THE KEYS TO CULTURE
No one is fully educated until he knows the Bible and classical mythology. These are twin keys that are needed to unlock the trea-sure chest of Western culture. One cannot truly appreciate the old masterpieces of paintings and sculpture without understanding the predominant artistic themes of Bible history and Greek heroes, angels and gods, saints and sages. Much of Shakespeare and practi-cally all of Milton and Dante remains a closed book to the person lacking in these areas. One cannot speak or write with real refine-ment without some grasp of classical and biblical expressions and derivations. And to the extent that the public schools fail in ground-ing their students in the Bible, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Theogony, and the Æneid, just so far have they swerved from what should be the heart of learning.
John Bunyan, a common unlearned tinker, wrote the most pop-ular allegory in the English language, The Pilgrim’s Progress, in such erudite prose and poetry as might have flowed from the pen of a finished scholar. And he could do it because he knew the great Eng-lish Bible almost by heart. Its words were his words, and it made him an educated man.
Michelangelo, steeped in classical and biblical ideals and lore, created masterpieces based almost entirely on these themes. He sculpted an Apollo and then named it “David,” he made a marble Zeus and called him “Moses,” and he created scenes of Olympic splendor to grace the papal churches and chapels of his land. He placed the Latin Sibyl right alongside the Jewish Jeremiah, and he established Charon as the ferryman of hell.
Now in this pragmatic day and time, someone will doubtless argue that gaining expertise in a bygone culture is of no practical value. Life for such persons is measured entirely in dollars and cents. But for the student of religion (and that should include every-one) the worth of Greek and Latin language and literature is beyond estimate.
A primary benefit of perceiving the meaning behind the stories of ancient mythology is that thereby one gains new insights into the Bible. One system feeds into the other. To the perceptive analyst of mythology, it becomes apparent that the dragon guarding the golden apple tree of the Hesperides was reduplicated in the Bible by the Edenic serpent. The morning star of the Greeks, Phosphoros (or Lucifer for the Romans) became the archetype of the Hebrew Satan. The primordial cosmic conflict between the Hebrew God Yahweh (or Jehovah) and Leviathan, the seven-headed water dragon, was just a faint echo in the Scripture of the fights between Zeus and Typhon, Apollo and the Python, Horus and Apep, Marduk and Tiamat, and Thor versus the Midgard Serpent.
Greek ambrosia was essentially Hebrew manna, and nectar was juice from the Tree of Life. The Titans who were imprisoned by Zeus were equivalent to the giants drowned in the Noachic Flood. The Greek Flood hero, Deucalion, like his Hebrew counterpart, also had three sons (Achæus, Ion, and Dorus) who were the eponymous ances-tors of the Hellenic race: the Achæans, the Ionians, and the Dorians.
The living constellations of the Greek sky were identical to the “morning stars who sang together and the sons of God who shouted for joy” - by which was understood the concept of angelic armies, God’s so-called “heavenly host.” The sky-supporter, Atlas, was represented in the Bible by “pillars of heaven.” Hermes, the herald of heaven, was none other than Gabriel with wings on his sandals instead of his shoulders. Apollo, the bright archer god who slew the Python, was Michael the dragon-killer. Helios the sun god was the “strong man” of the Psalms who raced across the sky each day - and who later was identified as Uriel, angel of light.
The satyrs that peopled the wilds of Hellas were also the goat demons who danced over the ruins of Babylon. The stone and tree that “heard” the final vow of Joshua were each animated by a nature spirit: an oread in the stone and a dryad in the tree according to Hel-enic lore. The Greek basilisk was the Hebrew cockatrice. The sphinx was the cherub. The screech-owl of Hecate was the nocturnal fiend Lilith, “the terror that flies by night.” The flaming phœnix was akin to the fiery flying serpent - otherwise known as a seraph.
The offering of Agamemnon’s daughter to ensure a safe voyage to Troy recapitulated the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter in payment for victory in battle. The demigod Herakles, with wondrous tales of his mighty strength, was reflected in the biblical account of the ex-ploits of Samson. (Significantly, both of these lustful gladiators lost their lives due to the wiles of women, and both dispatched lions with their bare hands.) The wisest of the Hellenes was Solon, just as the wisest of the Hebrews was Solomon. The Delphic pythoness was identical to Endor’s witch. The Titan ancestor of the Greek race, Iapetos, was the Aryan progenitor Japheth (Yapet). (This name pro-bably had its origin in the name of the city of Joppa, Yapha, which was, in turn, derived from the title of a goddess: Yapheh: “Beautiful.”) Pandora’s box was Eve’s tree.
The god of war, Ares, was accompanied by his two dreadful sons, Deimos (Terror) and Phobos (War), just as Yahweh of Hosts was attended by His death angels Resheph (Pestilence) and Deber (Plague). The contest between Herakles and the war god greately resembled the wrestling match between Jacob and the angel. The patron deities of the Greek army contended with other Olympic divinities who championed the Trojan cause, and likewise, Michael, the patron angel of Israel, withstood the patron angel of Persia over the fate of their nations.
The Underworld of both peoples consisted of regions known as Hades and Tartarus. In fact, the personified Death and Hades who ruled over these subterranean realms were obviously identical to the chthonian deities Thanatos and Hades (or Pluto). Also, beyond the barbaric beliefs of their neighbors, the peoples of Javan and Judah both shared an advanced concept that the physical form of Deity was anthropomorphic.
Such comparisons are quite without end. One has only to dip into Dante or Milton to perceive many more striking equations. Ac-cordingly, the Jewish philosopher Philo Judæus, at home in his Bible and his Iliad, was convinced by all of these similarities that the chief Deity of the Jews and of the Romans was the same: Jehovah was Jove.
Also, one of the earliest portraits of Jesus was a mosaic scene in which He was shown driving the sun chariot across the vault of a Ro-man tomb (the purpose of which was to depict Him as Lord of Light, Supplanter of Sol, the Rising Sun of the Resurrection, and the Daystar of Sunday). This mosaic was a pictorial proclamation that the pagan Sun of Glory had become the Son of God! Other portraits of the time showed Jesus as a young, beardless Shepherd after the type of the sweet singer Orpheus, raiser of the dead.
Some small souls will say that Greek myths are dead elements of a distant past, and best forgotten. But, on the contrary, their value is inestimable, if for no other reason than the fact that they resolve which parts of the Bible are to be taken literally and which may be accounted as figurative. They tie together concepts like Olympus and Zion, oracular divination and Urim consultation, the Zodiac and the Magi, the reign of Saturn and the bliss of Eden, theogony and cosmo-logy. (All of these relationships were readily understood by Dante and Milton, who were themselves quite similar in many respects. Dante’s masterful travelogue through the realms of departed spirits captured the minds of the people, but his free criticism of ecclesias-tical errancy incurred the displeasure of the Roman Church. Like-wise, since the blind poet Milton held out for freedom of speech in the religious forum, the English Church became his implacable foe. And evermore, it seems, Truth must be stifled in her own temples by the Philistines and Pharisees of benighted bigotry.)
There is a rich heritage from the Greeks and the Romans which has named our planets and constellations, our months, our conti-nents, various physical locations of the Mediterranean area, and the very flowers in our gardens. It is from this source that terms related to science, medicine, theology, philosophy, drama, and even athletics (the “Olympic” games) are borrowed. These things are not to be de-spised, for they derive from the fond infancy of mankind. They are his roots and the foundations of his entire civilization. In fact, Amer-icans will remain cultural boors abroad and philosophically shallow at home until more value comes to be placed on an educational sys-tem which affords them these keys to the wisdom of the Western world.