Is Zeus in the Bible

Acts (13-14)

Paul's first missionary journey

Acts 14.11-13

Acts 14.11-13





Acts 14.11-13:11When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices and said in Lycaon: "The gods have become like men and have come down to us." 12 And they called Barnabas Zeus, but Paulus Hermes, because it was he who spoke. 13 And the priest of Zeus [temple], who was outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifices with the multitudes.



(Top) (literature review)

V. 11


Observations: "What Paul had done" refers to the healing of the paralyzed man described immediately before (cf. 14: 8-10), which Paul made appear as a miracle worker.


The aorist "epoiêsen“Can be translated as" he did "or" he had done ". Because the reaction is to a miracle that has already happened, the translation "he had done" is more appropriate here.


The town of Lystra, where the miracle of healing had occurred, was in the Lycaonia countryside. In view of the fact that Lystra was a Roman veterans' colony at the time of the events described, it would actually have been expected that the inhabitants would speak Latin. Greek as a colloquial language could also have been thought of, because Lystra belonged to the Hellenistic cultural area and "Greeks" were mentioned in the description of the events in Iconium (cf. 14.1). Was it Lycaonic, of which there was none There are written documents about a dialect of Greek? Or was it a language all of its own? Whatever the case, those who raised their voices were probably not the settled Roman war veterans and their descendants, but people who came from Lycaonia assuming that Paul and Barnabas preached in Greek, the Lycaonians must have understood Greek, and if any part of them were able to speak Greek, then that part must translate the other part of the sermon, or at least the essential part of the sermon This suggests that the Lycaeans were Hellenized, but only to such an extent that they continued to be ih re spoke their own language. But it is also possible that the Lycaonian language was a dialect of the Greek language, or at least very similar to it. If it was a separate language that was quite different from Greek, which is more likely, Paul and Barnabas may not have understood it. That they were regarded and worshiped as gods by the Lycaonians, they should have deduced from the events described in v. 13.


In the world of faith of the Lycaeans, the world of the gods and the world of humans seem to have been permeable, so that the gods could take the form of humans and come down to them on earth. The fact that the two missionaries were viewed as gods in human form can only be explained by the miracle of healing that the missionaries suspected of divine powers.


Further reading: C. Dionne 2005, 5-33 offers a narrative analysis of Acts 14: 7-20a divided into three steps: In a first step he examines the question of the position of the text in the overall narrative context. In a second step he deals with the delimitation of the section; and in a third step he reads the section synchronously (= in the text version available to us today) and takes a close look at the thematized conflict.


H.-J. Klauck 1994, 93-108 deals with two topics that are related to one another, but nevertheless different from one another: on the one hand, with the conflict between Christian preachers and magicians and their magical practices (cf. Acts 13: 4-12), on the other hand with the confrontation of Christian preachers with pagan polytheism (cf. 14: 8-20). H.-J. Klauck notes that in paganism the lines between the divine and the human are blurred. Gods would appear in human form and people would become heroes and gods. Hence Luke emphasizes the necessary distinction between God the Creator and all his creatures. This puts the missionaries 'miracles in a right light and highlights Jesus' unique position as the only Son of God. Pagan religion is presented as open to the Christian message and, conversely, Paul aligns the Christian message as much as necessary with the respective cultural events in order to reshape the pagan cultures by means of the power of the gospel. This is a dialectical process that has been going on since the days of Paul. On magic and paganism in Acts, see also H.-J. Klauck 1996, who deals with the miracle in Lystra and its consequences on pp. 69-76.


D. P. Béchard 2001, 84-101 advocates the thesis that 14.8-20 is drafted as a defense against the charge that the missionaries had only been successful with their preaching among the mentally limited and gullible rural population and exploited their naivete to their own advantage. In fact, the rural population appears to be genuinely pious - according to an ideal painted by poets, philosophers and politicians striving for a simpler way of life. The missionaries Paul and Barnabas, who by no means exercised manipulative control over their listeners, appeared just as sincere. Although the pagan rural population is being manipulated, the two missionaries are not the authors of the manipulation, but their victims.


R. Strelan 2000, 488-503, deals with the meaning of the loud voice. Speaking in a loud voice was believed to be a typical symbol of gods in ancient times. That is why the pagan inhabitants of Lystra identified Barnabas and Paul with gods. In fact, however, Paul had shown himself to be an instrument of God by speaking out loud. His voice was, as it were, the voice of God and thus his command was, as it were, a command from God.


(Top) (literature review)

V. 12


Observations: Zeus (Greek: Dios, Latin: Iup [p] iter) was worshiped as God the Father and was the supreme god of the Greeks. According to Greek belief, Hermes (Latin: Mercurius) was the son of Zeus and the nymph Maia. As such, he was subordinate to Zeus. It is possible that two local deities were identified with Zeus and Hermes. Such identifications with foreign gods were not uncommon in antiquity.

It is astonishing that Barnabas was identified with the superior God, namely Zeus, while Paul was identified "only" with the subordinate God, Hermes. This contradicts other passages of Acts where Paul is the head of the missionary group (cf. 13:13) and spokesman The Lycaonians, on the other hand, seemed to have felt that Barnabas was the leader, even though the paralyzed man was healed (cf. 13: 8-10). The contradictions suggest that 14.11 -13 contains a tradition according to which Barnabas was the leading missionary. In view of this finding it seems strange that Paul is referred to as the spokesman. The author may have emphasized the importance of Paul in order to put Barnabas in the foreground tradition with his own report, according to which Paul was the head of the missionary group and the spokesman to reconcile.

Why is the god Hermes associated with speaking? Hermes was considered the patron god of traffic, travelers, merchants, shepherds, thieves, art dealers, oratory, science, gymnastics and magic. Of these "tasks", only the one as the patron god of rhetoric is relevant with regard to v. 12. As the patron god of rhetoric, Hermes may well have been responsible for speaking he proclaimed the decisions of Zeus in the first place. However, since Zeus was not in heaven from the point of view of the inhabitants of Lystra, but in the form of Barnabas on earth, Hermes actually did not need to proclaim anything then this would only show the effort required of the author of Acts to reconcile the traditionally given outstanding meaning of Barnabas with the outstanding meaning of Paul which he himself assumed.


Further reading: According to K. Haacker 1988, 317-324, it is not unusual for the healing event to be followed by a short sermon in 14: 8-20. In Acts 3, too, the healing of a paralyzed man serves as a springboard for a sermon. What is special in Acts 14 is that the little speech remains strongly related to the miracle, namely to a misunderstanding of the miracle that occurred among the pagan population in Lystra. It turns out that the real, spirit-induced charisma has to be protected against a pagan misunderstanding that localizes the miraculous power in man himself and consequently deifies him or at least worshiped him ritually.


L. H. Martin 1995 points out the point, neglected in his opinion in research, that the Greeks considered the gods Zeus and Hermes as guarantors for the truthfulness of a message or proclamation. Anyone who delivered the wrong message or announced it wrongly has sinned against Zeus and Hermes. Hermes did not speak himself. The erroneous identification of Barnabas and Paul with Zeus and Hermes is also about hospitality towards strangers and especially ambassadors. The hospitality was given by the inhabitants of Lystra in the form of an extraordinary sacrifice by the priests. However, this form of hospitality was rejected by Barnabas and Paul, with which the pagan worship of gods appears in sharp contrast to the worship of the "living God" of the biblical tradition -13 not only legitimized and presented as truthful, but also as unique.


C. Breytenbach 1993, 396-413 makes some observations on Acts 14,11-17 in his contribution, which can be summarized in three theses: First, the terminology of these pericopes should be used to show how the author of this text section and thus that of the Lucanian Acts falls back on ideas that come from the tradition of Greek-speaking Judaism. This insight is not new, but provides the prerequisite for the second, more extensive discussion point: The text Acts 14: 11-13.17 suggests some religious ideas that were widespread in southern Asia Minor during the 1st century AD. Thirdly, from this the thesis can be developed that the author of Acts includes such local religious ideas in the light of the tradition of Greek-speaking Judaism. For the Hellenization of the religion of the local population in the remote parts north of the Tauros Mountains, see also C. Breytenbach 1996, 31-34. In the Isauri-Lycaonian area, the Luwian gods Tarchu (nt) and Ru (nt) were venerated as Zeus and - as his helper - Hermes until the Hellenistic period.


(Top) (literature review)

V. 13


Observations: The Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis reads "the priests" ("hoi here") Instead of" the priest "("ho here"). It is possible that the writer of this manuscript assumed that it was a quorum of priests. Such would be assumed in a large temple. However, the author of Acts may have only thought of a small, humble temple, or even just a shrine that was served only by a priest.


The question arises as to which gates the bulls and wreaths were brought to which gates: were they the gates of the city, the gates of the Temple of Zeus, or the gates of the house or houses in which Paul and Barnabas were housed? ? If the latter is the case, it would have to have been gates through which one could gain access to the courtyard of large estates.


The plan - it had not yet come to fruition - the sacrifice presupposed the presence of an altar. Does this suggest that it was the gates of the Temple of Zeus, or were there sacrificial sites at the gates? Transportable altars are also conceivable.

It is unclear what function the gates had with regard to the intended victim. It is also possible that the gates had no special function. It can only be said that the Temple of Zeus was near the city wall and thus also the city gates. The altar may have been located between the temple and the city gates, so that the bulls and wreaths had to be brought to the altar near the city gates for sacrifice.


The priest was responsible for the sacrificial ceremony. It is not stated where the priest fetched the bulls and wreaths intended for the sacrifice. He may have fetched them from the city, from the temple, or anywhere outside of the city.


It can be assumed that the bulls served as sacrificial animals. The function of the wreaths remains open, however. Were they also part of the sacrifice or did they serve as jewelry? A combination of both possibilities is also possible: First the wreaths served as jewelry, then they were used in some form in the sacrifice. If they (also) served as jewelry, the question would arise whether the bulls, the altar, the priest or the spectators were decorated. If the animals were adorned, one might ask where the wreaths were attached to the bulls. The horns or the wider head or neck area are most likely to be thought of.


In view of the fact that it was not the God of Israel, the Father of Jesus Christ, but themselves who were worshiped as gods, Paul and Barnabas had to step in and reprimand the people of Lystra as soon as they became aware of the event. This intervention and reproof is the subject of the following section 14: 14-18. It assumes that what happened was reported to the two missionaries or that they saw it in person.


Further reading:



Literature review

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Béchard, Dean P .; Paul Among the Rustics: The Lystran Episode (Acts 14: 8-20) and Lucan Apologetic, CBQ 63/1 (2001), 84-101

Breytenbach, Cilliers; Zeus and the Living God: Notes on Acts 14: 11-17, NTS 39/3 (1993), 396-413

Breytenbach, Cilliers; Paul and Barnabas in the province of Galatia: Studies on Acts 13f .; 16.6; 18:23 and the addressees of Galatians (AGAJU 38), Leiden 1996

Dionne, Christian; L’épisode de Lystre (Ac 14,7-20a): une analyze narrative, ScEs 57/1 (2005), 5-33

Haacker, Klaus; Power and powerlessness - charisma and kerygma. Bible study on Acts 14: 8-20, TBe 19/6 (1988), 317-324

Klauck, Hans-Josef; With Paul in Paphos and Lystra. Magic and paganism in the Acts of the Apostle, Neotest 28/1 (1994), 93-108

Klauck, Hans-Josef; Magic and Paganism in the Acts of the Apostles of Luke (SBS 167), Stuttgart 1996

Martin, Luther H .; Gods or Ambassadors of God? Barnabas and Paul in Lystra, NTS 41/1 (1995), 152-156

Strelan, Rick; Recognizing the Gods (Acts 14.8-10), NTS 46/4 (2000), 488-503