[The AMAIC considers the Middle East – West comparisons of John R. Salverda as interesting, with some of them we think being very likely. But we do not necessarily agree with all of the following]
John R. Salverda
The main monster in the story of Perseus is Medusa, one of the three Gorgons. It occurs to me that the most likely origin for the Greek name “Medusa,” is that it derives from the Hebrew word that has come down to us as, “Mitzwah,” which means, “commandments.” There were a lot of commandments (a figurative mountain of laws) but it was the head of Medusa, that symbolized the cut out tablets of the ten commandments, as opposed to the rest of the commandments, ordinances and judgments. The head of Medusa, was carried in a magic container which was plated with a precious metal, and was the Perseid equivalent to the Ark of the Covenant. “‘the head of the monster, the dreaded Gorgo, and the bag floated about it, a wonder to look at, done in silver, but the shining tassels fluttered, and they were gold, …” (Shield of Heracles 220-237) The special attribute of this magic container was that it could contain anything, no matter how great, within its space, without increasing in its bulk. This was probably in reference to the unbelievable fact that the ALMIGHTY spoke from the relatively tiny Ark. Medusa’s head was kept in its magic container because no one could look upon it and yet live, it was carried into battles, shown to the enemy, and thus insured the victories for Perseus, in the same way that the Ark and its contents were used by Israel (a rare motif indeed). The primary method of capital punishment that was prescribed by the Law, was stoning. This, no doubt, left numerous piles of stones as “monuments” to those who violated the Law, all along the way of the wandering Zion, just as we imagine the way of Medusa to be strewn with stone statues of those whom she had put to death. It is not inconceivable that whenever a violator of the law was discovered there was a ritualistic reading (looking upon) of the law that was violated which preceded the stony execution. Thus leading to the myth that it was the “looking upon” of the object itself that brought about the subsequent death. At any rate, we have come to a point where I feel that I must remind the reader; that as this series of intricately interrelated conformities, between the Greek myths and the Hebrew historic account grows, it leaves less and less room for the, “mere coincidence” explanation which will be offered by some.
When Moses received the second set of the Ten Commandments, he requested that God manifest Himself to him. God reminded Moses that no man could look upon His face and yet live, however God had a plan to protect Moses with His hand while His face was exposed, removing it only afterwards, so that Moses would only see God’s “back,” or as some translations have put it, His “afterglow.” When Perseus received the Medusa head he also had an encounter, the face of whom he was reminded that he could not look upon and yet live. The supreme god in the story of Perseus was called Zeus, and just as God did in the story of Moses, Zeus protected Perseus, in this case by lending him his shield. The shield of Zeus was highly polished, and with it Perseus would not have to look directly upon the deadly face, but could use it like a mirror, to see only it’s, “reflection.” Now that a point has been made concerning a connection between the “hand” of God, and the “shield” of Zeus, an explanation of the relationship between the cut off Medusa head, Daniel’s cut off Messiah, and the Law, presents itself.
Once Perseus had received the cut off Medusa head, the Greek mythographers have him showing it to Atlas, which put an end to him. To quote Ovid on the matter, “‘Very well!’ he (Perseus) taunted, ‘if you (Atlas) rate my thanks so low accept a gift!’ and turned his face away and on his left held out the loathsome head, Medusa’s head. Atlas, so huge, became a mountain; beard and hair were changed to forests, shoulders were cliffs, hands ridges; where his head had lately been, the soaring summit rose; his bones were turned to stone.” (Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.653). As the reader may recall, Mount Atlas can be shown to be a reasonable analogy to the Hebrew Mount Sinai, in place because of the sin of Adam, who can further be identified with Atlas himself.
We all pray for the Kingdom of Heaven to come down to the Earth, but there is something in the way, it is the sin of Adam, because of which, there needs to be a “covenant with sin and death” in place, the mountain of the Law. Years before Christianity, the Greeks also had a mountain in the way of kingdom come, their “Adam,” as Atlas, held up (away, a logical symbolic analogy) the heavens.
When Atlas was cursed to be the impediment to the Kingdom of Heaven, he was told that he could expect the son of god to come, who would kill the serpent, and pluck from the tree of the ancient garden. Quoting Ovid again; “Atlas, mindful of an oracle since by Themis, the Parnassian, told, recalled these words, ‘O Atlas! mark the day a son of Jupiter [Zeus] shall come to spoil; for when thy trees been stripped of golden fruit, the glory shall be his.’ Fearful of this, Atlas had built solid walls around his orchard, and secured a dragon, huge, that kept perpetual guard, and thence expelled all strangers from his land.” How many stories contain, the ancient gardener, the highly valued fruit of the tree with the famous taboo against touching it, an expulsion from the garden, the serpent, the crime against heaven, and a prediction of an eventual savior’ Just these two. Furthermore, the wife of Atlas was named after the sun setting, “Hesperus” (Evening, Eve’).
For more articles by John R. Salverda on the Hebraic Connections of Greek Mythology, see:
“Helleno-Yishurin. The Hebrew Origin of Greek Legends”