In Ancient Greece, justice was the absolute good that a person could achieve. To obtain justice, Greeks sought peace within themselves by acknowledging their sins and by atoning for them, but not by asking for forgiveness of those sins. This is the case in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Oedipus is capable of forgiving the murderer of Laius, himself, his sons, and Creon, but he doesn’t know to forgive. He doesn’t understand that forgiveness is part of the atonement for the sins he has committed. Forgiveness is something that a person must receive and experience before they can conceive of it.
To end the plague in Thebes, Oedipus sets out to find and punish the murderer of Laius. Justice was the ultimate goal of a Greek citizen. According to Plato, justice is bringing two warring parts within a person or city to a harmonious relationship. Oedipus felt that by punishing the murderer he would bring harmony to the city thus ending the plague. To the Greeks that punishment was often very serve and would include banishment from your homeland or even death. This is contrast the Christian view. Christians seek atonement for someone’s sins, but also seek to forgive them. It is the forgiveness that brings harmony within a person or city not a punishment or revenge. Christians believe that you learn forgiveness through Christ’s example. Oedipus had never experienced forgiveness therefore did not consider giving it to the murderer of Laius.
Oedipus did not have an understanding of forgiving one’s self. When Oedipus first realized that he is the one who killed his father, he is horrified by his crimes. Oedipus decides to blind himself with Jocasta’s pins. He explains that he is in agony and could not face anyone again especially his children. He begs Creon to put him to death or have him banished. He had such a strong feeling of responsibility to carry out the punishment of Laius murderer. However, this left his children alone and ruined his life and others. For Christians, there is a responsibility to acknowledge your wrongdoings and do a penance, but you also have to forgive yourself. Oedipus should have realized that the events that occurred were not his fault. He could have forgiven himself. The outcome could have been different for everyone. However, he could not imagine forgiving himself. Oedipus did not have Christ to show him how to forgive. In the book of Mark in the Bible it states, “And Jesus looking upon them said, with men it is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible.” You have to accept His forgiveness and experience His mercy before you can forgive some one or yourself.
Oedipus’ son, Polynices, comes to see him for his own self interest. He wants to be king, and wants Oedipus blessing. However, Oedipus is still very angry because of his son’s part in his banishment. He has a lot of resentment towards both of his sons. He curses them because of their pride and selfness. However, Oedipus asked for the banishment. He even suggested being put to death. Creon and Oedipus’ sons only honored his wishes. Oedipus is not justified in his anger towards them concerning the banishment. He should forgive them for that. He is so upset about his situation that he is looking for someone to blame. His sons make it easy for him because of their self righteousness and pride. Christians try to take responsibility for our own problems and the things that they created. They also try to understand why a person is they way they are. Oedipus should have tried to understand why his sons acted the way they did. He could have tried to forgive their actions. Oedipus forgiving them would have made him feel better.
Oedipus never had forgiveness shown to him. Without forgiveness a person can’t find peace within himself. Oedipus was never happy after all the events occurred because he never was forgiven nor did he forgive himself or anyone else. His sons were disliked by their father for many years because of what Oedipus asked for in his own search for justice. This destroyed their lives and turned it into hatred for each other and made them selfish. Creon was treated poorly by Oedipus then he became power hungry. He was happy to see Oedipus forced from Thebes. Only if Oedipus showed forgiveness to the murderer of Laius none of the pain, sadness, death, and greed would have occurred. He was only in favor of Greek justice. He lived during a time were forgiveness was not known. Forgiveness must be experience in order to truly understand what it is. Christ was able to show what true forgiveness and thus showed people how to forgive.