior positively, so that their transition to Christianity under Paul’s guidance would be seamless?

All responses cheerfully welcome.
God has worked in all societies of human history. Are any exempt? I don't think so
 

Rita

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You state that the Greeks/ pagans originally acted in this way out of fear of punishment, this is surely the wrong motive- they were doing it because they were protecting themselves. Is that not a selfish and self centred act, not genuine out of care or concern for the visitors?

So this raises another question- what lay behind the motives for why we do things as Christians, is it out of a genuine internal change which makes what we do natural or is the motive one that is an act of protecting ourselves. Is care and love for our neighbour a selfish act or a selfless one.
 
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Bob

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God has worked in all societies of human history. Are any exempt? I don't think so
Thank you for your comment, with which I agree.

But: why do you suppose some pagan cultures practiced some version of Love Thy Neighbor, and others were authoritarian, hierarchal, and oppressive? Since we are all fallen, would we not expect all pagan cultures to eventually be in the latter category?

(It is recorded, for example, that even God’s chosen people continually strayed. And Western culture: where is it headed?)

Peace and blessings.
 

quietthinker

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Thank you for your comment, with which I agree.

But: why do you suppose some pagan cultures practiced some version of Love Thy Neighbor, and others were authoritarian, hierarchal, and oppressive? Since we are all fallen, would we not expect all pagan cultures to eventually be in the latter category?

(It is recorded, for example, that even God’s chosen people continually strayed. And Western culture: where is it headed?)

Peace and blessings.
Innately we as people have a sense of integrity. What that is might vary, yet it's there. I think it is because we were made in the image of God.
 

Bob

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Innately we as people have a sense of integrity. What that is might vary, yet it's there. I think it is because we were made in the image of God.
Thank you for the response.
So, we are born fallen but we also are born with a sense of integrity? Sort of like the devil and an angel striving for control inside us? Ok, maybe.

Or, could it be that God gave us the ability to learn His expectations (and His promises), just as we a born with the God-given ability to learn a language?

If true, then it is crucially important that our parents-family-community teach us to Love God and our neighbors. A toddler, whose basic nature is to grab and satisfy desires by any means, must be taught to be sharing and gentle. (We are all familiar with the antics of older children who never received such instruction.)

However, it is not clear how either perspective is relevant to the question of why some neighborly cultures that last and others do not.

A clue: neighborly cultures are more apt to be found in rural communities; urban communities tend to become Ninevehs.

Peace and blessings.
 

Ronald David Bruno

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In Acts 28: 1 - 7, the Apostle Paul describes (after being shipwrecked on Malta), how the pagan islanders showed them unusual kindness and generous hospitality. Elsewhere (Romans 2: 14,15), Paul noted that even though the gentiles do not know the law (of Moses), they behave as if it were written on their hearts.

By “law written on their hearts,” was Paul merely referencing their generous hospitality, or did he observe them practicing Love Thy Neighbor in general (e.g., caring for all needy people in their communities)?

We now know that the Ancient Greek custom known as Xenia was an important part of their culture. Its pagan origins stem from Zeus, the patron saint of guests, who purportedly would disguise himself as a traveler and test hosts on their treatment of him. It was understood that a poor host would receive instant punishment from the god.

For comparison, we note Matthew 25: 35,36—
‘35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Per Jesus, those who failed to act accordingly could expect eternal punishment.

Questions:
1. Was the Greek Xenia truly analogous to the Christian commandment Love Thy Neighbor?
2. Can we assume that behind the pagan Xenia, God was at work influencing gentile behavior positively, so that their transition to Christianity under Paul’s guidance would be seamless?

All responses cheerfully welcome.
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil has been consumed by all. It isnot rocket science to know what makes people happy and what makes them sad, what we need and what is harmful to us and so we learn to sort them out. Our conscience dictates what is right and wrong. I am not saying that everyone is entirely clear about how to live. But they know what is right, they just by nature rebel against it, bump up against it and sometimes go the other way.
I know now more about sin, but still my parents (unbelievers through my upbringing) passed down Christain principles that they were taught.. Atheists abide by many Christian principles because they work. But even to think that no one did any good prior to Christ would be ignorant. That would be like saying God has no sovereignty. His truths have permeated civilization. God has inspired man along the way.
Prior to the Flood, man was totally evil - except for a few. A major lesson was learned and the fear of God was in many. I am sure Noah and his sons passed down righteous principles of life, wisdom and truth to their generations. Over time it got mingled and corrupted, but God still guided man, and restraining evil for His purpose. But of course that wasn't enough. God had to put man on a more strict path and define to him more clearly what sin was and righteousness, hence the chosen nation was formed, the Law was given, a Covenant leading to Christ, a the fullness of grace and truth witha New Covenant.
 
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quietthinker

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Thank you for the response.
So, we are born fallen but we also are born with a sense of integrity? Sort of like the devil and an angel striving for control inside us? Ok, maybe.

Or, could it be that God gave us the ability to learn His expectations (and His promises), just as we a born with the God-given ability to learn a language?

If true, then it is crucially important that our parents-family-community teach us to Love God and our neighbors. A toddler, whose basic nature is to grab and satisfy desires by any means, must be taught to be sharing and gentle. (We are all familiar with the antics of older children who never received such instruction.)

However, it is not clear how either perspective is relevant to the question of why some neighborly cultures that last and others do not.

A clue: neighborly cultures are more apt to be found in rural communities; urban communities tend to become Ninevehs.

Peace and blessings.
What I mean Bob is that we have a sense of right and wrong. We know stealing and lying is wrong. It doesn't mean we don't steal or lie etc, it just means there is some sort of moral gauge within us all as people.

Criminal gangs like the Yakuza or the Mafia have a sense of right or wrong amongst themselves. This sense is clearly corrupted but it's there. I don't think animals have it; I'm thinking of carnivorous animals.