Mythology, The Bible and the Postflood Origins of Greek History
Roy L. Hales
Greek tradition contains many stories similar to those of the first eleven chapters of the Bible: legends of a "Golden Age", like that of Eden, which ended through the first woman's disobedience; characters resembling Cain and the sons of Lamech from Genesis 4; Stories of a great flood and a "Noah," The Greeks also had traditions of mass migrations throughout the eastern Mediterranean shortly after their great flood. These stories have passed down to us through the often conflicting genealogies of the many early Greek states. Such is their similarity to Scripture that these legends must have been rooted in the same events described in Genesis 1 to 11.
Biblical Model Resolves Contradictions
Many apparent contradictions in Greek mythology are resolved through a Biblical interpretation, The classical writers and most mythologists since have assumed they could erect a chronology of these myths merely by adding up the names of the various kings cited by the various kinglists. As a result we find four generations allotted to what many archaeologists now believe is over 2,000 years of Trojan history. Similarly, while most Greek accounts stress a single great flood, at least three flood dates can be compiled from the various genealogies. From a Biblical perspective it seems obvious that the true key to mythic chronology lies not in adding up kinglists, but rather by starting from the event most common to all genealogies: the flood. Ancient Greek traditions of their beginnings easily break into preflood, flood and postflood eras. For the most part these traditions contain striking parallels to the corresponding Biblical era. One area where this is not true is the Greek belief that their nation was occupied from preflood times to the present and here, once again, the Scriptural model resolves many discrepancies. For example: an obscure tribe called the Leleges were cited as the original inhabitants of the Greek states Laconia, Boetia, Euboea and Arcarnis.1 This means that the Leleges lived before the flood, but other myths refer to their creation immediately after the flood.2 In a similar fashion the southern Greek city of Argos had traditions of seven kings who ruled it before the flood and of its foundation by an immigrant four generations after the flood.3 Such discrepancies appear to reduce Greek tradition to gibberish, but easily harmonise with a Scriptural model of history: When Greece was colonised after the flood the immigrants brought their own historical notions with them and, in time, these stories were recast in Greek settings. Later generations were faced with a chronological nightmare as they attempted to harmonise the many differing accounts, but the key lies in Genesis I to 11.
The Greek Fall Story
Both Greek tradition and the Bible mention the fall of the first human couple from paradise. The Greeks believed that men originally lived "like the gods": free from disease, sorrow or work. Then the first woman was made and, together with her husband, entrusted with a jar that was not to be opened. As long as the couple obeyed the "Golden Age" lasted. But the woman's curiosity finally overcame her and she decided to peek inside. As Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3) resulted in the expulsion of mankind from paradise and the entrance of death to the world, the Greek woman's peek ended the "Golden Age" and allowed all this world's evils to escape out of the jar.4
The "Ungodly Line" in Greek Tradition
Various attributes of the scriptural family of Cain (Genesis 4) appear in Greek myths of the preflood era. The southerly genealogies of Argos and Arcadia seemingly allude to Cain in their accounts of one of mankind's second generation who founded the first city and performed the first sacrifice. The Arcadian account repeats the Biblical theme of this man's evil and his committing murder;5 the stories from Argos are reminiscent of a Hebrew legend that Cain established the first market6. The chief Greek god Zeus appears to be a preflood Biblical character named Lamech. While Genesis 4:19-22 describes the three sons of Lamech as the inventors, respectively, of cattle herding, the lyre and pan pipes (NAS) and forging of bronze and iron implements, these same accomplishments are paralleled by Zeus' sons (the sun god) Apollo, (the messenger god) Hermes and (the blacksmith god) Hepaistos7. That the Greeks should elevate the memory of Lamech to such heights is understandable when we consider the immense innovations of his sons (presumably carried out during his majority) and the position implied by the literal translation of Lamech: "powerful"8,
The flood of Greek tradition was as singular and as shattering an event as that of the Bible. As one account states; "All men were destroyed except for a few who fled to the high mountains of the neighbourhood. It was then that the mountains of Thessaly parted and that all the world outside the Isthmus and the Peloponnesus was ~ Another ancient author mentions the destruction of all plant life and elsewhere Speculates as ~o whether the lack of rainfall in the arid regions of upper Egypt may have allowed that region to escape.10
The Greek Noah
There can be no mistaking the principal Greek flood hero, Deucalion, for anyone other than Noah. Deucalion, like the Scriptural hero, was prewarned of the deluge to come and built an ark into which he escaped with his wife; was washed, in his ark, to the top of a mountain by the flood waters; released a dove to test conditions before landing; upon disembarking performed a sacrifice to the Almighty and was blessed right after this. Such similarities are too striking to ignore; even secular authorities such as Robert Graves admit the common origin of the Greek and Scriptural tales.11 Genesis 9:20-27 continues Noah's biography with an anecdote concerning his invention of wine. While there is no corresponding Story about Deucalion, Graves states that "Deucalion's claim to the invention has been suppressed by the Greeks in favour of (their wine god) Dionysus".12 Deucalion's true part in the discovery is revealed by the literal translation of his name: "new wine sailor".13
Both the Bible and Greek tradition refer to massive migrations in the first few generations after the flood. Genesis 10 outlines the repopulation of the earth by Noah's descendants. The Greeks believed that the nations of Egypt, Libya and Phoenicia 14 derived their names from immigrants of this period. The effect of these immigrations on the Greek area itself was astronomical. The island of Crete was first occupied, 15 the cities of Athens, 16 Thebes and Argos were founded on the mainland, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), the Aegean islands and most of the Greek states were occupied.
Biblical Pattern of Settlement
The essential pattern of these Greek migration Stories assumes many Biblical aspects. As Genesis 10:21-25 indicates, it was in the fourth postflood generation that mankind dispersed to colonise the earth. The family of Von, usually translated as Javan, 17 is usually associated with the Greek area and the names of three of Von's sons are significant to this study: Elishah (who is sometimes identified with the Aeolian Greeks), Dodanim (who is sometimes identified with the island of Rhodes) and Tarshish (who is sometimes identified with the city of Tarshish in Asia Minor). is The name Von itself, finds quick parallels in several Greek names of the postflood era: Ion, Io and Ino. Of these three names, Io is the most significant: four generations after the flood the descendants of a mythical lady named 10, from Argos, settled much of the Greek area. Two of Io's descendants stopped on the island of Rhodes, already associated with Biblical Dodanim, prior to their arrival on the Greek mainland and a third colonised that same area of Asia Minor that the patriarch Tarshish is said to have reached.20 The patriarch Elishah finds a quick agreement in a Greek postflood hero named Aeolis. Their names (ELIS hah & a IE 0 LIS) bear a resemblance which is further strengthened in the name of Aeolis' kingdom, Hellas (h ELLAS) and in the fact that one of Aeolis' sons founded a colony in the southern Greek state of Elis. Aeolis is perhaps the most prominently mentioned of Deucalion's descendants and it seems significant that his sons were to establish kingdoms in areas as far apart as the northern Greek states of Macedonia, Magnesia and Thessaly and the southern states of Corinth and Elis. Such a wide dispersal of descendants, in positions of power, is precisely what we might expect from the patriarch Elishah.
The chronology of the Greek myths is very close to that of the Bible. These stories contain a great many personalities and details unheard of in Scripture, Vet of the eight people mentioned in the Biblical ark five (Noah, his wife and the wives of their three Sons) presumably had totally different family trees though only that of Noah's father and one family descended from Cain is recorded in Genesis. Greek tradition could contain any number of historically based legends Which are not Scriptural. More important, however, is the fact that when the Greeks talked of a time before their great flood, they referred to a fall from paradise, and they mentioned characters resembling Cain and Lamech's three sons from Genesis 4. The Greek flood legends sometimes come so close to Scripture that they mention things like a dove being Sent out from the ark, or the sacrifice Noah made when he disembarked on the top of a mountain. After the flood the Greeks have Stories of mass migrations which resemble Genesis 10 even down to the names of some of the participants. Modern scholarship has tended to downplay the fabulous elements of Greek tradition, the stories of Pandora's box and the flood, yet to the ancient Greeks and to those who believe Scripture, they are history.
1 Connop ThirIwall, History of Greece (London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1855) vol.1, p.94.
3 Horace Leonard Jones (trans) The Geography of Strabo (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, MCMLXVlI) vol.2, p.345 states that the text of Strabo 5.2.4 could be rendered as Danaus "founded" the city of Inachus or else that he "took up his abode" there. Most translators prefer to write he "founded" the city of Inachus (which was Argos) because Strabo 8.6.9 States that "the acropolis of the Argives is said to have been founded by Danaus." For further support of the idea Danaus founded Argos see Flavius Josephtis Against Apion 1.16 & Diodorus Siculius 1.28.
4 Hesiod, Work and Days 42-1 OS; Theogony 565-619. re Lycaon the "Cain" of Arcadia see Pausanias VIII.1; Apollodorus 111.8.1; ThirIwall, p.65.
6 re Phoroneus, the "Cain" of Argos, see Pausanias 11.15.4 & 11.19.5; Hyginus, Fabulae 143, Robert Graves, The Greek Myths (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin Books, 1980) vol.1, pps. 193-4; Apollodorus 11.1.1.
7 Carl Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks (Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 195B) pps. 144-50, Graves, vol.1, pps. 63-67.
8 The Companion Bible (London, Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1 970) fn on Genesis 4: 18.
9 Apollodorus 1.7.1-2.
10 Diodorus Siculius 111.62.10 & 1.10.4.
11 "The myth of Deucalion's flood has the same origin as the Biblical legend of Noah," Graves, vol. I. p.141.
12 Graves, loc cit.
13 Ibid. vol.11. p.338.
14 ApoIlodorus 11.1.4.
15 Diodorus Siculius IV.60; V.80.
16 ThirIwall, p.76, mentions a lesser known Greek legend that Athens was founded by an Egyptian immigrant named Cecrops 100 years after the flood. The more usual account is that Cecrops was a native Athenian and Apollodorus 111.14.1 represents him as preflood.
17 As David Livingston, Director of the Associates for Biblical Research, pointed out to this author: (1) there were no vowels in the early Semitic languages, (2) The J of Jvn is better represented as Y. (3) The "v" of Yvn could just as easily be translated as an 0, U or "w." Later Greek writings would differentiate between these letters with vowel points, but there were no vowel points when this passage was written, (4) "Therefore Yavan could just as easily be Yon or even Ion of Greece. The lonians".
18 Josephus, Antiqufties of the Jews l.iv.1 & C.H. Gordon, "Dodanim" The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville & New York: Abingdon Press, 1962) vol.1, p.861.
19 Danaus, founder of Argos, & Cadmus, founder of Thebes. See Graves 195,200-204.
20 Josephus, Antiquities, loc cit & Apollodorus 111.1.1.
21 Apollodorus 1.9 & Thirlwall, pp.102-ill.