Greek Mythology in the New Testament


“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)

And I tell you that interacting with contemporary Pagans has given me greater appreciation for just how often the messianic Jews of the New Testament encountered and engaged with Greek mythology. Too often we skip over the explicit references to Hades (too many to mention), Tartarus (2 Peter 2), Artemis (Acts 19), Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14) and the more oblique references to Ares (Acts 17) and the Gemini twins (Acts 28) without a second thought to the mythological subtext. Yet they are all worth meditating on.

It makes me wonder, if Jesus had lived in India (now don’t start), would he have dropped mythopoetic references to Kali and Shiva instead? If the apostles Barnabas and Paul had journeyed through Scandinavia instead of Lystra, would they have been mistaken for Thor and Odin instead?

Maybe if we let our imaginations run free we may even see ways to engage more sensitively and substantially with the mythologies of our culture!

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