ZEUS HERMES, GREEK DEITY (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

We read about Greek deity Zeus and Hermes in the Acts of the Apostles. We also have reference to Zeus in the second book of Maccabees in the Old Testament.

Zeus is the chief deity of the Greek people and Hermes is the spokesman for all gods in Greek mythology. The Roman people called Zeus by the name Jupiter and Hermes by the name Mercury.

In the Acts of the Apostles the writer Luke speaks about Pauls first missionary journey with Barnabas during 46 to 48 AD. While traveling amidst persecution Paul and Barnabas reached the Greek city Lystra in the Roman province of Galatia. Now the province is known as Asia Minor. While speaking to the people of Lystra about Jesus and his message Paul saw a lame man listening to him intensely. Paul realized that the man have great faith to be cured. So Paul looked straight into his eyes and said in a loud voice, Stand up straight on your feet! The lame man obeyed Paul and stood up straight and began to walk as he realized that he has been healed of his birth defects (see Acts 14, 8-10).

The crowd listening to Paul saw the miracle right in front of their eyes. Paul with his words has healed a lame man from birth. They knew him well. What to make of the miraculous event? Seeing Barnabas and Paul by his side and witnessing the miracle someone shouded and others in the crowd joined shouting in their local dialect, The gods have become like men and have come down to us! (Acts 14, 11-12).

The crowd gave Barnabas the name Zeus their chief god and Paul the name Hermes as they recognized him as the chief speaker for their gods especially for Zeus.

At the beginning Paul and Barnabas did not know what exactly was happening after the miracle because they did not understand the local language in which the crowd was speaking and shouting.

As an alert and observant missionary Paul knew that there was a temple just outside the Lystra town dedicated to Zeus. When Paul and Barnabas saw the priest of the temple coming with bulls and flowers to sacrifice in front of them, they realized what was going to happen.

The response of Paul and Barnabas was prompt and clear for the crowd to see. Luke, the writer of Acts describes vividly the scene:

When Barnabas and Paul heard what they were about to do, they tore their clothes and ran into the middle of the crowd, shouting, Why are you doing this? We ourselves are only human beings like you! We are here to announce the Good News, to turn you away from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven, earth, sea, and all that is in them. In the past he allowed all people to go their own way. But he has always given evidence of his existence by the good things he does: he gives you rain from heaven and crops at the right times; he gives you food and fills your hearts with happiness (Acts 14, 14-17).

Then Luke adds, Even with these words the apostles could hardly keep the crowd from offering a sacrifice to them (Acts 14, 18).

In the Greek mythical stories Zeus is the god of all gods. The temple of Zeus is on gods Olympus mountain.

In the Old Testament the second book of Maccabees has reference to Zeus. There we read that the king Antichus attacked Jerusalem and not only robbed from the Temple, but he also ordered his men to defile the Temple by dedicating it to the Olympian god Zeus (2 Mac. 6, 2). (contact the author: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

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