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The man who gave us fire, the Greeks say, was Prometheus. Other critics say that he has a number of "similarities with the Christ character" -- but only 4 are named. Let's look at those:
- He "descended from heaven as God incarnate to save mankind." Well, at least he wasn't virgin-born. Was he God? Not exactly. He was a demigod, a Titan, one of that mythical race that gave Zeus the whinnies. To say he was "incarnate" is incorrect -- unless we expand that definition to include the Greek deities and such coming down in human form (or in Zeus' case, swan form, or bull form, or...). In any event his "incarnation" was of no theological significance.
Save mankind? Not in a Christian sense. He provided fire, as well as "brickwork, woodworking, telling the seasons by the stars, numbers, the alphabet (for remembering things), yoked oxen, carriages, saddles, ships and sails. He also gave other gifts: healing drugs, seercraft, signs in the sky, the mining of precious metals, animal sacrifice and all art." (See here.)
I guess you could call this "saving" in the sense of "making life easier and saving from drudgery and suffering," but your doctor does that too. Prometheus was man's protector and benefactor, but he didn't "save" as Christ saved.
- He had a special friend, "'Petraeus' (Peter), the fisherman, who deserted him." We find that the only place a friend name Petraeus is mentioned is in this selection from the Robert Taylor, a cleric of the 19th century who did his research while in prison for blasphemy:
The majesty of his silence, whilst the ministers of an offended God were nailing him by the hands and feet to Mount Caucuses, could only be equaled by the modesty with which he relates, while hanging on the cross, his service to the human race, which had brought on him that horrible crucifixion:
'I will speak...See what, a god, I suffer from the gods! For mercy to mankind, I am not deemed worthy of mercy;...But in this uncouth appointment, am fixed here, a spectacle dishonoured by Jove!...On the throne of heaven scarce was he seated...On the powers of heaven He showered His various benefits, thereby confirming His sovereignty;...But for unhappy mortals had no regard, but all the present race willed to extirpate, and to form anew...None save myself, opposed His will...I dared, and boldly pleading, saved from the destruction--saved them from sinking to the realms of Night...For which offense, I bow beneath these pains...Dreadful to suffer, piteous to behold.'
All of this is suppoesedly from Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, but there's a copy here and it all seems to be not there as Taylor quotes it. However, as for Petraeus, we are told:
In the catastrophe of the plot, his especially professed friend, Oceanus, the Fisherman, as his name Petraeus indicates, (Petraeus was an interchangeable synonym of the name Oceanus), being unable to prevail upon him to make his peace with Jupiter, by throwing the cause of human redemption out of the cause of his (own) hands, 'forsook him and fled.'
Oceanus is an "interchangeable synonym" of Petraeus? Where's that from? It's from Robert Taylor's imagination is where -- it certainly isn't from Greek mythology or linguistics. Other than that, in the play, Oceanus does make a brief cameo (as do other characters) but all he does is have a quickie talk with P offering to intercede with Zeus, apply a band-aid to his tummy, and then takes normal leave -- no sign of him being a special friend, no sign of a job fishing, no "forsaking" or "fleeing" much less "deserting". In reality Oceanus was a Titan associated with streams and rivers -- so I guess that means he passed by fish now and then; so he may have been a fisherman in the same sense that lemon sole in the cafeteria qualifies when the nice ladies in the hairnets pass by it with a lemon wedge. No match here.
- "He was crucified, suffered and rose from the dead." Crucified? Taylor says so, but Zeus, we are told, "...had Hepheistos shackle Prometheus to the side of a crag, high in the Caucasus mountains. There Prometheus would hang until the fury of Zeus subsided...Each day, Prometheus would be tormented by Zeusí eagle as it tore at his immortal flesh and tried to devour his liver. Each night, as the frost bit itís way into his sleep, the torn flesh would mend so the eagle could begin anew at the first touch of Dawn." Prometheus Bound, despite Taylor, reports nothing different.
Timonthy Gentz in his book of Greek myths reports some depictions of Prometheus bound to a column, and there is one case where a column looks like a tree, and in some cases he is impaled to a column, though Gentz sees that as the result of the artists' misunderstanding what was written in an account by Hesiod, where Prometheus has a wedge impaled in his chest . Crucified, no. Suffered, apparently, but who doesn't at some point? Died and rose from the dead? He couldn't have. Prometheus "was immortal. His torment would last forever." But as it happened, "Thirteen generations later, Herakles climbed the mountain, killed the eagle and freed Prometheus from his shackles." A centaur named Chiron took his place.
In Prometheus Bound it's a bit different; Prometheus falls into an abyss, and that's the end of the play as far as we know; much of Aeschylus' work on Prometheus is lost (and according to myth theorists, playing the usual counsel of despair, what is left has been mutilated by Christians to hide the truth).
- "He was called the Logos or Word." If he was, no one in Greek mythology knows about it. Maybe they should ask Robert Taylor for help. The closest I have to this is that Plutarch apparently called Prometheus "reason" which is the word logos, but he used it in an entirely different sense than was applied to Jesus.
And that's all we have. Not much, indeed.
Name That Hymn
A reader has noted a rather embarrasing error regarding Prometheus on Acharya S' website:
Robert Taylor's Diegesis, pp. 192-4. Taylor indicates that the following stanza is found in "Potter's beautiful translation" of Aeschylsus's play: "Lo, streaming from the fatal tree, His all-atoning blood! Is this the Infinite? 'Tis he - Prometheus, and a God! Well might the sun in darkness hide, And veil his glories in, When God, the great Prometheus, died, For man, the creature's sin." However, this stanza apparently does not appear in modern translations, including Potter's. It is well-known that the Christians mutilated or destroyed virtually all of the works of ancient Greek and Roman authors, such that we might suspect this stanza has either been removed or obfuscated through mistranslation. On the other hand, it may be a mistake on Taylor's part or a result of his ambiguous language preceding the passage, or he may have been thinking of another "Prometheus Bound" written after the Christian era, perhaps by Milton. Taylor was in prison when he wrote The Diegesis, thereby having difficulty accessing books, so he is to be excused for errors that invariably creep into anyone's work.
Mutilatation and destruction! It of course does not occur to Acharya that maybe Taylor was a little daft that day. Actually we have a pretty good idea where Taylor got this from, and one can hardly excuse as error a theft of this magnitude. Let's compare -- to a hymn by Isaac Watts:
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
and did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
for such an one as I?
Was it for sins that I had done
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
and shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died,
For man, the creature's sin.
Thus might I hide my shamed face
while his dear Cross appears,
dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.
but drops of grief can ne'er repay
the debt of love I owe:
here, Lord, I give myself to thee;
'Tis all that I can do.
It just goes to show: If you're going to do serious research, don't be like Taylor -- wait until you get out of prison to do it.