Analysis of biographical similarities of Jesus and Zeus made scientists think about their identity. In accordance with some contemporary sources Zeus could be a prototype of Jesus. Other researchers argue that Zeus’ biography was copied from the Jesus’ one or even vice versa. This paper objective is to reveal if there is any resemblance between Jesus and Zeus if there is any.
Zeus (Jupiter) was a supreme god who ruled in Olympus and ranked high in the pantheon. Zeus was the son of Chronos and Rhea. His siblings were swallowed by his father Chronos to remove the threat of his absolute supremacy. Zeus was worshiped for his ability to transform mythical creatures and mortals into each other. In the ancient Greek mythology he was also referred as the god of sky and thunder. He was able to generate thunderbolts when he was angry. He had a bad temper and Greeks were very much afraid of him. This is the reason of many sacrifices held to him by ancient Greeks.
Zeus belonged to pagan deity while Jesus was a founder of monotheism associated with Holy Trinity. However, an existence of a supreme god (Zeus) was the first hint on monotheism in ancient Greece. Zeus was mentioned in many sources including Iliad and Enneads. He was first mentioned in Theogony of Hesiod (Hesiod 4).
Jesus Christ was first mentioned after a thousand years in the Book of Mormon. Interestingly, he was mentioned in this book even more often than in the Holy Bible. However, we used to derive the information regarding Jesus from the Bible. Jesus Christ lived in the period of 2 BC/BCE - 36 AD/CE (Crossway Bibles, Matthew 2:1).
Let us begin from comparison of the autobiographic facts of Zeus and Jesus that reached us down the ages.
An initial resemblance of Jesus and Zeus was found in their biographies. The histories of Jesus Christ’s and Zeus’ births remind us about universal truths despite of many years separating these two stories.
In accordance with Hesiod Theogony, Zeus was born in the ancient city of Lyktos (15). Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea. His parents’ motherland was Nazareth in Galilee. This is the reason why he was called Jesus of Nazareth (Crossway Bibles, Micah 5:1-2). Thus, there is a geographical difference between their places of birth: Zeus was born in Crete while Jesus resided in Israel.
It is known that in the lives of both Zeus and Jesus caves played certain role. The matter is that in the consciousness of the ancient people caves were always associated with first shelters for refugees thus offering safety to them. Shelter, in its turn, was a symbol of the womb of the Earth which offered protection from wild animals and bad weather conditions. Like the womb of a mother protects her child from the outside intervention, caves associated with the womb of the Great Mother (Earth or Gaia), protected people from the hardships.
As well as Jesus, Zeus was born in a cave in the midst of animals. A presence of the animals in both of the stories was not accidental as well. Both ancient Greeks and Hebrews like many other people all over ancient world used to rely on animals because they helped people survive offering their milk, wool and meat to people.
Zeus and Jesus were chased by Chronos and Herod respectively who were associated with evil caused by excessive thirst for power. Pursuit of Zeus and Jesus symbolized eternal conflict of good and evil (Crossway Bibles, Luke 1:5).
Many sources argue that names Jesus and Zeus have the same root or origin. However, seeming resemblance ends when deepening into the research. The Bible questions Jesus birth in the cave. Both Jesus and Zeus were the central figures in the systems of ancient people beliefs. Zeus occupied the upper place in the hierarchy of other pagan deity. Jesus had twelve apostles who obeyed him. Zeus had been considered the greatest Olympus god and Jesus was worshiped as founder of Christianity. On the contrary to Zeus he is still worshiped. Making a comparison from this point of view is senseless because Zeus can be better compared to God the Father rather than Jesus Christ (Homer 101). Sometimes researchers compare early ages of Zeus and Jesus life arguing that both of them were hidden from Chronos and Herod respectively. Actually, Rhea hid Zeus in the cave so Chronos would not swallow him as his brothers while Jesus was not hidden by anyone at the time he was born. Jesus as a child was pursued later on after Herod got to know about his birth. Also, the Holy Bible offers no evidence that Jesus was warmed with animals. Zeus was nurtured by the goat Almathea and bees (Plotinus 395).
Another resemblance refers to the ability of resurrection. Supposedly, Zeus was reborn each year symbolizing the eternal nature cycle. However, there is no evidence of Zeus’ revival in the Cretan myths. In accordance with the Holy Bible, Jesus died and then resurrected after crucifixion. The difference is that Jesus died and resurrected in a few days while Zeus’ resurrection occurred every spring. It is more appropriate to consider reincarnation rather than resurrection in the case with Zeus (Proclus 24).
Despite of the similarities in their biographies, Zeus and Jesus had completely different lives and personalities. Zeus was known for his inflammable temper. It was easy to make him angry. Also, he was very affectionate person and had many offspring (Josephus 43). On the contrary to Zeus, Jesus Christ, as we know from the Holy Bible, was a modest person who mainly propagated new belief and died for human sins. His aim was to serve people and make them better to give them the opportunity of better life.
Greeks were afraid of Zeus and tried to gain his favor by all means. Jesus Christ was persecuted and then crucified through no fault. He lived pious life helping people and healing them. Unlike Zeus, he gained world-wide popularity long after his death and resurrection. Jesus being one of the main figures of Christianity represents an advanced religion in comparison to Zeus and pagan beliefs. Christianity reflects changes occurred in a human society after centuries had passed. Greeks were afraid of Zeus whose anger could be destructive. Jesus was crucified because people did not share his vision of better life. Jesus was mocked by almost everyone. Some people considered him insane. His ideas were rejected and associated with heresy. Zeus was an authoritarian deity. Every citizen in the ancient Greek society knew that Zeus encouraged obedience. Also, Zeus was sometimes associated with power of nature. He could pose as human of and of a deity in dependence of his need and could fall in love with an ordinary woman. Before resurrection Jesus had been a half-god and having an appearance of an ordinary man. So, nobody believed in his divine appointment. There is no evidence in the Holy Bible that Jesus could reincarnate. However, both of them were known for making miracles: Zeus could turn men into heavenly creatures and vice verse. Jesus had a gift to heal people. I think that resemblance between Zeus and Jesus biographies occurred because from time immemorial various religions were created to satisfy basic human needs, such as safety of a man and his family, vast crops, animals’ fertility and inner harmony. People prayed for the same things as they pray nowadays: their families’ well-being, prosperity and peace of their societies since the Earth was created. Therefore, religions did not change with time. Modern people pray for the same things in their life as basic needs remain unchanged.
Zeus and Jesus were the gods who symbolized spiritual evolution of the mankind and its beliefs. Their comparison is senseless because they represent quite different attitude to sacred. Zeus was placed on the top of the hierarchy of Greek gods and Jesus was a founder of the Christian religion based on belief in triune god (the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and Holy Spirit). To my mind, Zeus and Jesus can be considered as the result of the evolution of religion and human consciousness. I consider that comparison of Zeus and Jesus is impossible since they represent two fairly different concepts of human beliefs.
Crossway Bibles. The Holy Bible. London: Crossway, 2011. Print.
Flavius Josephus. The New Complete Works of Josephus. Trans. William Whiston and Paul L. Maier. New York: Kregel Academic & Professional, 1999. Print.
Hesiod. Theogony and Works and Days. Trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White. London: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Samuel Butler. New York: CreateSpace, 2010. Print.
Plotinus. The Enneads. Abridged ed. Trans. John Dillon and Stephen MacKenna. New York: Penguin Classics, 1991. Print.
Proclus. The Platonic Theology. Trans. Thomas Taylor and R. Baine Harris. New York: Selene Books, 1993. Print.