Zeus & Ganymede Logos Side-by-Side in Q Apocalypse

In response to a commenter I did some more investigating into the Q source as it relates to Jesus’ acceptance of gay and lesbian believers in Luke 17.  I discovered something very interesting.

As I have described elsewhere, the Q Hypothesis states that Matthew and Luke had two sources from which they worked, the Gospel of Mark and Q. It is not known whether Q was a written source or an oral tradition, although it seems that scholars who subscribe to the Q Hypothesis believe more and more that it was a written document.

John Kloppenborg is the recognized authority on the Q Hypothesis. According to his understanding, the lightning and the eagles actually were side-by-side in the Q source. Kloppenborg accepts the vultures/corpse rendering of verse 37, which I disagree with, but the important thing here is that the Zeus-Ganymede symbols appear together in Q. In Kloppenborg’s reconstruction of Q, these Roman religious symbols of same-sex relationships appear at the beginning of the Q Apocalypse.

For as the lightning streaks out from Sunrise and flashes as far as Sunset, so will be the Son of man on his day.  Wherever the σωμα is, there the αετοι will gather.

A paraphrase referencing the second coming of Christ would run something like this: “When Christ returns he will be as visible as lightning flashing across the sky, and where he is, the eagles–the elect–will flock to his side.” The lightning and the eagles were also the recognizable logos of the chief Roman god and his intimate male companion.

What we need to avoid is the idea that a passage of Scripture has one, single meaning, or a single function that excludes all other functions. For example, two familiar Messianic prophecies come to mind: “Out of Egypt have I called my son” and “And a young woman shall be with child.” While both of these are concern the prophesied Messiah, each prophecy had a double function, each one also had concrete referents and fulfillments in the history of Israel. Similarly, promises made to Israel are often legitimately appropriated by Christian believers today. Again, the Kingdom of God has a double sense of being present in the here and now, but also awaiting a future fulfillment. Without denying the historical Hagar, Paul himself saw another layer of meaning in her story.

Similar to these multiple meanings and applications, the Zeus and Ganymede symbolism has a double function. First, it describes the second coming of Christ, and second, it points to the central theme of Luke’s Small Apocalypse: that the celibacy of gay and lesbian believers is not a criteria for judgment when Christ returns.

Kloppenborg’s reconstruction of the Q reading is not essential to my thesis. Whether the lightning and the eagles were side-by-side at the beginning of this pericope or were separately present at the very beginning (v 23) and the very end (v 37) in a non-Q understanding, their place in communicating to us the same-sex theme is, to me, unmistakeable.  And according to Koppelborg’s reconstruction of Q, Zeus and Ganymede really can be uttered in the same breath.


About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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2 Responses to Zeus & Ganymede Logos Side-by-Side in Q Apocalypse

  1. rjwalker says:

    >>What we need to avoid is the idea that a passage of Scripture has one, single meaning, or a single function that excludes all other functions.

    I have had great difficulty and little success sharing that idea with my more conservative Christian friends – I suppose when one is used to, or driven to, literal reading, the possibility of multiple meanings is usually beyond one’s ken.

    Strangely (or perhaps not) I get pretty much the same response from my fact-fundamentalist “science is everything” friends. Both groups seem to believe Robert Frost actually meant “good fences make good neighbors…!

    Of course, with my conservative literalist Christian friends, maybe I shouldn’t start with trying to get them to understand that (i) John 14:6 is a metaphor, not a statement of objective fact, and (2) it doesn’t say “To get to heaven you have to accept me as your personal savior.”

    And they simply don’t seem capable of understanding that when you read the Bible as having multiple, layered, and even alternative meanings. Sort of like explaining “red” to a color blind person. (They usually don’t even get that simile!)


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Yes, the similarity of fact-fundamentalists and religious-fundamentalists. I feel certain that the similarity is all in how their brains are built. So, if my companions are color blind, I learn not to rely on them for things related to color, but they have their place in my community. People who see the world in black-and-white really are color blind…intellectually…and I learn not to rely on them for things related to, to what, ideas? philosophy? but they also have their place in my community, or at least the wider human community.

      That’s what embracing diversity means, embracing people who are really, really different from me. Once I can grant them a place in life–even if their “use” totally escapes me–I may eventually understand what their “use” is. And if I never do get to a really emotional appreciation for their place in the human community, guess what–their value doesn’t depend on whether or not I understand it.

      This has been particularly difficult for me in the realm of religious fundamentalism. Rigidity, narrow-mindedness, etc. What my friends among LGBT allies say, “God doesn’t make mistakes,” holds true for everyone. In some cosmic sense, Fred Phelps is not a mistake. (Don’t ask me to defend that except in the most theoretical sense!)


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