The Heliand: A Germanic Account of Jesus Written to Suit the Saxon World

February 17, 2019 - General
In the Heliand, Jesus wasn’t a dark-skinned Palestinian but a Germanic chieftain. Hans Zatzka

One thing that can be said about the history of Christianity is that it has always been multicultural and multi-ethnic. Christianity is not tied to any one ethnic group or cultural tradition but has been able to accommodate many cultures across time and space. One example of this is the Heliand poem which provides a Germanic expression of the life of Jesus by changing the cultural and linguistic setting of the story to the world of the Saxons.

Origin of the Poem

It is not known who the author was, but it is believed that the poem was written during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Pious sometime in the middle of the 9th century, possibly around the year 830 AD. The identity of the author is uncertain. Some scholars argue that it was a priest based on clear knowledge of the Christian theological tradition of the time, though some argue that it might have been a Saxon bard who had received a Christian education. This is based on the author’s skill in Old Saxon poetry.

The poem is believed to have been commissioned by Emperor Louis the Pious to make Christianity more understandable to some of his Germanic subjects. The Saxons had only been recently converted to Christianity against their will by Charlemagne and many of them had never been sufficiently instructed in the central tenets of their new religion.

Source: origins

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