Prometheus I

Prometheus, in Greek Mythology, is the Titan who both forms mankind from clay, and gives his creation fire (after Zeus took it from them in his fury at Prometheus) so that they can survive in the harsh, dark world they had been born into.  As punishment for his crimes, including bringing fire to mankind, Prometheus is chained to a rock and for all eternity has his liver eaten out by an eagle, each day.  The organ grows back after each feast in preparation for a new, fresh torture the next day.

This image of the creation of mankind is not beautiful or peaceful, and it does not glorify our Creator.  The myth paints a picture of a Titan, a lower being in comparison to the gods who rule Olympus, who chooses to create mankind from clay, basically solidified dirt, and is punished for both their creation and for bringing them the means to survival.  Prometheus is not a character who is mighty or particularly praised, but is made out to be a sort of “trickster,” a low-class immortal who broke the rules and paid the price for his discretion.  He forms mankind, us, from basic nothingness, and to be more specific, only forms men (women come in a little later as another punishment to men for Prometheus’ perceived tricks – think Pandora and her “box”).  The genesis of our race was not blessed or remarkable, but a sort of mistake, a painful birth to make the beginning of painful births.  Zeus later further punished the new mortals by informing them that their lives would have been easy if Prometheus had not upset him, that they would suffer and starve and have to work their whole lives for a shattered image of what happiness would have been.  Prometheus, therefore, is the bringer of both life and death to humans.

The Judeo-Christian story of creation is a little more kind to us lowly humans.  As is fairly commonly known, God began by creating the Heavens and the Earth, then made day, night, land, sea, stars, animals, plants, etc. and ended by creating Adam, the first man, out of dust (granted, fairly similar to clay).  Eventually, when Adam gets lonely, God creates Eve, and they sin, and are thrown from the Garden of Eden, forever causing the suffering of future generations with the knowledge of the difference between wrong and right.  In this story of creation, the God that creates man is glorious and good, and most importantly loving.  He directly and purposefully creates mankind with the intention of them living in ultimate joy, praising Him.  It was not the error of the Creator that cast the humans into a less ideal existence, as it is the Prometheus myth, but the error of the people.  That is the important difference between the Greek mythological tale of Creationism, and the Judeo-Christian version – personal choice, the right to decide one’s own fate with the guidance of God who is ultimately in charge and can step in when asked for (a miracle), and love, a loving God who is a father, not merely a Creator.

Both the myth of Prometheus and the Judeo-Christian Genesis reflect on humankind.  I, personally, am a Christian, therefore I believe in the Christian story of creationism.  However, I also believe that a day to God is not necessarily 24 hours.  I DO believe in evolution, that those beginning days where God created the animals could have been billions of years, allowing animals to develop from single-celled organisms into the animals we know, including ourselves.  That being said, if the Judeo-Christian story if what really happened, the story of Prometheus is reflective of mankind’s image of ourselves.  Mythology is, and this is not of my own making but a widely accepted idea, how ancient humans explained what they did not understand.  The gods of not only Greek and Roman mythology, but Anglo-Saxon and Viking and Native American mythology, among many, many others, were not perfect, but flawed.  They were immortal people who were vengeful and kind, vindictive and forgiving, who toyed and punished the mortals for entertainment, and who blessed them beyond their wildest imaginings.   It makes sense that people would explain a dangerous, beautiful, ever-changing world by saying that it was ruled by dangerous, beautiful, ever-changing people.  The story of Prometheus then, in that vein, is how people thought they had been made.  It made sense that if birth was so painful and took nearly as many lives as it gave, that a Titan, the lower-class of the immortals, would make an even lower-class mortal and experience eternal pain for the birth of an entire race.  If even from the beginning of our race, we have thought rather little of ourselves, explaining our creation as a mistake, then how is it that pride is our greatest downfall?

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