Sunday, March 5, 2017


I was the reader at Petersburg Lutheran Church today.  Scripture was Matthew 4:1-11, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil...".  Satan tempts my Lord three times; 
  • “bread”
  • "To summon his angels"; which is heavenly authority and 
  • "All the kingdoms of the world"; worldly authority. 

 Bread seems lame compared to the other two.  Of course,  all the time I am thinking of the temptation of the Trojan prince Alexander, otherwise known as the Judgement of Paris.  He got offered wisdom and glory by Athena (heavenly authority), Hera offered him power and a crown (worldly power) and that leaves Aphrodite offering the most beautiful woman in the world.  Oh, I get it, bread and sex are temptations of the flesh.   Apparently, temptation of the flesh is the most powerful, Paris sacrificed the world for a "loaf of bread".

I also, helped with communion.  I am one truly moved by the ritual.  It was the first time in decades that I assisted. It took three rounds to get everyone in the congregation through.  During the final ceremony I stood hand-and-hand with the other people at the communion railing.  God help us!  Here is the image that came to mind, from Guardians of the Galaxy


  1. It is interesting that earthly authority is offered after heavenly authority, isn't it? It seems logical that the most important thing is to come last.

    Temptation by bread (or lentil soup, or pomegranate) should not be underestimated. My Heracles, after unbinding Prometheus, gives him bread and water, and Prometheus can no longer resist the temptation to return.

  2. Maya,

    As maybe you know, eating "bread" is a sure sign you are mortal

  3. Yes, Homer connected being mortal to eating "Demeter's food".
    With ambrosia and nectar only, symposia on Olympus must have been rather miserable. On the other hand, if gods are truly immortal, then they cannot die of starvation or dehydration, so all food and drink is optional. Prometheus and the prisoners in Tartarus presumably received none, and nevertheless nobody portrays them exhausted. The Hundred-Handers needed just a little ambrosia before rushing to battle.
    My gods, of course, have about the same nutritional requirements as humans. Gaea has intolerance to milk.

  4. You once wrote a post about how Geryon wondered whether he was immortal or not. He could, as a test, try to eat bread. Or maybe this test with mortal food would damage an immortal?

  5. Maya,

    Hermes ponders all this in his Hymn.

    I wonder if Medusa knew she was mortal?


  6. Yes, the Hymn of Hermes suggests a mortalizing action of mortal food, but the overall flow of myths is to the other direction.

    Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 83 - 87 (trans. Aldrich):
    "...The festering wound was incurable, however, and Kheiron moved into his cave, where he yearned for death, but could not die because he was immortal..."

    Ovid, Metamorphoses 2. 649 ff (trans. Melville):
    "[Kheiron (Chiron)], you, immortal now and destined by your birthright to live on through all eternity, will long to die when you are tortured by... agonizing poison in your wounds; and, saved from immortality, the gods shall put you in death's power, and the three Goddesses [Moirai, Fates] shall unloose your threads of fate."

    Immortality status apparently requires high-ranking signatures to be changed. Indeed, a nice immortality would it be, to be ruined by a meal that is not even poisonous!

  7. Maya,

    The is a theory on the internet, that the young Zeus became Cronus' cupbearer and on the advice of Gaia or Metis slipped something into his father's wine. That's when he vimited up the rest of the Olympians. But the rumor sats wine. Does that explain his fall from power?


  8. The theory is based on Apollodorus' Library:

    "[1.2.1] But when Zeus was full-grown, he took Metis, daughter of Ocean, to help him, and she gave Cronus a drug to swallow, which forced him to disgorge first the stone and then the children whom he had swallowed..."

    It is not said whether the drug was slipped into ambrosia, nectar, wine or anything else; but, thinking of this, I have never seen Titans eating ambrosia or drinking nectar. The only source about production of ambrosia known to me is the Odyssey XII: "...the timorous rock-doves that bring ambrosia to Father Zeus". We are not told whether they supplied also Cronus of crooked counsel.

    There was, unfortunately, nobody to give Zeus a similar drug when he swallowed Metis.

    In Apollodorus, it is Metis as an accomplice to Zeus and not Zeus himself who gives Cronus the drug. This makes sense. I cannot imagine paranoid Cronus to let an obscure lad out of nowhere to come so close to him. But people try to give Zeus credit for everything, like Hesiod does when he describes the same event with Gaea as helper of Zeus:

    492ff. "After that, the strength and glorious limbs of the prince [Zeus] increased quickly, and as the years rolled on, great Cronos the wily was beguiled by the deep suggestions of Earth, and brought up again his offspring, vanquished by the arts and might of his own son, and he vomited up first the stone which he had swallowed last..."

    Neil Forsyth comments: "And who was responsible for the trick that made Kronos vomit up the stone substituted for Zeus and so allowed Kronos' children finally to be born? It was Gaea's idea, clearly ("beguiled by the cunning schemes of Gaea," line 494), but then comes a line so apparently intrusive that one editor of Hesiod, Heyne, excised it as disagreeing with what has just been said about Gaea: "conquered by the devices and force of his own son" (line 496)... The line has all the appearance of an afterthought as Hesiod suddenly remembers the main point of the story: Zeus must somehow get the credit."

  9. Maya,

    I always thought it odd, that Metis who was wisdom itself and a water goddess, hence potential prophetic, got herself swallowed in the first place. Unless, she did it herself, in order to rule the universe from inside Zeus' head. Just a thought.

    If Hesiod nods occasionally, that's understandable, weaving together a bunch of diverse traditions into one Pan-hellenic tapestry could be tricky.

    Cup-bearer? Ganymede was Zeus' cup-bearer. Pelops was Poseidon's "cup-bearer" after the beautiful boy was plucked from the stew pot by the Fates. So, if we can find evidence that the anonymous Zeus was Cronus' "cupbearer" what does that say about their relationship and the lengths that Zeus would go to to save his sibling.


  10. Bill,

    I am now reading Suetonius' Twelve Caesars, and there were some remarks about how the attachment of young Julius Caesar to the palace of some king Nicomedes damaged Caesar's reputation for life; according to the rumors, he served there as - guess what! - king's cup-bearer.

    However, all these rulers on Heaven and on Earth who used handsome youths as cup-bearers had a good idea who the youth was and where he was coming, except Cronus. The extended family of Cronus was not so large, so every child was accounted for. And Zeus was not presumed to exist.

    On the other hand, I can imagine Cronus, tired of his wife's ever-recurring pregnancies and the need to swallow the babies afterwards, sought a partner who couldn't get pregnant - the motivation of my Zeus to choose Ganymedes.

    I suppose that Hesiod's portrayal of Metis is a device to flatter Zeus. See, Metis was the smartest among gods and men... yet Zeus outwitted her... so who is the smartest? (Caesar's soldiers sang that Caesar was having a triumph because he conquered the Gauls, but Nicomedes was even more deserving of a triumph because he conquered Caesar.)

  11. Maya,

    The little ditty about Ceasar and Nicomedes reminds of a similar one about Alexander the Great and his buddy Hephastion.

    "The extended family of Cronus was not so large, so every child was accounted for." Maybe it was after Hesiod, but prior to that who kept track of the 3000 sons of Oceanus and Tethys. Plus who among the gods knew what was going to crawl out of the darkness (Erebus) next. Nyx and Eris had quit large brood whose births the goddesses would not have attended.

    I've often thought Hesiod tidied up the genealogical tables to much. There are many local river gods and nympsh who don't quit fit the Pan-Hellenic pattern. Like Hera's first husband.