As a student who was blessed with a classic education, I studied the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. The entire genealogy of gods and goddesses in the Greek and Roman mythology are hard to keep track of. However, one thing that is not hard to discern is their character. As The British Museum puts it:
The ancient Greeks believed there were a great number of gods and goddesses. These gods had control over many different aspects of life on earth. In many ways they were very human. They could be kind or mean, angry or pleasant, cruel or loving. They fell in love with each other, argued with each other and even stole from each other.
They were always angry at something or other. For example, there was Eris, goddess of discord.
ERIS was the goddess or spirit (daimona) of strife, discord, contention and rivalry. She was often represented specifically as the daimon of the strife of war, who haunted the battlefield and delighted in human bloodshed. Because of Eris’ disagreeable nature she was the only goddess not to be invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (parents of Achilles). When she turned up anyway, she was refused admittance and, in a rage, threw a golden apple amongst the goddesses inscribed “To the fairest.” Three goddesses laid claim it, and in their rivalry brought about the events which led to the Trojan War. (source)
Hm, ‘the golden apple of discord’. Sounds familiar. Anyway, one would have thought that a goddess possessing great powers and knowledge would have had a bit more self-control. I guess not.
Then there’s the story of poor Arachne. Ovid wrote-
Arachne was a shepherd’s daughter who began weaving at an early age. She became a great weaver, boasted that her skill was greater than that of Athena, and refused to acknowledge that her skill came, in part at least, from the goddess. Athena took offense and set up a contest between them. Presenting herself as an old lady, she approached the boasting girl and warned: “You can never compare to any of the gods. Plead for forgiveness and Athena might spare your soul.”
“Ha, I only speak the truth and if Athena thinks otherwise then let her come down and challenge me herself,” Arachne replied. Athena removed her disguise and appeared in shimmering glory, clad in a sparkling white chiton. The two began weaving straight away. Athena’s weaving represented four separate contests between mortals and the gods in which the gods punished mortals for setting themselves as equals of the gods. Arachne’s weaving depicted ways that the gods had misled and abused mortals, particularly Zeus, tricking and seducing many women. When Athena saw that Arachne had not only insulted the gods, but done so with a work far more beautiful than Athena’s own, she was enraged. She ripped Arachne’s work into shreds, and sprinkled her with Hecate’s potion, turning her into a spider and cursing her and her descendants to weave for all time. This showed how goddesses punished those human for wanting to be equals. (source)
It’s where we get the word for the class of spiders, arachnids. The gods were always either seducing someone or their wives the goddesses were always changing someone into something for being seduced. The Titans were the first set of gods, and like all others that followed, were subject to succumbing to human sins and passions. Though the premier gods, the Titans couldn’t even hold onto their power, and were usurped by their children, the twelve Olympians. I guess they weren’t so Titanic after all.
I used to wonder, what made them gods? Why did they seem like such humans? It is the same with Hindu gods, Native American gods, Chinese gods…decidedly not…god-like.
Of course we know that this is because these gods are made-up. Because their origin came from the mind of man, they are like man. These gods either were distant and removed from the petty squabbles of mankind, or were directly involved but not usually to humankind’s good.
Preceding all these was Yahweh. After Cain wandered away from God and the faith, departing in blood after killing his brother, he founded cities and these cities held people who also were not believers in God. So they made up their own. Lots of them. Some of these false gods were mentioned in the Bible- ancient gods like Amon, Asherah, Baal, desert gods like Dagon, Roman gods like Zeus and Hermes, Artemis, Castor and Pollux. Of course, since none of these gods were real, they were all a #fail and were constantly disappointing the people who foolishly believed in them.
Since these fake gods were like man, when man looked at these gods, they felt comfortable. Looking into a mirror of mercurial, petty gods was like looking at themselves, and all was well. I can understand a god like me, goes the thinking, I can handle a god with problems.
God has always been a God of perfection, holiness, goodness, justice. If He says it, it shall be done. (Ezekiel 12:28, Psalm 33:4, & etc.) In Him there is no shadow of turning at all. He is not changeable, mercurial, petulant, angry without reason (like changing people into spiders). Man could not conceive of a God as perfect and just as our God. Man cannot look upon His holiness and live. He is decidedly a God that mans sinful man uncomfortable.
Who is like God?
Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you– majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11)
For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? (Psalm 89:6)
Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, (Psalm 113:5)
And then came the Incarnation. Our God, seeing the lost state of humanity and our need to be redeemed from sin’s bondage, sent His Son to be birthed into this terrible, dark world. He is King, who emptied Himself and became a baby, then an obedient boy, then a servant of men, then a sacrifice unto death. Who is like our God! Who is like Jesus, the firstborn of all creation!
Many babies grew to be kings. No king has ever become a baby. Yet God promised a Redeeeer from the beginning, and so it came to be. He is a God of promises kept.
The supremacy of our Jesus is unparalleled. His time on earth as God-man is an event which split history, reverberated through earth, heaven, and eternity, and broke sin’s bondage. Who is like our God!
No other petulant god, no other angry idol, no other petty deity exists. Only the perfection encapsulated in a baby born on earth, to the glory of God and to the praises of angels and shepherds.
Christ is born. And there is no other.