Greek Mythology: Zeus (Jupiter)
Ancient Greek Mythology, Religion, Art
Zeus is the greatest of all the Greek gods. Son of Kronos and Rhea, husband and brother of Hera, he is the ultimate authority among all the immortals of Greek myth and legend. Zeus governs the entire universe in a manner that is analogous to how the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim god(s) would in contemporary religion even though he was by no means infallible or omnipotent in the sense of the god of Christianity. The parallels between the nature of Zeus and the nature of modern notions about God help reveal the degree to which theistic beliefs are dependent upon human needs and human culture, not any acutal encounters with real deities.
There are a number of other parallels and similarities between the ancient Greek god Zeus and god Christians have traditionally believed in. Most are probably coincidental and due largely to the fact that religions, all having been created by human beings, will be similar just like human cultures will be similar. True believers, though, sometimes try to explain away the innumerable similarities and parallels as signs that non-Chritians either had some inkling of the True God, or that their beliefs were planted by Satan in order to eventually cause confusion and doubt about Christians.
Zeus is commonly portrayed as wielding lightning bolts and ruling the storms; the Christian god is derived from the ancient Hebrew god which appears to have originally been a local, tribal storm god. There are many stories in which Zeus impregnates a maiden, leading to a child who accomplishes great things; the Christian god is believed to have caused the pregnancy of a virgin who is portrayed as going on to achieve great things. Zeus is sometimes portrayed as having a very personal relationship with humanity, caring about what happens to them; the Christian god, of course, is often defined as being personally invested in the fate of human beings.
Other similarities are probably not coincidental, though, and may constitute evidence of a deeper relationship between ancient Greek religion and modern Christianity either a relationship of direct influence or, more likely, of both being influenced by a common source. The story of Deucalion and Pyrrha is especially important in this regard. According to the Greeks, Zeus wanted to wipe out humanity for their sins, but rather than risk destroying the entire world with his thunderbolts he decided instead to flood the earth.
Only two people, Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, managed to survive on a small boat because they were warned by Prometheus. Deucalian and Pyrrha were the best of humanity in terms of their respect for the gods and upholding traditional values, Zeus decided to spare them and use them to repopulate the planet. Their boat came to rest on Mount Parnassus and immediately after disembarking the pair gave thanks to the gods by making a sacrifice to them.
The similarities between this story and the story about the Jewish and Christian god flooding the earth should be quite obvious. It is likely that both stories originally came from the even more ancient Sumerian myth of Ziusudra, a king who is warned that the gods will destroy humanity in a flood but he will survive if he creates a large boat. After the flood, Ziusudara makes sacrifices to the gods in thanks for sparing his life and, though him, sparing humanity.
Most true believers insist that their religion is not only the only true one, but has an exclusive lock on the truth about our world. The existence of similar beliefs, stories, and deities in other religions - and especially ancient religions - reveals that even modern religions owe much more to ancient mythology than to any actual gods or prophets.
|Temples of Zeus|
|Temple of Zeus (Jupiter) Olympios in Athens||Temple of Zeus (Jupiter) in Olympia (undated drawing)|
|Ruins of the Temple of Zeus (Jupiter) in Olympia|