When I was in college, I was an avid reader and devotee of Greek mythology. I loved reading Homer’s- “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” and other literature about the antics of the Greek gods. They were always getting into all kinds of trouble and mischief when they sought to meddle in human affairs. There was, of course, Zeus and Hera, king and queen of all the gods, up there on Mount Olympus. Then there was Aphrodite, the goddess of love and desire, whom I’m sure you’re all familiar with, and who needs no further explanation. Apollo was the god of learning and enlightenment, although a little on the vain side, I guess because of his good looks. Of course, it wasn’t all fun and games. Ares was the god of war, always dripping with blood and causing mammoth destruction. His female counterpart, Athena, was less bloody and more of the intellectual force behind war making. And we can’t leave out Hades who was king of the underworld, where the spirit went after death. Not a fun place to be according to Greek mythology. Artemis was the virgin goddess of the hunt, sort of the direct opposite of Aphrodite. Among the major gods was also Poseidon, god of the seas. I guess we can blame major tsunamis on him. One other significant figure was Pan, god of the forests who was half satyr. He was always playing his flute, and being the playful sort, sought to lighten man’s burdens whatever they may have been. In addition, among mortals who became god-like were mighty Achilles, hero of the Trojan War, and Odysseus, another hero of that war, who encountered numerous adventures over several decades, on his journey home from that war.
I always felt what fun times it must have been to live in ancient Greece and have to contend with the exploits of these gods and goddesses on almost a daily basis. All this came to mind last night, when I watched parts of a new series on the History Channel called “The Bible.” Aside from some ham-fisted overacting, and really cheesy settings and costumes, this series tends to depict a very literal translation of the old and new testaments. And sure enough, the series shows how the playfulness and antics of the Greek gods are now replaced by the stern and wrathful actions of the Judeo-Christian god. It’s like one of the 10 commandments states that: “Thou shall not engage in any form of frivolity, whatsoever.” So there is the god of the old testament flooding the world thru 40 days and nights of rain, and killing every living thing except for Noah and his family and some animals he managed to schlep on board his ark. And there is god hurling balls of fire down on Sodom because of the supposedly wicked ways that occurred within the city’s confines. Or turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, because, heavens forbid, she dared to look back to see Sodom being turned a smoldering ash heap. Not quite the fun stuff encountered in Greek mythology.
So if the game afoot is a literal translation of the bible, I feel it leaves us with some unanswered questions. Lets start at the beginning with the whole Garden of Eden fiasco. First there was Adam and Eve, who had two sons, Cain and Abel. The world now has 4 people in it. Cain kills Abel (already mankind is off to a very bad start) and the world population is now down to three. Then some cockamamie fable is put forth that a talking snake seduces Eve into eating an apple from the tree of knowledge. God becomes wrathful again and expels Adam, Eve and Cain from the Garden of Eden. What nonsense. I have it on very good authority, that the reason for the expulsion was that Adam and Eve were underwater on their property mortgage. I mean, it’s not like Adam was a high roller on Wall Street. In fact, he had no visible means of support. He got behind on his mortgage payments for Eden, and god foreclosed on this property the way banks foreclose on properties today. It makes much more sense than that whole talking snake/forbidden fruit gambit. But the real mystery lies in what happened after the expulsion. When we last viewed the situation, there were 3 people in the world, Adam, Eve, and Cain. But after exiting Eden suddenly we discover that there are all these multitudes of people beyond Eden’s gates. Where, the hell, did they come from? I have heard no theologian offer a plausible explanation for that one.
Let’s also examine that Noah’s Ark fable I mentioned before. God decides, once again, that mankind is comprised of nothing but despicable lowlifes, and decides to kill them all off, except for Noah and his family. He tells Noah to build an ark, and ride out the next 40 days as the world becomes flooded. But Noah also has to bring aboard his ark one male and female member of every animal species on Earth, so life can carry on as before all this deluge unpleasantness. Laying aside the fact that you would need an ark about the size of Russia to house all these creatures, where would you store 6 weeks of food supplies. It’s not like they had refrigeration in those days. And how would you arrange it so that the lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards and other meat eaters, didn’t devour the sheep, lambs, goats, zebras, and other defenseless animals. And which family members were assigned the joyous tasks of shoveling out the shit from the animal quarters every morning. Nevertheless, there are millions of people, today, who believe in a literal translation of both the old and new testaments, and many are actively looking to find remnants of Noah’s ark, especially on the mountain where it supposedly landed.
One last thing. In both bibles, god is actively present in mankind’s affairs. In the old testament, he is continually setting forth instructions for Abraham to follow which subsequently leads to the formation of both the Hebrew and Arabic nations. He parts the Red Sea, so Jews can escape from the despotic slavery they were subjected to in Egypt. He gives Moses the 10 commandments so the Israelites can live in his ways. The new testament is, of course, all about Jesus and his teachings and ascendency into heaven. But once Jesus has risen, not a peep. Not a word, not even a fireball, in 2000 years. Where has god been all this time. He could try to communicate through some type of Skype arrangement, or at least send us a tweet or an e-mail. But there’s been nothing. Although I surmise that god is kind of an old-fashioned type of guy, and doesn’t cotton much to computers or I-Phones.
In any event, I still think that, if one is going to take religion seriously, the gods in the old Greek mythology were a hell of a lot more fun to believe in. And maybe next time I’ll explain to you why there are 10 commandments, instead of, say, 8 or 11 or 13.