God vs. Zeus: Let’s start with a thought experiment or hypothetical question. What’s more believable, monotheism or polytheism? Well, ask yourself this, if you see a bird (singular) fly overhead, do you assume that’s a one-off mono-bird or a part of a poly-bird set? Even if you just see the one, you no doubt assume the latter. A bird does not exist in isolation. Why should deities be any different? You cannot have a species of one and only one individual. The species called ‘deity’, ditto. The species God cannot exist in isolation. Monotheism is nonsense. The species of Zeus is part of polytheism – there are many Zeus-like deities. Zeus does not exist in isolation.
God’s empire vs. the domain of Zeus is cheek-by-jowl, though the contrast couldn’t be more different. You must have some general idea what life must have been like under Zeus in the days of Homer, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle right through to Alexander the Great. Equally, you must have some notion of life under the rule of the God of Israel in Old Testament times, from Moses to Abraham to Joshua and Solomon (assuming these ‘historical’ figures were actually historical. So, given a choice, which society would you opt to live in – Ancient Greece or the lands of the Bible, the so-called Holy Lands. For me it is a no-brainer. Zeus could hurl around the lightning bolts with the best of the Sky Gods, but compared to God, God’s wrath and God’s laws, Zeus is my kind of deity – if deities there must be.
Both Zeus, king of the Greek pantheon, and God (of Israel) have human qualities, but of the two, Zeus is way more credible as something humans can identify with – if you’ve got to believe in any deity that is. God’s just plain nasty, wrathful, vain and jealous. Zeus at least has some other qualities that we can admire, like bedding down the ladies, goddesses, demigoddesses and mortals alike.
Put it this way, God is prohibition, the Salem Witch trials, the Inquisition, hellfire and brimstone and the Taliban rolled into one. God’s idea of a fun afternoon is having sinners stoned to death or burned at the stake. Zeus on the other hand is a Hugh Heffner type; Zeus is a party animal. Mount Olympus is the Playboy Mansion of Ancient Greece. Zeus too has a fun afternoon of, well, never mind. This is a family-friendly essay and displayed on a family-friendly website.
Most people in most societies have to earn or work their way up to whatever level in whatever occupation they aspire to. And so it was with Zeus. No one handed him the Olympian throne on a silver platter. He fought like the dickens for that position. God, on the other hand, we assume always had that silver spoon in His mouth and occupied that top penthouse in Heaven from Day One.
Mount Olympus vs. Heaven (somewhere over the rainbow in Never-Never Land). Zeus and company chose to live in a readily identifiable geographic location – Mount Olympus. Any mortal tourist or worshiper could venture there and pay homage. God’s abode, on the other hand, isn’t on the map. In fact it’s totally invisible geography that’s never been verified.
We know what Zeus looked like. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was a super-statue of Zeus at Olympia inside a super-temple, by the Greek sculptor Phidias. Zeus, at 42 feet high, is depicted sitting on an elaborate cedar-wood throne ornamented with ebony, ivory, gold, and precious stones – and that’s just one of many statues that existed or still exist to this day. Although the Olympia super-statue is no more, we know what it, and Zeus, looked like – records survive. No Wonder of the Ancient World is dedicated to the God of Israel – nobody has the foggiest idea what God looks like even though images of God are modelled after Zeus by those who artists who have to work with something, anything. It’s not east imaging the invisible.
Zeus is clearly supernatural – he can and does shape-shift for example into both organic and inorganic forms, usually for randy purposes. But, as you’d expect, the species or clan to which Zeus belongs also are supernatural, or at least exhibit some supernatural abilities. For example, Prometheus created humans from the ground up (without need of any rib structures for the female of the species). Poseidon can ‘wave’ his magic trident and cause the seas to boil with tempest. Hermes had his magic helmet and winged sandals. And if the Gorgon Medusa could turn someone to stone just by looking at them (the evil eye?), well that’s got to be the equal of that Pillar of Salt episode.
Poor God of Israel, He has no parents or grandparents; no brothers of sisters; He had no childhood, no playmates; He has no wife, no lovers or a mistress; He has no children. In fact, no other of His species exists. He can’t even celebrate His birthday since He has no actual birth (not having a Mum and all). How sad. I wonder what Sigmund Freud or Carl Gustav Jung would make of that? I’m no psychoanalyst or psychiatrist, but with an upbringing (or rather lack thereof), God’s got to be a few coins short of a dollar.
Zeus on the other hand had parents (Cronus and Rhea) and grandparents (Gaia and Uranus); lots of brothers (Hades and Poseidon) and sisters (Hestia, Demeter & Hera); Zeus had a childhood spend on Crete; Zeus has a sister-wife (Hera – the last of several) and many lovers/mistresses; Zeus begat lots of brats, both legit and illegit (Hercules and Helen of Troy and a whole lot more besides), and many other species of his kind – the Olympians – exist.
One quality often quoted about as a generality has something to do with absolute power and corruption. God wields absolute power, and not always for the betterment of the human race as the Old Testament verifies in graphic and gory detail. Zeus on the other hand, while king of the gods, didn’t hold absolute power. It was shared with the other Olympians. Zeus is also way more modest, making no grandiose claims about creating life, the universe and everything. Further, Zeus doesn’t refer to himself in capital letters, unlike the LORD God. It’s hard to read the Old Testament and not come to the conclusion that God is an egomaniac.
It’s rather unlikely that Zeus would have had any bone to pick with God’s realm to the east. God, on the other hand, if He be consistent, would have had two bones to chew over with His neighbour to the west. Firstly, there be gods over there, and that’s a Big No-No to the Lord God of Israel who refers to Himself as the One-and-only-God (reference the first of the Ten Commandments). Secondly, the realm of Zeus condoned homosexuality. Zeus himself apparently had a close encounter of the gay kind with a strapping handsome young lad by the name of Ganymede. However, God apparently adopted a live-and-let-live policy. That’s just as well since, as the Titans and the Giants found out to their cost, you don’t mess with the Olympians.
Zeus and company, as well as God share one thing in common. None have been seen or heard from in thousands of years. They’ve all vanished into thin air, or maybe into the Bermuda Triangle – who knows. Perhaps that says a lot about their reality in the first place.