I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
…since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4)
This is one of the most baffling passages in the Bible, so I am not going to even attempt to unpack and explain everything in these verses. Simply put, the world was a whole lot different before the flood. But the main thing to notice is that this sounds very similar to Greek, Egyptian, and even Norse mythology. Some beings known as “sons of God” mated with mortal women and gave rise to “heroes” and “men of renown.”
Could these “hero” legends have evolved into religious myths concerning the gods?
Another interesting passage in the early pages of human history is found embedded within the genealogy of Genesis 10:
Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city. (Genesis 10:8-12)
Nimrod was a famed hunter, warrior, and city founder. Assyria, Babylon, Akkadia, Ur, Chaldea – the roots of these mega-cities and empires are traced back to this one man. I would not be surprised at all if many religious cults could trace the origins of their god(s) back to a guy like Nimrod.
In fact there is strong evidence that Zeus, the head god of the Greek pantheon, can be traced back to a mortal man, a strong warrior/civic leader, from the island of Crete. The Greeks borrowed and expanded many aspects of the Minoan religious cult surrounding Zeus. (https://cliojournal.wikispaces.com/Minoan+Religion+and+the+Ancient+Greeks)
CREATOR VS. CREATION
It was not just men and women of strength and renown that inspired deities. The ancients would also attribute aspects of nature to the gods, like the sun, the sea, the rivers, the harvest, etc. Animals became symbols of the divine. Even abstract concepts and emotions were embodied by the gods – love, beauty, war, knowledge.
Gods for everything and everything for the gods. Paul explains this phenomenon better than I can:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:21-25)
You see, mankind started off with knowledge of the Creator. He revealed himself to humanity. He created humans so that they might seek a relationship with him. He created mountains and rivers, the sun and the stars, the seasons and oceans so that we might know something about him. Creation points to God. But humanity, from the beginning, was so awe-inspired by creation that they began worshiping created things rather than the Creator.
So does God get mad and strike us dead? No. He simply gives us what we want. If we want created things more than we want the Creator, so be it. But any man-made religions are based on lies. They are powerless. They are futile. They lead to nothing but chaos.
Speaking to the matter at hand, the gods of Greek mythology are nothing like the God of the Bible. The Greek gods are known for affairs, arguments, wars, gossip, jealousy, betrayals. Studying about the Greek gods is more like watching a bad soap opera than a religious experience. They bring out the worst of humanity. They demand worship more than they deserve worship. They are gods to be appeased. Their worshipers better do the right things in the right ways at the right times – or
The Greek gods could not care less about having a relationship with humans, unless it’s a carnal “relationship” or they need to use men for a certain task that they are unable/unwilling to do themselves.
This is what Paul means when he says, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” None of the things that are “true” about the Greek gods are true about THE God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob desires a loving relationship with all of humanity, not because he needs us but because “we are his offspring” (Acts 17:28, Paul quoting the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus).
He is not a god to be appeased. He is a God who is pleased by his children when we seek to follow him. He has not distanced himself in any way from humanity. We have distanced ourselves from him, and he has even taken the divine initiative to break down those walls of separation. God asks us to do certain things and calls us to a certain way of life, not because he is unwilling to do so himself, but because he already has done so himself. He never asks us to do anything that he is unwilling to do or has not already done.
THE AMERICAN PANTHEON
This could be a whole book within itself. But I think that we still have our Mount Olympus today. We still have our pantheon of gods today. For some, Olympus is on the East Coast in Washington, DC. They revere the president, congress, and the supreme court in a way that should only be applied to God. They rely on the government. They seek to appease the government. Patriotism is the highest value and being a good citizen is the highest goal.
To others Mount Olympus is marked by a large, white HOLLYWOOD sign. That is the home and meeting place of the gods. We even call those people “stars,” as if they are so high above us, and “celebrities,” as if they are the ones to be celebrated. And I tell you what, if you want to find a pantheon of gods that closely resembles the Greek pantheon, don’t turn to Scripture, turn to the silver screen and the red carpet.
We still, to this day, have fallen into the same exact patterns that Paul lays out in Romans 1. We have worshiped created things, the image of mankind, rather than the Creator, in whose image we are made. We have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
You think western civilization has come a long way since the time of the ancient Greeks? Think again.