THE COMPASSIONATE PAGAN
The text quoted below is excerpted from the works of Ovid and was written circa 15
A.D. Ovid was a Roman citizen who lived most of his life under the rule of Caesar
Augustus. The same Augustus whose demand for a worldwide census brought Joseph and Mary to
Bethlehem, for the birth of Jesus.
Ovid died A.D. 18, when Jesus was still a very young man. But although they shared
a common time period, their lifestyles were very different. Jesus was the product of a
village culture, in which the labor of men and women was necessary for their sustenance
and their survival. Ovid was born of wealthy parents and was a favorite among the
fashionable people who enjoyed the luxury and diversions of the Imperial court which,
under Augustus, has been characterized as a place where "wit and good manners took
the place of morality."
But as he grew older, this favored son of a hedonistic, pagan society, developed
an understanding far beyond that of his contemporaries. Ovid understood the horrors to
which human beings subjected the animals entrusted to their care. He abhorred Roman
sacrificial worship and refused to believe that the "Deity in the heavens can rejoice
in the slaughter of the laborious, useful ox."
Given the spiritual understanding and compassion that Ovid demonstrated, how can
anyone doubt that Jesus Christ was at least as developed as he. How can they resist the
fact that when Jesus drove the animals and people out of the Temple he, too, was taking a
stand against the cult of animal sacrifice. How can the compassion of Jesus for all forms
of life be questioned, when he taught that God was concerned with the life and the fate of
the smallest sparrow.
And, ultimately, how can those who consider him to be the Son of God--the most
highly developed being who ever walked the earth-- deny Jesus the compassion and spiritual
understanding that Ovid demonstrates in the following selection from Metamorphoses
"But why have you deserved to die, you sheep, you harmless breed who serve
men with the nectar you carry in your full udders; who give your wool as soft coverings
for us--who assist us more by your life than by your death?
"Why have the oxen deserved this--beings without guile and without deceit;
innocent and mild, born for the endurance of labor? Ungrateful, indeed, is man and
unworthy of the boundless gifts of the harvest, who after unyoking him from the plough,
can slaughter the tiller of his fields; who can strike with the axe that neck worn bare
with the labor, through which he had so often turned up the hard ground, which had
afforded so many a harvest.
"And is it not enough that such wickedness is committed by men. They have
involved the gods themselves in this abomination, and they believe that a Deity in the
heavens can rejoice in the slaughter of the hard-working and useful ox. The victim...is
placed before their altars, and ignorant of the purpose of the proceedings, it hears the
prayers of the priest...It is placed before their altars, It sees the fruits of the earth,
which it cultivated, placed on its head between its horns and, struck down, its life blood
dyes the sacrificial knife, which it had perhaps already seen, lying in wait in the clear
bowl of water...
"From whence such hunger in man after unnatural and unlawful foods? Do you
dare,O mortal race, to continue to feed on flesh? Cease, I adjure you, and give heed to my
admonition. And when you present to your palates the limbs of slaughtered oxen, know and
feel that you are feeding on the tillers of the ground...
"To what wicked habits does he accustom his palate...who cuts the throat of a
calf, turning a deaf ear to its piteous moans. Or, who has the heart to pierce the throat
of a kid which utters cries like those of a child, or, who can feed on the bird whom he
had fed with his own hand?" #
HE THAT KILLETH AN OX IS AS IF HE SLEW A MAN (An oracle from the Prophet
BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL, FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY. (From a sermon given by
Jesus Christ--Matt. 5:7)
Copyright 2000 by Viatoris Ministries.