Introduction to Athena and Eden


As we look to the basis of our essentially Greek civilization, we find the Parthenon at its focal point. This imposing Classical structure, built during the imperial apogee of our culture’s youth, boasted more sculptural decoration than any other temple in Greek antiquity. And yet, for more than 2,000 years, the true meaning of these depictions has remained hidden beneath distracting myths and explanations which strain our credulity: the lame god Hephaistos cracks open the head of Zeus with his axe and out pops Athena (east pediment), Poseidon and Athena compete in a contest for control of Attika (west pediment), the gods fight the Giants (east metopes), Greeks fight Amazons (west metopes), Lapiths battle centaurs (south metopes), Greeks destroy Troy (north metopes), a great procession presents Athena with an embroidered cloak (the frieze). We don’t understand what these things mean. How incongruous that this should be so!
It is as if a vaunted oak with branches extending across the earth and up into the heavens should look down at the acorn and say, “I don’t recognize you; I don’t understand what you are.”

Let me put it a different way. Charles Freeman, in his book The Greek Achievement, has written, “The Greeks provided the chromosomes of Western civilization.” We know that the Parthenon stood at the very center of Classical Greek civilization, the basis of our own. We should comprehend, intuitively even, what the Parthenon is. And yet one of the great scholars of the ancient Greek world, John Boardman, has written “[T]he Parthenon and its sculptures are the most fully known, if least well understood, of all the monuments of classical antiquity that have survived.” Where is the lost understanding, and how did we lose it?

My aim in this series is to provide that lost understanding. In this first book, Athena and Eden, we are going to learn the surprising identity of Athena and unlock the meaning of the sculptures which graced the east façade of her famous temple. The Greek myths tell us much but the key to their correct interpretations lies elsewhere. Of all places, we find it in the Scriptures, particularly the book of Genesis. As we use this invaluable key to open the door of our Greek past, we shall enter into an inspiring new realm of knowledge. The simple secret is that the book of Genesis and the Parthenon sculptures tell the same story from opposite viewpoints.

The Parthenon is not considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world when, in fact, it should be rated as foremost among the great monuments of our past. Its goddess and its sculptures tell us where we—the human race—have come from and suggest in a most profound way where we are headed. For us, Athena’s temple will seem very much like a time capsule, the contents of which we are at long last beginning to comprehend. Let’s begin our exploration.

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