A polytheist’s take on Jesus

Since this is a festive season for Christians, I thought it was a good time to share my thoughts on Jesus. Now some may ask how can I be a Roman polytheist and believe in the son of the Christian god, but as said here and here, I’m not an exclusivist, I don’t generally deny the existence of a deity, and belief doesn’t mean worship. You can recognize divinity without paying tribute to it, much like you can recognize people without having a relationship with every single one of them. And this means that I take Jesus to be a god in His own right and, though I do not worship Him, I nonetheless have a perception of Him.

If I had to sum it up, I’d say that Jesus is a god of the poor and outcast who looks kindly on those who help or protect them. The Sermon of the Mount is pretty much a give-away: blessed are the poor in spirit, the gentle, the hungry and thirsty for justice, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted (Matthew 5:1-12). Elsewhere in the Bible is it also said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of the Christian god (Matthew 19:23-4). This is an enunciation of who has access to Jesus’ own paradise and therefore what are the things He presides over or who are the people He looks after. And from a polytheistic point of view, He does so without exclusivity, as His focus is shared by other gods: Anubis is said to be a protector of orphans, Feronia, Diana, and Liber Pater were popular among slaves and freedmen, Zeus and Jupiter watch over oaths and laws and are therefore called upon by those seeking justice. Nothing new here, since different gods have overlapping focuses, both between different cultures and within the same pantheon: Juno and Diana are both linked to the moon, Ingui-Freyr and Sunna share a solar role, and Hermes has common ground with Thoth and Anubis (to the point of a syncretic Hermanubis).

Of course, it’s interesting to notice how a god of the poor and outcast was changed just by being part of a monotheistic system. For if Christian monopoly meant there was only one divine option, how would that play with the wealthy, the rich in spirit, the soldiers, the guards and judges, the tax collectors, the merchants, and the rulers? In essence, people needed for a functioning society that Christianity integrated and became a part of. If those who were neither poor nor outcast could not worship others gods, than the solution was to transform the only divine option allowed. In other words, Jesus’ roles were expanded and the poor wandering Jew became a protector of monarchs, a king Himself, and a war god as well (remember the Crusades?); and in this He was aided by the implosion of Christian monotheism, which created a pantheon of saints and angels who assisted people in all of those worldly concerns such as health, wealth, trade, travelling, farming, and fortune. It also had a social effect, in that rich people had a motivation to reach out towards the lower social strata, if not in their life-time at least in their death beds, resulting in a huge number of donations and charity works. Not that rich and military people went extinct: more than anything, Christianity became part of a pre-existing society that remained very much the same, and Jesus was adapted to fit into that new reality. He started by appealing to the poor, the outcast, and those who looked kindly on them, but when He was given a monopoly of the divine, He was forced to adapt in order to respond to the needs of the entire social spectrum.

Since I’m a polytheist, I don’t have that problem, so to me Jesus is one god among many who focuses on things that are also among the concerns of other gods. Ironically, a polytheistic Jesus is much more honest and genuine than a monotheistic one because He doesn’t have to look after the wealthy and the powerful: He can stay focused on the poor, the outcast, and the peacemakers. Why don’t I worship Him? Well, because I’m usually not on good terms with many of His priests and followers, I have no reason to pay Him tribute, and His “functions” are already covered by gods with whom I have a much closer relationship (Anubis, Mercury, Jupiter, etc.). This may come across as confusing for Christians or any other monotheists, but that is just how it is when you’re a non-exclusivist polytheist who has as his first “article of faith” the freedom to chose which deities to worship. At best, I might pay my respects to Jesus in the name of a family member, namely an ancestor, since that could be part of the pietas or one’s duties towards his communities (in this case, his relatives).

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3 thoughts on “A polytheist’s take on Jesus

  1. You could call me a “Christian” polytheist in some respects. 🙂 I worship Yeshua, though it’s taken me a while to become comfortable with it. I still struggle, as my main worship is with the Greek deities. In my own readings of the New Testament (well, and the OT), I see nothing that denies other gods. Yes, the Hebrew god chose his people and told them to worship him above all others… but even in the most stringent of translations, that admits to the existence of other gods. 🙂 Jesus says the way to the Father is through him, but doesn’t say and doesn’t even seem to imply that the Father is all there is. There’s the quote often used: my Father’s house has many mansions. I tend to see that as a statement made by a good Jew boy to explain to the Jews and Greeks that there was room for all.

    I think, as polytheists, it’s wrong to deny the existence of any god. Sure, don’t worship them (there are plenty I don’t give lip service to), but that doesn’t mean they ain’t there. 😉

    • I’m sure there are historical precedents from Classical Antiquity of Greek polytheists worshiping Jesus along with more traditional gods. And if there is no precendent, at least the phylosophy or theology of openness is there. So keep it up 😉

      • LOL… Not like I was given much choice in the matter. I was quite happy being a moderate Hellenic polytheist. 🙂 But such is life. Gods grab and direct you where they will. I know that the Romans had minor spots set up for Yeshua worship, provided it was done alongside all the other important gods. Not sure how long that went on for. In any case, it seems to work out mostly okay in my case. I happen to be an interfaith minister, so … in a way, I gain much perspective from this.

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