Romans 15 – Paul’s Reason for Writing & Roman Monsters

Bust of Zeus
Greek mythology, almost identical to Roman mythology (and Paul was in the middle of it all) is the body of myths and teachings that belong to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices.

It was a part of the religion in ancient Greece. Modern scholars refer to and study the myths in an attempt to throw light on the religious and political institutions of Ancient Greece and its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

Greek mythology is explicitly embodied in a large collection of narratives, and implicitly in Greek representational arts, such as vase-paintings and votive gifts.

Greek myth attempts to explain the origins of the world, and details the lives and adventures of a wide variety of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and mythological creatures.

These accounts initially were disseminated in an oral-poetic tradition; today the Greek myths are known primarily from Greek literature.

Mankind has always been amazed at bizarre things, such as the false gods/goddesses, and make-believe monsters. 

They keep such things alive as long as possible, but things that are not true or are bad will not last.

These myths have been around for centuries upon centuries, but why since they are untrue?

Tomorrow we’re going to look at an item that is not false and existed during the time of Paul, we’ll look at…

Romans 15
Paul’s Reason for Writing

1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

“Not to please ourselves” – not that a Christian should never please himself, but that he should not insist on doing what he wants without regard to the scruples of other Christians.

2 Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.

3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.

“Christ pleased not himself” – He came to do the will of the Father, not His own will.

4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Here Paul defends his application of Ps 69:9 to Christ.  In so doing, he states a great truth concerning the purpose of Scripture: It was written for our instruction, so that as we patiently endure we might be encouraged to hold our hope in Christ.

5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:

“To be likeminded” – not that believers should all come to the same conclusions on the matters of conscience discussed above, but that they might agree to disagree in love.

6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:

9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.

Prometheus (1868 by Gustave Moreau).
The myth of Prometheus first was attested by Hesiod and then constituted the basis for a tragic trilogy of plays, possibly by Aeschylus, consisting of Prometheus Bound, Prometheus Unbound, and Prometheus Pyrphoros.

10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.

11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.

12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.

13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

“God of hope” – any hope the Christian has comes from God.

14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,

16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

17 I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.

“I have therefore whereof I may glory” – Paul wasn’t boasting of his own achievements but of what Christ had accomplished through him.

18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,

19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All), a depiction of the god of love, Eros. By Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, circa 1601–1602.

20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:

21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.

22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.

23 But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;

24 Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.

“To be brought on my way thitherward by you” – Paul wanted to use the Roman church as a base of operations for a mission to Spain.

25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

“Minister unto the saints” – Paul wanted to present the gift personally to the Jerusalem church.  The gift needed interpretation.  It was not merely money; it represented the love and concern of the Gentile churches for their Jewish brothers and sisters.

The Roman poet Virgil, here depicted in the fifth-century manuscript, the Vergilius Romanus, preserved details of Greek mythology in many of his writings.

26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

28 When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.

29 And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;

31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;

32 That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.

33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Roman Monsters

Roman mythology is very similar to the Greeks. As noted yesterday, they had the same ideas but different names for the Gods and Goddesses. Below is a list of the most common Roman monsters.

Centaur

Considered savage and violent, these beings are half man and half horse. They live in the mountains and forests, their food is raw flesh, and their behavior is bestial.

The centaurs are known for their drunkenness and lust and are often portrayed as followers of Dionysus, god of wine.

Two centaurs, Chiron and Pholus, were not the brutal beasts as their lineage destined, but rather were hospitable, charitable, and loved their fellows, shunning violence.

Centaurs are known for their battling against Heracles and were featured in some legends concerning abductions.

Nessus had given Dejanira, the wife of Heracles, a small bottle filled with his own blood, telling her that if she ever found that her husband ceased to love her, she could restore his affection by using it.

However, this blood was poison to the touch and in some legends destroyed Heracles.

A version of this story can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Cerberus

Cerberus is the watchdog of the realm of Hades, generally described as being a three-headed dog with a serpent tail, and on his back innumerable snakes’ heads.

He is believed to be the son of Echidna and Typhon, brother of Orthrus, the monstrous dog of Geryon, of the Hydra of Lerna, and of the Nemean lion.

Chained in front of the gates of the Underworld, he terrorizes souls upon their entering. You can catch a glimpse of him in Virgil’s Aeneid, Book VI (Aeneas’ journey into the underworld) and in Dante’s Inferno.

In other stories, Cerberus was bested by men such as Heracles and Orpheus. He stops barking if you throw him some bread soaked in wine.

“To give a sop to Cerberus” means to present someone who is likely to cause trouble with a gift in order to keep him quiet, but this works best on dogs.

Chimaera

This monster is a legendary beast taking its shape from both a goat and a lion.

Some stories say that it had the hindquarters of a snake and the head of a lion on the body of a goat. Others claimed that it had two heads, one goat and one lion, and it breathed fire.

This being was brought up by Amisodares, the king of Caria at Patera.

The king of Lycia, Iobates, commanded Bellerophon to kill it since the monster made many raids on his kingdom; with the help of Pegasus, the winged horse, Bellerophon succeeded.

The Chimaera often appears in architecture, although the monster is usually greatly changed from the form known to classical mythology.

Cyclops

These beings are giants with one enormous eye in the middle of their forehead. In Hesiod, the three sons – Arges, Brontes, and Steropes – of Uranus and Gaea, the personifications of heaven and earth, were Cyclopes.

They were thrown into the underworld by their brother Cronus, one of the Titans, after he dethroned Uranus. Zeus released the Cyclopes from the underworld and they gave him the gifts of thunder and lightning.

In Alexandrine poetry, the Cyclopes were considered merely as subordinate spirits: smiths and craftsmen who made the weapons for the gods. They forged Zeus’ lightning bolts. In Homer’s Odyssey, the Cyclopes are shepherds from Sicily.

They are lawless, savage and cannibalistic. They fear neither gods nor humans. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus is trapped in the cave of the Cyclops Polyphemus, a son of Poseidon.

In order to escape from the cave Odysseus blinds him, incurring further wrath from Poseidon. Ovid portrays Polyphemus as a bit of a moron in love.

Echidna

Half woman half snake, known as the “Mother of All Monsters” because many of the more famous monsters in Greek myth were mothered by her. Hesiod’s Theogony described her as:

[…] the goddess fierce Echidna who is half a nymph with glancing eyes and fair cheeks, and half again a huge snake, great and awful, with speckled skin, eating raw flesh beneath the secret parts of the holy earth.

And there she has cave deep down under a hollow rock far from the deathless gods and mortal men. There, then, did the gods appoint her a glorious house to dwell in: and she keeps guard in Arima beneath the earth, grim Echidna, a nymph who dies not nor grows old all her days.

She is most likely the mother of all monsters. She had the head of a beautiful nymph and body of a snake.

Gorgons

A female creature. The name derives from the ancient Greek word gorgós, which means “dreadful”.

While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature and occur in the earliest examples of Greek literature. 

The term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair made of living, venomous snakes, as well as a horrifying visage that turned those who beheld her to stone.

Traditionally, while two of the Gorgons were immortal, Stheno and Euryale, their sister Medusa was not, and she was slain by the demigod and hero Perseus.

Gorgons were a popular image in Greek mythology, appearing in the earliest of written records of Ancient Greek religious beliefs such as those of Homer, which may date to as early as 1194–1184 B.C.

Because of their legendary and powerful gaze that could turn one to stone, images of the Gorgons were put upon objects and buildings for protection.

An image of a Gorgon holds the primary location at the pediment of the temple at Corfu, which is the oldest stone pediment in Greece, and is dated to c. 600 BC.

Griffin

The griffin is a fascinating mythical creature whose roots reach from western Europe to the Eastern edges of India and beyond.

In any mythology, the griffin is portrayed as a mix between an eagle and a lion. In all cases, this creature is shown as having the head of an eagle and the body of a lion, but from there the other specific features are in debate.

The most common portrayal of the griffin in mythology is a creature with the body and regal, kingly mythical creature who commanded deep respect.

Griffin mythology reads a lot like dragon mythology in that griffins were thought to be very wise and wily characters who spent a good deal of time seeking out and guarding gold and treasures.

Other legends have the griffin as a trickster, much like the Sphinx, who would challenge people with riddles in a contest of wits. The winners would get to keep their lives and treasures, and the losers…wouldn’t. 

Harpies

Harpies are birds with the heads of women, long claws, faces pale with hunger, and they leave behind filth and stench. They were originally sent by Zeus/Jove to torment a blinded soothsayer, Phineas.

Driven away by the heroes of the Argonaut expedition, they took refuge on an island on which that Aeneas lands in Virgil’s Aeneid, Book III. Aeneas and his men see goats and oxen first, and so slaughter a batch and plan a barbecue, being sure to say grace:

“Then call the gods for partners of our feast” (a line that echoes Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book XV – in a section describing Pythagoras’ vegetarian doctrine!).

The Harpies “snatch the meat, defiling all they find, and parting leave a loathsome stench behind.”

In other words, every time Aeneas tries to get the picnic going, the Harpies crap all over the food. So they prepare an all-out war with the birds.

Hydra

This monster was also the spawn of Echidna and Typhon, a snake with numerous heads that were sometimes said to be human as well. It was brought up near the source of the river Amymone in order to provide a test for Heracles.

The breath of the Hydra was so venomous that anyone who approached it would die, even if the monster was sleeping. Heracles thought to destroy it by cutting off its heads, but as soon as he did so more heads grew in their place.

Therefore Heracles seared the bleeding necks of the monster with a torch in order to prevent growth that way.

According to some legends one of the heads was immortal, but Heracles cut it off anyway and buried it deep in the earth.

Heracles also dipped his arrowheads in the Hydra’s blood and made them extremely poisonous. The term hydra is commonly applied to any complex situation or problem that continually poses compounded difficulties.

Lamia

Somewhat vampirical, this was a female monster who was thought to steal children and drink their blood.

She was thought to have a woman’s head and breasts, but a serpent’s body.

In some accounts she was one of Zeus’ lovers who bore him children.

Hera, in fits of jealousy, caused each child that was born to die. In despair, Lamia became a monster jealous of mothers more fortunate than herself.

So she devoured their children. Female spirits which attached themselves to children in order to suck their blood were also called Lamiae.

 

 

 

Medusa

Once a beautiful woman, Medusa was the child of Phorcys and Ceto. Of the three sisters, the gorgons, Medusa was the only mortal. Their hair was a mass of serpents; they had huge tusks, hands of bronze, and golden wings enabling them to fly.

Anyone who encountered their gaze was turned to stone immediately from a horrible fear and loathing. Poseidon was the only immortal not fearful of Medusa since he fathered a child with her.

Medusa was defeated by Perseus, who managed to chop off her head by looking at her through a looking-glass, which was most likely a bronze shield. This story can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Athena made use of Medusa’s head by fixing it to the center of her shield or her aegis. People of today sometimes call a person a gorgon, meaning that her aspect is so stern and forbidding that it almost turns one to stone.

There is a Freudian explanation for the “horror” image of the Medusa head, but it may make more sense as an image of a justifiably enraged woman.

Minotaur

The Minotaur was a beast that had the body of a man and the head of a bull. Legend has it that King Minos of Crete tried to cheat Poseidon by begging for a beautiful white bull for sacrifice to the gods.

However, when Minos got hold of this bull he put it in with his own herds. Very angry, Poseidon caused Minos’ wife to fall in love with the bull and become its lover. The Minotaur was the result of this weird union.

The Labyrinth was built in order to house the beast and each year he was fed with seven boys and seven girls who were the tribute exacted by Minos from Athens.

Theseus was able to defeat the Minotaur with the help of Ariadne, King Minos’ daughter.

She gave him a skein of thread and a sword so that he might kill the monster and then retrace his steps back through the labyrinth.

Pegasus

One of the best known mythological creatures in Greek mythology. He is a winged divine stallion usually depicted as pure white in color. He was sired by Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and foaled by the Gorgon Medusa.

He was the brother of Chrysaor, born at a single birthing when his mother was decapitated by Perseus.

Greco-Roman poets write about his ascent to heaven after his birth and his obeisance to Zeus, king of the gods, who instructed him to bring lightning and thunder from Olympus.

Friend of the Muses, Pegasus is the creator of Hippocrene, the fountain on Mt. Helicon. He was captured by the Greek hero Bellerophon near the fountain Peirene with the help of Athena and Poseidon.

Pegasus allows the hero to ride him to defeat a monster, the Chimera, before realizing many other exploits. His rider, however, falls off his back trying to reach Mount Olympus. Zeus transformed him into the constellation Pegasus and placed him up in the sky.

Hypotheses have been proposed regarding its relationship with the Muses, the gods Athena, Poseidon, Zeus, Apollo, and the hero Perseus.

The symbolism of Pegasus varies with time. Symbol of wisdom and especially of fame from the Middle Ages until the Renaissance, he became one symbol of the poetry and the creator of sources in which the poets come to draw inspiration, particularly in the 19th century.

Pegasus is the subject of a very rich iconography, especially through the ancient Greek pottery and paintings and sculptures of the Renaissance.

Personification of the water, solar myth, or shaman mount, Carl Jung and his followers have seen in Pegasus a profound symbolic esoteric in relation to the spiritual energy that allows to access to the realm of the gods on Mount Olympus.

Sphinx

This monster was said to have the face of a woman; the chest, feet, and tail of a lion; and wings of a bird. It was thought that the Sphinx was the child of Echidna and Orthrus, but it was also said to be fathered by Typhon.

This monster was sent to Thebes by Hera to punish the city for the crime of Laius, who had been guilty of loving Pelops’ son. The Sphinx devoured every mortal who passed by within reach, but it would ask passers-by this riddle:

“What is it that has four feet in the morning, two at noon, and three at night?” If they couldn’t solve the riddle they died. Only Oedipus was able to solve it: humans crawl on all fours in infancy, attain bipedal status, and late in life walk with a cane.

In despair the Sphinx threw itself from the top of a rock and killed itself.

In ancient Egypt, sphinxes were statues representing deities, with the body of a lion and the head of some other animal or of man, frequently a likeness of the king.

 

The Nemean Lion

A vicious monster in Greek mythology that lived at Nemea. It was eventually killed by Heracles.

It could not be killed with mortal weapons because its golden fur was impervious to attack. Its claws were sharper than mortal swords and could cut through any armor.

Nowadays lions are not part of the Greek fauna (or the fauna of Europe whatsoever).

However according to Herodotus, lion populations were extant in Ancient Greece, until around 100 B.C. when they were extinct.

The lion is usually considered to have been the offspring of Typhon (or Orthrus) and Echidna; it is also said to have fallen from the moon as the offspring of Zeus and Selene, or alternatively born of the Chimera.

The Nemean lion was sent to Nemea in the Peloponnesus to terrorize the city. The horrendous lion was killed by Heracles. Hera raised the lion and set it in the region of Nemea, where it ravaged the land, devoured people, and ate the herds.

The legends state that no weapon could penetrate the lion’s pelt. Therefore, Heracles strangled the lion in the cave it lived in and flayed it. He then clad himself in its skin and used the head as his helmet.

…the Erastus inscription.