By Robert Bowie Johnson Jr.
If the Book of Genesis is true, if faith in the word of God is valid, then ancient secular human history must connect in significant ways to the Genesis account of our origins.
My new full-color book, “Genesis Characters and Events in Ancient Greek Art,” reveals many of these significant connections.
The thesis of my book is very simple: Ancient Greek religious art boasts of the triumph of the way of Cain over Noah and his God-fearing offspring after the Flood, telling the same story as the early chapters of the Book of Genesis except from the viewpoint that the serpent enlightened, rather than deluded the first couple in paradise.
The Greeks remembered the original paradise, calling it the Garden of the Hesperides, always depicting it with a serpent-entwined apple tree. Genesis doesn’t say what kind of fruit it was: It’s from the Greek tradition we get the idea that Eve ate an apple.
Both the ancient commentator Apollodorus and the Greek playwright Euripides describe Zeus and Hera as the original occupants of the Garden of the Hesperides. To the Greeks, they were the first couple, a match for the Adam and Eve of Genesis.
We know Adam as the father of all humanity. The term “father Zeus” is a description of the king of the gods that appears over 100 times in the ancient writings of Homer. According to the ancient poet Hesiod, Zeus is “the father of gods [deified ancestors] and men.”
Genesis 3:20 describes Eve as “the mother of all the living.” In a hymn of invocation, the sixth-century B.C. lyric poet Alcaeus refers to Hera as “mother of all.” As the first wife, the Greeks worshiped Hera as the goddess of marriage; as the first mother, the Greeks worshiped her as the goddess of childbirth.
Both the Judeo-Christian tradition and the Greek religious tradition insist that their respective first couples came out of an ancient paradise with a serpent-entwined fruit tree. Two opposite spiritual standpoints – the former looking to the Creator as the source of truth, and the latter looking to the serpent for it – share the same factual basis.
The Hesperides – the nymphs who tend to the ancient garden, its tree, its apples and its serpent – get their name from Hespere in Greek, which means evening, signifying the West where the sun sets.
This matches the Genesis account that describes civilization developing to the east of Eden. A return to Eden would mean traveling west. The Greeks put the Garden of the Hesperides in the Far West.
Above, we see the Garden of the Hesperides depicted on the lower panel of a water pot from about 410 B.C. The serpent entwines the apple tree with its golden fruit. The names of the figures are written on the vase. Two of the Hesperides, Chrysothemis (Golden Order) and Asterope (Star Face), stand to the immediate left of the tree.
Chrysothemis moves toward the tree to pluck an apple. Asterope leans pleasantly against her with both arms. To the left of them, Hygeia (Health) sits on a hillock and holds a long scepter, a symbol of rule, as she looks back toward the tree. To the right of the apple tree, Lipara (Shining Skin) holds apples in the fold of her garment and raises her veil off her shoulder.
The names of the Hesperides describe what the garden is like. It’s a land of soft starlight, gold for the taking, perfect health and wondrous beauty.
Apollodorus, writing in the second century B.C., gives four different names for the Hesperides: Aegle (Dazzling Light), Erythia (Red Land), Hesperia (Evening Star) and Arethusa (Water Fountain).
The sound of a water fountain is one of the most peaceful sounds. What an enchanting and delightful place! The Hebrew word for Eden means “to be soft or pleasant,” figuratively “to delight oneself.” The Garden of the Hesperides is, without doubt, the Greek version of the Garden of Eden.
The seated man on the vase to our right of the tree is Nimrod/Herakles. The goal of Nimrod/Herakles in the post-Flood world was to push Noah and his God out of the picture, dispatch those who disagreed with his own mankind-exalting rule and get back to the ancient garden for another bite of the serpent’s apple, its anti-Creator “enlightenment” and the promise of immortality without God.
On the vase-depiction below from 450 B.C, Nimrod/Herakles makes off with the apples as one of the Hesperides gestures for him to stay with them.
Notice on the vase images above, and on the vase images, sculptures and coin below, spanning over seven centuries (500 B.C. to A.D. 250), that the serpent is always depicted in a friendly posture.
On this vase from about 350 B.C., one of the Hesperides tends to the serpent as the other tends to the tree. To our right, Nimrod/Herakles holds one of the serpent’s apples in his hand.
On this vase from about 340 B.C., one of the Hesperides tends to the serpent, another tends to the tree, and a third tends to her own loveliness.
On this vase from about 525 B.C., Cush/Hermes, carrying his two-headed serpent staff representing the serpent’s rule in the pre-Flood world and now in the post-Flood world as well, gestures as if to say, “This is what we’ve been searching for.” Nimrod/Herakles puts apples from the serpent-entwined tree into his basket. The apples represent humanity’s self-exaltation, free from God’s revealed word and judgment. Man is now the measure of all things.
Above we see a computer restoration by Holmes Bryant of the east pediment of the Parthenon whose grand theme was the origin of humanity and the triumph of Zeus- religion after the Flood. The enlargement depicts figures that were known only as K-L-M, until identified in 1982 by Parthenon scholar Kristian Jeppesen as the Hesperides, with the serpent-entwined tree to their proper right.
The mankind-friendly serpent-entwined apple tree in the ancient paradise was part of the pagan world’s collective cultural memory. Above, we see a first century bronze depiction from a temple in Byblos, Lebanon of Nimrod/Herakles with three of the golden apples in his left hand and the serpent-entwined tree behind him.
The Romans borrowed their pantheon from the Greeks, using Latin names. On this Roman coin from the third century, we see Nimrod/Herakles (the Roman Hercules), the serpent-entwined apple tree and three Hesperides.
Depictions of the original garden paradise and Herakles obtaining the apples from its serpent-entwined tree after the Flood are extremely important in Greek religious iconography. They are at the very heart of the Greek religious boast: Humanity will embrace the serpent’s “enlightenment” and be as gods.
Related depictions of this subject appeared sculpted over the entrance to the temple of Zeus at Olympia, inside Zeus’s temple on a painting, sculpted next to an image of Athena in Hera’s temple at Olympia, carved therein on the cedar wood chest of Kypselos, sculpted on the temple of Hephaistos in Athens, and in addition to the ones shown here, on numerous red- and black-figure vases from the Archaic and Classical periods.
Without reference to Genesis, the long struggle of the Greek hero Herakles to obtain the apples from the serpent-entwined tree in the ancient paradise is meaningless. With reference to Genesis, we can see clearly in their ancient art that the Greeks knew exactly where humanity originated.
On one hand, ancient Greek ancestor worship with its exaltation of the serpent’s “enlightenment” contradicts the teaching of the word of God; on the other, if properly understood – as we see in the many Greek depictions of the ancient garden paradise – it reinforces the truth about our origins as revealed in the early chapters of Genesis.
“Genesis Characters and Events in Ancient Greek Art” contains more than 140 color images from ancient Greek temple and vase art. The revelations in it are astounding. Get your copy from the WND Superstore today.