“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
“Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.”(1 Corinthians 13 – New Living Translation)
But I want to write about hope.
The Series 5 finale, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang has roots in the myth of Pandora. Maybe not many (the title and the idea of opening the box) but some. There are elements of the myth to be found in the episode.
A major source of the story is Hesiod, a man of whom I had not heard until recently. He was a Greek poet dating back to sometime between 750BC and 650BC and was a contemporary of Homer. In his telling of the story of Pandora, he comes across as a misogynist.
In Hesiod’s version, Zeus becomes enraged after Prometheus stole fire and gave it to man. He ordered the creation of a woman to torment mankind. Pandora is created by Hephaestus, but now more gods contribute to her completion – teaching her needlework and weaving (Athena); strewing grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs (Aphrodite); Hermes gave her “a shameful mind and deceitful nature”; Hermes also gave her the power of speech, putting in her “lies and crafty words” ; Athena then clothed her; next, Persuasion – not the one from Four to Doomsday – and the Charities adorned her with necklaces and other finery; the Horae adorned her with a garland crown. Finally, Hermes gives this woman a name: Pandora – “All-gifted” – because all the Olympians gave her a gift. (In Greek, Pandora has an active rather than a passive meaning; hence, Pandora properly means all giving.)
Many people are familiar with the expression ‘Pandora’s box’; Procul Harum certainly are. Well, many people (and Procul Harum) got it wrong. Pandora had a… jar.
According to Hesiod, Pandora was created for the express purpose of opening the jar and letting out its contents, all the ills and woes to inflict misery on mankind. According to Hesiod, Pandora was aware of this and did so willingly. The story goes that everything that causes suffering is a direct result of Pandora’s deliberate act. I told you, Hesiod was a misogynist!
Right at the bottom of the jar is hope. Hesiod’s Pandora closes the jar and does not let hope out. Hesiod really was a glass-completely-empty sort of a person.
I became interested in mythology when I was at primary school. In the version I first read, Pandora was guilty of curiosity rather than guile and wept when all the woes escaped.
Also, and more importantly, when Pandora discovered hope at the bottom of the jar, she let it out. Hope, winged and shining like the sun, flew off to repair the damage. A bit like the Impossible Girl.
I prefer this version. There is hope and it can be found.
I am writing this bit while much of the world is isolating, to try to stop the spread of Covid-19. After weeks of stockpiling, panic buying essentials, and ugly scenes in supermarkets, you could be forgiven for thinking that mankind is doomed. I do not subscribe to this view. Yes, people are capable of huge selfishness. But there are also tales of compassion and kindness. Communities come together to help one another. Support is given to the vulnerable. Mankind is, as the Fourth Doctor proclaims, indomitable.
But my hope is not based solely on humanity’s best qualities. About 2,000 years ago, a man was crucified just outside Jerusalem. But this was no mere man. This was, and is, the Son of God and, because of what He went through that day, the link between God and the created world was restored. Heaven and earth were reunited. Because Jesus died to save everything. But I do not believe that this is a future salvation only: He will not come to take us away to a Heaven in the sky. Salvation starts now and will reach perfection in God’s kingdom.
I must make a brief diversion. A Pastor once asked my Mother whether I believe in hell. I have depression. Of course I believe in hell. There is too much suffering in the world not to believe in hell. It would be insulting to anyone who is suffering to suggest that the world is anything like perfect. But it is better than the media would have us believe. And it will be made perfect. The process has already started and we are part of it. God’s kingdom is one of love. We Christians get that wrong but it is true nonetheless. Each time any of us performs an act of kindness and love, God’s kingdom advances slightly. The cumulative and exponential effect of these acts is truly world shattering.
I am now going to say something controversial. The benefit of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not just for those who profess to follow Him. It is for all of us. Every single one of us. ‘Believer’ or not. I strongly believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God. I truly believe that an all-loving God wants everyone to be with Him. I truly believe an all-powerful God can and will achieve this.
My views are not universally held among believers. But I am not alone in believing it. There are apparent challenges with this view. There are several passages in the Bible the common interpretation of which seems to say that not everyone will be saved. I wrestle with these questions and do not have all the answers.
But I stand by my assertion that Jesus died to save everyone and that He has saved everyone.