Apprehending Christ through Herakles: ‘Christ-Curious’ Greeks and Revelation 5-6
Primarily (but not exclusively) in the first half of the twentieth century, scholarly interest was focused on the possible influence of the mythology of Heracles and allegorizing of his trials amongst philosophers (especially the Stoics) on the shaping of the Gospel narratives of Jesus. This paper reverses that focus to demonstrate how familiarity with Herakles’ story, in several of its various forms, might have served to aid a ‘Christ-curious’ Greek-speaker in his or her apprehension and acceptance of Jesus.
After delineating the most obvious similarities between these two salvific figures, Allan looks specifically at how a ‘Christ-curious’ attendee at a house-church meeting might have responded to a reading of Revelation 4-6 with its description of the ‘One upon the Throne’ and the ‘Lamb who was slain’, particularly in relation to Herakles’ depiction on and around the throne of Pheidas’ Zeus at Olympia, arguing that once an association between these two has been made in the new convert’s mind, it would be most difficult to dislodge. Thus, despite the hostility to ‘paganism’ amongst the well-educated Apologists and the early Church Fathers, it may be the case that, post-Constantine, the Church built upon a pre-existing affinity between Christ and Herakles already recognized among some of the laity, thereby mirroring Paul’s example by ‘capturing every conception of mind to the submission of Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5).