While in Greece this past summer, I remembered something I forgot. (I tell my children often that I have forgotten more than they will ever know.) Athens had 12 gods they worshipped and a temple set-up for each one. But they also had one additional place of worship established to an Unknown God. Let me give you context:
A couple millennia ago, Athens had 11 gods in their pantheon that they regularly worshipped. One day, they went to war with Marathon and somehow lost. They couldn’t figure out how this happened until they found out that Marathon had one god they didn’t worship and logically assumed that was the reason for their defeat. So post-haste the Athenians now had 12 gods in their pantheon. But to make sure this never happened again, they put another plaque on a hill called the Areopagus (the Romans renamed it Mars Hill because they figured if they renamed it they could claim it as their own. Jupiter Forever!) This plaque read “To the Unknown God.” They figured if a god ever showed-up all peeved because he wasn’t one of the 12 gods that Athens worshipped, then they could quickly show him the little sign on the Areopagus and say, “see, we were totally worshipping you but didn’t know your name. If you could just spell that for me I’ll grab a hammer and chisel and add that in right here.” So here’s my contention that I thought of a couple years ago, forgot, and now thought of it again. I think that God perhaps impressed upon the Athenian hearts to add a 13th place of worship. Just as there were 12 disciples who are knowable and easily identified, there was a 13th member of the group who was a mystery to most of the world. Jesus is the Unknown God they fearfully worship. The Apostle Paul points out this exactly in Acts 16. Now what’s not recorded there is if whether or not he connected their 12 gods with the 12 disciples of Jesus. It could be a co-inky-dink but I think maybe not. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies, foreshadows, proclamations, and symbols pointing to the coming Messiah. It stems to reason that God may have placed some similar fixtures in other cultures suddenly connect once they hear about Jesus.
Heracles (or as the Roman’s and Kevin Sorbo called him – Hercules), Osiris, Horus, Attis, and Dionysis have various elements of dying for their people, some even supposedly rose again or having a virgin birth. Now, as a side note, don’t believe everything (or anything for that matter) that you read on the Internet. There was a movie called Zeitgeist that hit the internet a decade or so ago, and set little burgeoning millennial atheists into a tizzy of joy for all the “proofs” that the Greatest Story Ever Told in Jesus is just an amalgamation of dozens of other stories before it. Horus was a particular focus of the “documentary” (quotes are intended to be derogatory.) It claimed that Horus was conceived in a virgin, born in a cave, announced by an angel, baptized in a river at age 30, performed miracles, excised demons, raised someone from the dead, had 12 disciples, delivered a “sermon” on a mountain, was crucified, even died between 2 thieves, and then (wait for it) rose from the dead 3 days later. Go look it up, this is exactly some of the evidence that Zeitgeist claims about Horus, obviously proving Jesus to just be a Jewish copy of an Egyptian legend. The problem is. THERE IS NO REFERENCE ANYWHERE TO ANY OF THAT BEING TRUE. I’m not just saying that there’s no proof this happened. I’m saying that it’s not even part of the legend. There’s dozens of ancient stories about Horus just not those. I’m not sure if the Zeitgeist crew just made it up or found an old AngelFire blog that said this stuff but it’s just not accurate. Even Richard Dawkins when asked about those claims said something to the effect of, (in a British accent) while if those claims were true it would be devastating to Christianity, I just don’t see any evidence for it. Then he said something about Christianity can be proved false by other things blah, blah, blah.
Now I got distracted a second there but the truth is there are small little aspects concerning Jesus’ life spread all throughout the known world in various legends and stories. So some suggest that Jesus is just some sort of super-version of all these previous heroes. It’s like when Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster (also Jews by the way) sat down to create a new comic series, it’s not like they invented the concept of being super strong or being super fast or being able to jump super high (which eventually turned into flying but that took a couple years). They took all the cool, super elements from other heroes and made the man, the myth, the legend… Superman. Is that what the writers of the New Testament did? Just make a 1stCentury Jewish Superman? Nope. Jesus goes against everything the people of His day were expecting a Messiah to do. There was a much bigger plan of salvation in the works.
What I think is actually happening is that God inspired little nuggets of truth about the upcoming Savior of the World Jesus Christ into the legends of pagan cultures so that when they heard about this Nazarene something would sound almost familiar about it. The difference being they could actually talk to someone who saw Jesus, who heard Jesus, and who witnessed these amazing things. Their heroes were from “stories of a time long ago – a time of myth and legend. When the ancient gods were petty and cruel, and they plagued mankind with suffering…” But this story was not like that. It had names and places they heard of. It didn’t take place long ago where no one could verify its truth. It was from just a few years ago. People were still alive that were around Jesus. Christianity didn’t start spreading centuries later. It started growing immediately. There has never been growth like it in history, because nothing was ever like it in history. Case in point, the man who played Hercules in his Legendary Journey, Kevin Sorbo, is now a believer in Jesus Christ #Godsnotdead (that’s really true by the way… he is a Believer).
Even today, the Greatest Story Ever Told seeps into our popular culture so that when the Gospel is shared, it rings true. There is this yearning in all of us that knows we need saving from this lost and dying world. We just don’t know what will fill this God-shaped hole in our heart. Well I can tell you who can. He is some sort of super-man. He is the one who died for the sins of the world even before the world knew what sin was. He is the Creator of everything created. He is the Savior of everyone saved. He. Is. Jesus. The only man in history that didn’t deserve to die, but instead chose to die for no personal gain. He chose to die for it was the only way we could be saved. The only hope we could ever have. Jesus, you are better than anything anyone could make-up.