Dionysus, not Jesus

Saul, who became Paul, was on the hunt for followers of Jesus in order to imprison and execute them. During this journey on the desert road to Damascus, he suddenly encountered someone claiming to be Jesus, the Messiah. This supposed Jesus spoke from Heaven, saying, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." We all know the story. I already analyzed the variations of this testimony in a three-part expose.[1] In this addendum, I hope to reveal to the reader the truth of the source of what Paul "heard." 

On GotQuestions' website, one can find short articles that offer explanations to common, and sometimes challenging, questions people have. In one article, the question "What does it mean to kick against the pricks?" is answered in an unsatisfactory way.[2] It's unsatisfactory because, as I'll reveal, an important, damning detail is omitted.

“It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, but it was also familiar to the Jews and anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. Thus, Jesus’ words to Saul on the road to Damascus: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”

The reader may be confused as to what historical detail is being omitted and why it matters. After all, "We all know Paul's story. What's the deal?" Perhaps an honest pastor would mention the Greek source of the statement Paul heard "Jesus" say; the "layman" would have no reason to be suspicious of this for the simple fact they're bombarded with Pro-Paul Propaganda. First, Paul is championed as a hero of the faith, having endured a great deal of persecution and seeming misunderstanding; despite all of this, he did many wonderful miracles, wrote thirteen "inspired" epistles, and is responsible for bringing "the gospel" to the Gentiles (something the other 12 were apparently incapable of doing). The article is telling us all we can learn from the accounts given in Acts. The clause itself is found in two places, Acts 9:5 and 26:14 (again, read my three-part expose to see what incongruences there are). So what's my issue with this? Am I just nitpicking about semantics? The issue is precisely the fact that what Paul heard from Heaven is a Greek proverb. But it's not just merely a Greek proverb found in two accounts of the Book of Acts. The implications of this scene go beyond what Paul may have heard. It also informs his idea of who Jesus is. In Paul:The Mind of the Apostle[3], by A.N. Wilson, we learn the following, which isn't mentioned by the writer of the GotQuestions article:

Euripides :  "kicks against the pricks" (Euripides, Bacchae.)

Aeschylus:. "kicks against the pricks." (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1624.)

Acts 26:13 "kicks against the pricks" (Luke quoting Paul's vision account)

Note on Euripides: The context is that Dionysus discards his divine nature and walks in the human world disguised…Dionysus, the god disguised in human form, tells him that his efforts to resist the new movement will be completely worthless; he is not contending against flesh and blood, but against a god. “You are mortal, he is a god. If I were you, I would control my rage and sacrifice to him, rather than kick against the pricks” [From Euripides, The Bacchae].

In Paul's mind, he's speaking to a "god-man." This "god-man" says, "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." The larger context of the Greek "proverb" being spoken to Paul is that a false, pagan god-man deity is speaking. Several questions arose in my mind when I discovered these details: Is Paul actually hearing and seeing Jesus? What are the odds that a Hebrew-speaking Jew who we call Messiah would speak from Heaven, citing a Greek, pagan false god, in order to call a zealous murderer to change his course of life? 

Not only is Paul putting the words of a Greek god in the mouth of the Jewish Messiah, he's also morphing the human Messiah into that same god. Is it any surprise Paul's Jesus in Philippians 2 has the same nature as Dionysus, a being who, although in the form of "god" allegedly lays aside divine prerogatives in order to walk in a human form?[5] We should be free to at least speculate whether or not Paul invented this scenario based on his expansive knowledge of Greek literature (which he quotes often);[4] we should wonder if the Jesus Paul envisioned wasn't a re-invention of a Greek deity. This makes far more sense than him actually seeing the ascended Messiah.[6]

Maybe the silliest part of the GotQuestions article is this observation at the end:

There is a powerful lesson in the ancient Greek proverb. We, too, find it hard to kick against the goads. Solomon wrote, “Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path” (Proverbs 15:10). When we choose to disobey God, we become like the rebellious ox—driving the goad deeper and deeper. “The way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15).

To be sure, I have no issue learning powerful lessons from extra-Biblical sources. The problem is when those sources are put in the mouth of the son of God. Again, why would Jesus quote a Greek play, using the words of a false deity, to awaken someone from a hurtful course? It'd make far more sense culturally to speak from inspiration, citing one's own Scripture. We should expect Jesus quote the same words of wisdom found in the article: "Saul, Saul, 'stern disciple awaits him who leaves the path'," or, "Saul, Saul, 'The way of the unfaithful is hard'." This would've made greater sense. 

One possible rebuttal would be that because Paul was learned in Greek literature, Jesus could've used that as a means of "relating" to Paul. But this is asinine. Paul was a foremost Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamim. He'd studied under Gamaliel. He heard a voice in Hebrew. The issue is that this Hebrew voice was quoting a Greek play--a Greek god nonetheless. To me, it's suspicious; an honest person reading this should be suspicious, too. 


Is your Jesus the actual Jesus of history, or is he a Greek-god-quoting "god-man" from the pages of Greek literature? 


[1] Damascus Road: Part A; Damascus Road: Part B; Damascus Road: Part C

[2] What Does It Mean to Kick Against the Pricks?

[3]  W. W. Norton & Co., N.Y., 1997, pp. 75-76.

[4] Pagan Influences in the Writings of Paul

[5] Antichrist Proto-Docetism

[6] Something the Messiah himself said would be impossible--see "Damascus Road: Part A"


This is an on going study and is subject to revisions according to further studies.