I was reading Greek mythology to Measle yesterday and it occurred to me that every one of the myths we read had its root in the Bible. Of course, they're all twisted in a humanocentric way with a low view of God, or gods in their case, and a high view of man. The myths contain a seed of truth, but are warped to make man feel justified in his sins. And with gods so man-like and man so god-like, there isn't a recognition of sin or a need for a Savior.
Here are a few examples taken from Usborne Greek Myths (Retold by Heather Amery, 2000):
The Gift of Fire- "Prometheus picked up some mud. He shaped lumps of it into men and women, making them look just like the gods, and breathed on them to make them come alive." (Amery, p. 7) Sound familiar? "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.... And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." (Genesis 1:27 and 2:7) Notice in both accounts, people are made by God (or a god) from the earth and life is breathed into them.
"The people were happy on the Earth, but the one thing that Zeus wouldn't let them have was fire. Prometheus loved the people and felt sorry that they had to shiver with cold through the dark nights, and eat raw food. He went to Mount Olympus and, when no one was watching, stole a lump of burning charcoal from Zeus's palace. He took it to the people and showed them how to make fire with it. Now they could eat cooked food, and have warmth and light in the night. They were always grateful to Prometheus and never forgot his special gift. When Zeus noticed the smell of cooking and saw the fires glowing at night, he knew what Prometheus had done. He flew into a terrible rage. 'Prometheus, how dare you go against my orders?' he shouted in a voice like thunder. 'I'll punish you for this.' Zeus chained Prometheus to the side of a huge mountain. Every day an eagle flew down and tore out his liver, and every night it grew again. Prometheus was in terrible pain, but he couldn't die because he was a god." (Amery, pp 7-8)
Of course, the truth is that it was the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil that God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating, and this was for their own good, not because God was cruel. Prometheus, a Satan-like figure is the hero in this story, having the good of people in mind, whereas Satan really had their downfall in mind. Notice that the stolen fire was a "gift", whereas the temptation to sin by eating the fruit led to the Fall of man. Prometheus is punished fully immediately, whereas Satan is cursed by God with his ultimate punishment yet to come.
Pandora's Box- "Zeus gave Pandora and Epimetheus a box which was bound and locked. 'Take this box and keep it safe. I must warn you,' said Zeus, 'that you must never open it.'...[Epimetheus] took Pandora away and soon they were married. He put the box in a dark corner of his house. Pandora was very happy with her new husband. The world was a wonderful place to live in. No one was ever ill or grew old. No one was ever unkind or unpleasant. But Pandora was curious about the locked box and the more she thought about it, the more she wanted to know what was in it." (Amery, pp 9-10) The similarities are striking, are they not? It was Eve whose curiosity spurred on by her doubting of God's goodness caused her to give in to the temptation of the Serpent and eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And in the myth, as well as the true event, the world was good prior to the sin of the woman.
"[Pandora] broke the lock with a tool. Then, hardly daring to breathe, she slowly lifted the lid. Before she could look inside, there was a terrible screaming, wailing noise. She jumped back, terrified. Out of the box streamed all sorts of horrible things. There was hate and jealousy, cruelty and anger, hunger and poverty, pain and sickness, old age and death." (Amery, p 11) It certainly sounds like the curse! And I love this part! "Pandora tried to slam down the lid, but it was too late. Then one last thing, very small and pretty, fluttered out of the box. It was hope. People would now suffer all kinds of terrible things, but because they had hope, they would never despair." (Amery, p 11) The hope in the midst of the Fall comes in Genesis 3:15. "And I will put enmity between you (God is saying this to Satan) and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." The true hope is Christ. At Golgotha (Aramaic for skull) Christ suffered and died for the sins of His people, but in do so doing, He crushed Satan's head, fulfilling Genesis 3:15 often called the protoevangelium or first gospel.
I'm sure there are many other biblical allusions in the Greek myths. I know they have a global flood story as do most cultures. The fate of Persephone was sealed by her eating a few seeds of a pomegranate in Hades. Suffice it to say, the Greeks were not being original, but were bastardizing the truth of the Bible to fit their own fallen view of God and man. Measle Bug is getting a mini theology lesson with each Greek myth and we're both enjoying it!
- I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.