I have recently come across a discussion about the influence of certain ancient and medieval books upon C.S. Lewis…. particularly in relation to his conversion to Christ. Lewis loved reading the classics, whether it was Virgil’s “Aeneid” or Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” or Boethius’ “Consolation of Philosophy” or the myths of the Anglo-Saxons or the Vikings. He loved reading the stories of great heroes overcoming impossible challenges or devilish monsters. As he would walk with his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, he would remark how the story of Christ was just another myth that was re-told.
Tolkien asked him to consider that maybe, the story of Christ was the myth made real? In other words, could it be that God put in the hearts of the pagans the desire to be reconnected to Him, and in the Providence of God we see their yearnings in their literature, such as in the epic poem of “The Aeneid”. The similarities between the mythological story of Aeneid and the true story of the book of Acts are striking.
Aeneas is a refugee fleeing a world that is being destroyed (Troy), and he leaves the old world to a new city (Rome) to found a new kingdom. Like Aeneas, Paul and the Christians are hounded out of their old world (Israel) to flee westward to Rome. Aeneas is aided by divine help as he makes his way westward across the Mediterranean. So is Paul. The Trojan refugees flee to begin a new world as a new people–the Romans. And they have a calling to bring peace and civilization to the world. In the same way Paul and the Jewish believers in Christ found a new community of Jews and Gentiles– to bring peace and eternal life to the world.
Lewis saw the connection. God had put the yearnings for eternity in the hearts of the pagans, and what they could only dream about….became real in the real story of Jesus.