In looking at the many world’s religions, one can find similarities at nearly every turn in the stories. Most involve the world being created by a higher power, a separation of that higher power from mankind, a great flood that covered the land at one time, a human representation of that higher power, an emphasis on war and some way of redemption. While myths differ from religions in that religion is a more all-encompassing term…many mythological accounts of events, especially Greek mythology, correlate with those in the Christian Bible.
Creation Stories – The Bible & Greek Mythology
There are differences in the creation stories…with some similar essentials, such as the world beginning in darkness. In Greek mythology this darkness is called Chaos. Chaos is the beginning of all things, and from this darkness came the earth (Gaea), Eros (which represented love) and the underworld (Tartarus). In the Christian Bible, God speaks and it is so. Where in Greek mythology it is many gods who are responsible for bringing the world and the universe into being, the Bible gives credit to only one…God Himself.
Chaos and and Gaea were brought together through Eros, and produced the heavens and solar system,(Uranus) along with the seas and mountains of the earth. There were lesser gods created from this as well, known as the Titans. Each god presided over one aspect of nature or survival. Human beings are said to have been created possibly from these gods, however there were some Greek societies who believed that mankind sprung from the earth….much as the Christian Bible speaks of God creating man from dust.
Another notable difference is the belief of one power as being omnipotent in the Christian faith and the appearance of several gods in Greek lore. Chaos was the beginning, however many gods took on the role of deity. One such god was Cronus, god of the harvests, who was the product of Uranus and Gaea. It is said that Cronus was jealous of his father and wanted his position of ruling the heavens.
He proceeded to castrate Uranus, whose blood when spilled created more gods, thus tipping the balance in the favor of Cronus. Uranus was furious, and it is thought that the word “Titan” came from the word “titenes” or “strained ones”…saying they had stepped over the line. He also warned Cronus that he would suffer the same fate and be cast out by one of his own sons. The way Cronus decided to deal with this was to swallow each of his children as soon as they were born. However, his mate, (who also happened to be his sister) sought to find a way to save her last child…Zeus. She gave birth without Cronos’s knowledge and tricked him into thinking he had swallowed his last offspring as well by giving him a stone wrapped in coverings.
Cronus then ruled over the gods thinking he had escaped his fate. All the while, his son Zeus was being raised in secret. When Zeus became old enough, he poisoned his father to get him to regurgitate his siblings. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades declared war and captured Cronus. He was then held captive in the underworld, while Zeus claimed rule over the heavens and placed himself on Mt. Olympus. Poseidon ruled the sea and Hades was in charge of the underworld.
One might say that it was an extreme measure for Cronos to eat his own children to keep this prophecy from coming true…but indeed, it was no more heinous than King Herod demanding that all newborn babies be killed when three Magi told him of Christ’s birth. Herod was understandably nervous, for he was the King…and now he was being told of the true King’s birth. When the Magi couldn’t locate him quickly enough, King Herod ordered that all newborns in Bethlehem be killed…and Jesus only escaped this fate by remaining hidden.
Forbidden Knowledge – The Bible & Greek Mythology
At this point, the similarities between the Bible and Greek mythology start to become less vague and more specific. In both accounts, the female character is said to be the one who brings the separation of man and God. The Bible states that Eve fell victim to the temptation of Satan through tasting the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. She then led Adam to taste the fruit as well, even though God had specifically told them not to. This act forever separates man from God.
In the Greek version, it is Pandora who, out of curiosity, opens the jar where all of the evils of mankind are kept. The jar was to be kept closed…but in the creation of Pandora, Zeus was punishing mankind to begin with. Promethus had given man the secret of fire, therefore giving them the ability to learn things for themselves. Zeus then had Hephaestus, who was his chief craftsman, create Pandora as an evil disguised by beauty…dooming her from the beginning…to punish Promethus and mankind for being so bold as to depend on themselves instead of the gods.
Global Flooding – The Bible & Greek Mythology
Probably the one that stands out the most is the accounts of a great Flood. In both accounts of the flood, we have a diety who is angered by the people stepping away from the plan. In Genesis Chapter Six of the Bible we are told of a great deal of wrongdoing out of a majority of the people in existence at the time. God finds favor with one man and his family and instructs the man (Noah) to build an ark. He is instructed by God to take his family, along with seven of each animal and stay in the ark until the flood passes. God then sent torrents of rain until the entire world was washed away….except Noah, his family and the animals.
In Greek mythology, Zeus becomes angry with mankind for refusing to live by the laws of the gods. He then decides to destroy everything with a great flood. Promethus, who had already incurred Zeus’s eternal wrath by giving man the knowledge of fire, warns his son and his wife to build a structure to escape…thus ensuring that people would be able to continue to populate. While in one it is God himself who makes the choice of who is to survive and in the other it is someone who steps in and decides to warn someone…in both cases, the world was destroyed by a large torrent of water, and in both cases someone had to survive to create a new population.
Wars & Rivalry – The Bible & Greek Mythology
The list goes on. In the epic poem “The Iliad”, it describes the last year of the ten year Trojan War where the Greeks destroyed the Troas city of Ilium. The gods are instrumental in this at many points of the story, indicating that many of the victories were attributed to the divine intervention of these superior beings. The many wars in the Bible are similar in nature. In Samuel, we read of the war between the Philistines and the Israelites. It wasn’t a great warrior that battled the giant Philistine Goliath…it was a young boy, David, that with God’s assistance was able to defeat him with nothing but a sling and some stones. God sent David because He knew he had no fear…and because He knew that David would be Israel’s king. In both the Bible and in Greek lore, the presence of conflicts and wars are ever present…as are sibling rivalries.
In the Bible, (Genesis Chapter 4) the first brothers, Cain and Abel were both warned by God that they would be tempted by the sin of coveting what the other had. God tested this when he showed favor to the offering Abel gave Him and rejected Cain’s. Cain became so overcome with envy that rather than searching his heart to find a way to offer something worthy to God, he instead killed his own brother. In Greek mythology, the twins Acrisius and Proetus were born to detest each other. The intent was for the two of them to inherit the Greek city of Argos, however they each wanted full reign. They fought bitterly, with Acrisius coming out ahead and exiling his brother. Different stories, true…but the same emphasis on brother against brother.
Jesus – The Bible & Greek Mythology
The central figure in the New Testament of the Bible is Jesus of Nazareth who Christians believe to be the Messiah, or Savior. He was born of a virgin, Mary, after she was touched by God and the seed placed in her womb (much as one version says Dionysus was placed in the womb of a mortal woman Semele by Zeus). In looking at the Greek hero Odysseus, there are more than a few similarities that show up. It has been argued by some, including author Dennis R. MacDonald (“The Gospel According to Mark”) that when Mark was writing his account, he may have been inspired by the tales of Odysseus when describing Jesus.
Odysseus was a carpenter who went on to lead a life of great suffering trying to get back to his home. He had to hide who he was when he returned, and rid his house of the many hangers-on who were trying to attach themselves to his wife. Jesus was a carpenter who also lived a life of great suffering. He arrived at the temple in Jerusalem saw the sin and greed that was taking place there…and angrily went through, knocking wares off of tables, not masking one bit of his fury for the disrespect being shown in his Father’s house. The Hebrews are thought to be the apple of God’s eye…Jesus was the head of their household. He felt compelled to protect them and keep them from the “wolves in sheeps clothing”.
The companions of Odysseus and Jesus gave a new meaning to “with friends like those you don’t need enemies”! Jesus was sold out by Judas for thirty pieces of silver and was denied three times in one night by Peter. One of the followers of Odysseus, out of curiosity, opened a bag of wind to see what would happen…which then caused the water to turn into a whirlpool, throwing them off course, and making the trip home much longer. Again, we have stories that are not exact…but the similarities are striking enough that it begs the question: Were the writers of the Bible actually reworking ancient Greek myths to create their own reality?
While in the Christian Bible, Satan is the main antagonist and perceived as evil and destructive, in Greek accounts, Hades, who reigns the underworld is not evil, simply a protector of the dead. He did show a selfish streak when he demanded that the woman he loved, Persephone spend a portion of each year with him. Persephone’s mother was Demeter, the goddess of abundant harvests. The portion of the year that Persephone spends with Hades is when Demeter is mourning…when there are no harvests.
However, all of the Greek gods were selfish…so Hades was really no different. The misconception of him as an “evil” or negative god came about when early interpreters of the Bible translated the word “sheoul” or “grave” to the Greek Hades.
In Acts 2:27 it says “Because thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades, Neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption.” Hades was then thought to mean hell in the Christian belief.
Emphasis On Numbers – The Bible & Greek Mythology
There is a great emphasis on numbers in the Greek myths. Many things come in threes, most notably being the three Fates. Cronus was overthrown by three of his sons. Looking at the Bible, we find three Magi who deliver the message to King Herod that the true King of the Jews has arrived. We also find the Holy Trinity…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are twelve main gods on Mt. Olympus…there are twelve disciples of Jesus Christ.
The writers of the Bible may have had divine inspiration..but a writer can only describe what they know and have seen and heard themselves. When faced with the task of writing the history of the world, there had to be a central basis..what if the basis for the Bible were the ancient myths of the Greek heros and villains that had been published thousands of years before one page of the Bible had been written?
With all the similarities and differences between the two…it is a testament to both of them for standing the test of time. Centuries after they were written…they are still discussed, analyzed, and searches for more answers and validations continue.
By Angela Sangster copyright 2010 BestOfAllTopics.com all rights reserved
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