Recently, I watched Clash of the Titans, where Zeus helped the hero defeat the Kraken. This got me thinking about how frequently Zeus is portrayed as a hero in pop culture, even though some myths say otherwise.
Out of curiosity, I hopped on the internet, looking for the truth about this Greek god. Additionally, I borrowed some books from the local library.
Last week, while teaching about biblical references to idols, a student asked me if Zeus was evil. I relied on what I learned and my background in Theology to answer the question.
After the productive discussion I had with my students, I decided to write this article to inform others who may have the same question.
So, is Zeus evil?
The Bible doesn’t talk about Zeus being evil. However, most historians agree that Zeus wasn’t always evil. In the myths, he is portrayed as a complex character who dispenses justice and protects his position as king of the gods. However, he isn’t perfect and often gives in to his lustful tendencies.
Join me in exploring this topic. I’ll discuss Zeus’ evil side and go over some myths. I’ll also address whether it’s right for Christians to believe in Zeus.
Let’s get started.
Is Zeus considered evil or good?
Most historians believe Zeus was both good and evil. They argue that it depends on which side of history you view Zeus’s actions.
For instance, the ancient Greeks believed Zeus was good because he defeated Cronus, dispensed justice, and was the protector of several cities.
However, today, many would classify Zeus as evil, citing his penchant for harsh punishments and infidelity.
Does Zeus have an evil side?
Yes. Historians believe Zeus had an evil side. According to Greek mythology, Zeus could not contain his lust for beautiful mortal women and other goddesses.
For instance, in the myths, Zeus disguised himself as a bull to sleep with Europa and a swan to seduce the Anatolian Princess Leda. Furthermore, Zeus was known to force himself on women.
His most famous victims were Demeter, his sister, and Rhea, his mother (I know… he was a mess).
Some historians see Zeus’ evil side in how he dispensed justice. For instance, as punishment for breaking Xenia (Zeus’ law of hospitality), Zeus punished Sisyphus by forcing him to endlessly push a boulder up a mountain and watch it roll down, forcing him to start over.
Three things Zeus did that were evil
Swallowing his first wife to prevent the birth of his son
According to the Greek myths, Zeus swallowed his first wife, Metis, to prevent the birth of his son. This was in response to a prophecy that this son would someday overthrow Zeus.
In the stories, Zeus convinced Metis to turn into a fly before swallowing her. Unfortunately, Metis was pregnant with Zeus’ daughter, and here’s where the story gets weird.
Metis delivered and raised the girl in Zeus’ mind. She fashioned armor, a shield, and a spear for her. When the girl was old enough, she banged the shield and spear, giving the god a headache.
Zeus ordered Hephastios to cut open his head and release whatever was there. Athena came out, fully grown and clad in armor.
Orchestrating the abduction of his daughter, Persephone
In another story, Zeus raped his sister Demeter and fathered a daughter, Persephone. As usual, Zeus was an absentee father, but this didn’t stop him from planning his daughter’s marriage to Hades.
Zeus knew Demeter wouldn’t agree to this union, so he had Hades (his brother) kidnap Persephone and drag her to the Underworld. Hades then forced Persephone to be his wife.
Demeter found out and left Olympus in search of her daughter. Her actions plunged the world into famine and drought.
Zeus realized the drought would wipe out humanity and leave the gods without worshippers, so he ordered Hades to release Persephone.
Hades, unwilling to lose his wife, tricked Persephone into eating a pomegranate, binding her to the Underworld. As a compromise, Hades and Demeter agreed to share Persephone.
Hades could have her for four months and Demeter the rest.
Chaining Prometheus so an eagle can eat his liver
In this myth, Zeus punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock and sending an eagle to eat his liver, only for it to regrow during the night and get eaten again in the morning.
According to the story, Zeus did this because Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to human beings against Zeus’ orders.
Prometheus was later rescued by Heracles, who killed the eagle.
Can I be a Christian and believe in Zeus?
The Lord hates divided loyalty. He discourages us from dabbling in idolatry, even as a fantasy. Therefore, a Christian who also believes in Zeus risks plunging themselves into syncretism and henotheism.
Both practices are unacceptable before the Lord.
As a theologian, I have always been curious to learn more about the Christian Faith. That is why I pursued a Certificate in Christian Studies, Certificate in Christian Foundations and a Masters in Theology. I also have an immersive experience in editing for numerous websites. I have worked as an editor for over a decade and am currently the editor-in-chief at Christian Faith Guide. I enjoy working as an editor and feel privileged to share my expertise and help spread God’s word. You can read more about me on the about us page.