Jesus, the Legendary Greek God

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https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies?fref=ts

By: William J Jackson

How is it that Jesus of Nazareth, the Christian messiah, is born of Greek mythology?  Well it all started in January of 332 BCE when Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem, this would be the beginning of Hellenism for the Jews.  Hellenism was a Greek mindset, ideas, concepts, science, art and of course religion1.  The Greek conquerors saw Hellenism as a unifying force that would unite their conquests.  At the beginning, many of the Israelites embraced these new views and concepts.  Although there was resistance in later years, Hellenism would permeate Israel well before the pages of the New Testament were penned.

So how did this new mindset derail many Jews? Well instead of eliminating the culture of one’s advisory, Hellenism believed in synthesis.  This was sort of a fusing or mixing of cultures.  Basically when it came to the category of religion you could keep HaShem but you also were expected to add Greek gods.  For starters, within the Greek culture they had their own Elohim (god), this was Zeus.  One of the main differences between their god Zeus and Israel’s God YHVH was that Zeus spawned children that became deities.  If we examine just a few of these Greek gods that existed before the writing of the New Testament we may find the Jesus of Nazareth is a synthesis whose purpose was to tie the Greek and Hebrew cultures. Let’s view three of the most likely foreshadowing’s of the Christian messiah.

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Perseus in Greek mythology was the slayer of the Medusa2 and would be the “son of god” that was mostly recognized in Hellenism as a Christ like deity3 

Son of god (Zeus), Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, John 1:14

Virgin Birth, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:30-37

King tried to kill him as an infant, Matthew 2:16

Known for battling evil, Matthew 8:28-32, Mark 1:34, Luke 4:35

Human deity, Romans 8:3, Philippians 2:6-7, Colossians 2:9-10

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Dionysus is the Greek god of the grape harvest.  This would seem to be a very unlikely candidate to be the precursor to the Christian messiah.  Yet, some of us conservatives did find it weird that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. The answer here might be this Greek god who was worshipped as early as c. 1500–1100 BC.  Dionysus’ resume appears to be very similar to the Christian messiah4;

Wedding wine miracle, John 2:1-11

Statements about being “The one true vine”, John 15:1

Son of the divine ruler of the world, Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, John 1:14  

Mortal mother, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:30-37

Human deity, Romans 8:3, Philippians 2:6-7, Colossians 2:9-10

Resurrected, John 11:25, Acts 4:2, Romans 1:4

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Heracles is more often known by us from his Roman name of Hercules.  This Greek god possesses more “Christ” markers than any other Greek god5.  Remember, Heracles started as a Greek myth and later grew into a Roman myth as Hercules.  We also see the same thing with Christianity starting off with Hellenistic ideals and later becoming the religion of Rome. Heracles bridges the gap between both the Greeks and Romans, much like the Greco-Roman transition in Christianity. We must also note that Heracles lived well before Christ, his death and deification occurring approximately 1226 BCE.

Born of a virgin, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:30-37

Was the son of god (Zeus), Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, John 1:14

Was known as the “savior”, Luke 2:11, Acts 13:23, 1 Timothy 1:15

Prophets foretold his birth, Matthew 1:20–23, 2:4-6, Luke 2:12-14

Attempt on his life as an infant, Matthew 2:16

Walked on water, Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-56, John 6:16-21

Violent death… Matthew 27:26, Mark 15:15, John 19

…and was resurrected, John 11:25, Acts 4:2, Romans 1:4

His mother and disciple stood by him when he died, Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, Luke 23:49, John 19:25

Last words were “It is finished”, John 19:30

When he dies, the Earth trembles…, Matthew 27:50-54

…and darkness covers the land, Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44-45

Ascended to Heaven when he died, Luke 24:50-51, Mark 16:19, Acts 1:8-9

With the Greek’s merging their religion into the Hebrew faith it makes sense they would have capitalized on the coming of the messiah.  In the Greek tradition their god, Zeus, brought in human deities or “sons of god”.  Jesus of Nazareth appears to be a hybrid of these legends and finalized the synthesis of both Hebrew and Greek religions which is the true mark of Hellenism.

References:

(1) By Lawrence H. Schiffman, Hellenism & Judaism, My Jewish Learning

(2) By Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica (August 27, 2014), Perseus, Greek mythology, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

(3) By Kelly and Leigh Giffault, Zeus and God, Greek Mythology

(4) By Derek Murphy, (December 1, 2009), the True Vine: Jesus and Dionysus Similarities, Holy Blasphemy

(5) By David Anderson (2012) Jesus & Hercules Parallels – A Christian Response, King David 8.com

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