Jesus and Satan are different sides of the same myth

Jesus and Satan are different sides of the same myth

YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD OF THE MYTH OF PROMETHEUS. Prometheus was the Titan who, against the will of the Gods, brought fire to mankind. As a punishment, he was chained to a rock on a mountain where, every day, his liver would be eaten out by an eagle. The liver would then grow back every night and it would happen the next day. 

It’s the type of charming, weirdly specific punishment that the Gods love doling out, and if you're thinking it sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of Sisyphus, the man who was forced to roll a rock up a hill for eternity, only to see it roll back down to the bottom. Albert Camus wrote a famous existentialist essay on this punishment and says, at the end, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” You’ll notice that he was more comfortable saying this of the guy rolling stones up hills than of the guy getting his liver eaten out.

Myths tend to repeat themselves throughout different cultures. This one — of the man who brings knowledge to mankind and is eternally punished for it — is a popular one. Weirdly, a “Prometheus” is usually thought of as a good person: someone who sacrificed his life to improve ours. But the other famous mythological figure who did the same is not as kindly thought of: Satan.

Satan’s story is literally the exact same story: The snake bestows forbidden knowledge on mankind, God is furious and punishes the snake for eternity. Even the name “Lucifer” is the same: it’s usually translated as “Light-bringer,” or more metaphorically, "Morning Star."

Ready for the kicker? Hint: you almost certainly know it because it’s in the title of the piece!

Jesus is also a mythological equivalent of Prometheus.

Anyone who buys me this hat will be my best friend for life.

Anyone who buys me this hat will be my best friend for life.

The great Alan Moore explains in his awesome comic book Promethea:

In Hebrew numerology, letters have number-values. The Biblical word for serpent, nechesh, adds up to 358, as does messiach, meaning “messiah,” another light-bringer. Usually, the fire-and-light bringer, be it Prometheus, Loki, or Jesus is bound or nailed somewhere in punishment, often with their side ravaged or pierced.

There’s an amusing scene in War and Peace where the well-meaning but clueless hero, Pierre, uses numerology to figure out that “Napoleon” adds up to 666. Pierre then goes through great effort to prove that his own name also adds up to 666 (which it totally doesn’t unless you mess around with his name to the point where it’s more or less unrecognizable). When he finally succeeds, he’s convinced it means he’s destined to be the person to kill Napoleon. Spoiler: War and Peace is not an alternative history Inglourious Basterds style book. Pierre does not kill Napoleon. All of this is a long way of saying numerology is kind of ridiculous, and we should probably stick to math instead.

But it is worth mentioning that the Messiah myth is also the same in it’s fundamentals: a greater being brings some new knowledge to the world, everyone benefits, but the lightbringer himself is tortured horribly.

There are, of course, differences in the myths, most notably that in the Christian myth, Jesus was only punished for three days (after which he rose from the dead), whereas Satan and Prometheus received their punishment for eternity*, but what’s really interesting is the similarities in the myths, and how we choose to see some of our light-bringers in a totally positive light, while others are our greatest villains.

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*Interestingly, the Argentinean author Jorge Luis Borges explained this away in his short story Three Versions of Judas, in which he suggests that it was Judas, not Jesus, who was the actual savior who took on the burden of all of our sins: "God... lowered Himself to become a man for the redemption of mankind; we may conjecture that His sacrifice was perfect, not invalidated or attenuated by any omission. To limit what He underwent to the agony of one afternoon on the cross is blasphemous... God made Himself totally a man but a man to the point of infamy, a man to the point of reprobation and the abyss. To save us, He could have chosen any of the destinies which make up the complex web of history; He could have been Alexander or Pythagoras or Rurik or Jesus; He chose the vilest destiny of all: He was Judas."

Featured Photo by Esparta Palma.

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