In olden times it was not unknown for gods to pass by their devotees, showing their awesome power in some limited way, and eliciting the awed responses one would expect from those privileged to see them.
But at that time of day when heavenly light has not yet come, nor is there utter darkness, but the faint glimmer that we call twilight spreads over the night and wakes us, they [=Jason and his Argonauts] ran into the harbour of the lonely isle of Thynias and went ashore exhausted by their labours. Here they had a vision of Apollo on his way from Lycia to visit the remote and teeming peoples of the North. The golden locks streamed down his cheeks in clusters as he moved; he had a silver bow in his left hand and a quiver slung on his back; the island quaked beneath his feet and the sea ran high on the shore. They were awe-struck at the sight and no one dared to face the god and meet his lovely eyes. They stood there with bowed heads while he, aloof, passed through the air on his way across the sea.
Apollonius of Rhodes. 1959. The Voyage of Argo: The Argonautica. Translated by E. V. Rieu. 2nd ed. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Classics. (91f)
. . .
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. . . . But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” . . . . .
So Moses . . . went up Mount Sinai early in the morning. . . . Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, . . . Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.
. . .
Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and [Jesus] was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.
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6 thoughts on “When a God Passes By”
And this from The Book of Job 9:11 Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him;
he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
Gandalf put an end to passing by.
This is a great observation. I think there is an element in adventure stories that echoes this moment. When some greater authority, angel/divine/sage gives the mission. From Gilgamesh to Mission Impossible and yes Gandalf didn’t just pass by, he gave the mission and lead the team.
I remember watching the 10 Commandments and the burning bush is always the scene that draws people in. People focus when something supernatural occurs.
These moments are game changers – I don’t believe that there is much of a connection between these instances except that they are all communicated in a language and format that human minds gravitate on. Story structure is more to do with human psyche.
That is I think the “passing by” is fundamentally important in story construction, but other aspects like “a hidden archer winning the contest” i.e. something more specific found in several stories is more likely to be borrowed and rehashed material.
The Gods seem to have become really shy. We hardly see any of them these days. I blame the paparazzi.
Your comment aims correctly. The Gods now are the entertainment and political celebrities. They keep the paparazzi so busy that the paps don’t generally get around to the Award-Winning and Acclaimed Experts, but Experts are deities as well.