Did Greek Gods Come Before Christianity?

One of the main reasons people stopped worshipping the Greek gods and their Roman counterparts was the rise of Christianity. Christianity is an exclusive faith and was incompatible with the ancient Greek pagan religion. But which of these two major religions came first? 

Greek gods came before Christianity. The Greek gods predated Christianity by at least 700 years. Christianity didn’t start until the 1st century A.D., but the ancient Greek belief system dates to at least 700 B.C. However, the Greek gods are predated by Judaism, which is the basis of Christianity.

This article will take a closer look at the histories of Greek mythology and Christianity. It’ll also examine how early Christians responded to Greek and Roman pagans. Keep reading to learn about the relationship between early Christianity and Greek paganism.

Also see Did Greek or Roman Gods Come First? to learn more.

Zeus statue
When did Christianity start? See below (Image: Zeus)

When Did Greek Mythology Originate?

It’s impossible to know exactly when Greek mythology originates. There aren’t enough written records from Ancient Greece to determine the exact origins of their mythology. Many Greek myths were written around 700 B.C., but the stories are probably much older than that. [1]

Greek mythology as we know it probably originated sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. Hesiod and Homer wrote most of the well-known Greek myths around 700 B.C. The stories could be older, but there are no earlier surviving written records.

Archeological evidence indicates that the Greeks worshiped their pagan gods as early as the 8th century B.C. There are pieces of pottery with mythological stories painted on them and 8th-century-A.D. literature by Hesiod and Homer detail many familiar Greek myths. If Greek mythology is older than 700 B.C., they didn’t write their stories down, or the records didn’t survive the subsequent millennia. 

Greek mythology and its accompanying religion thrived for the next few centuries. Poets wrote more stories based on myths, and pottery and other art forms depict these fantastic stories. As far as historians can tell, the Greeks practiced their pagan religion at least until around 100 B.C.

By the time Christianity arose, the Greek gods had gone by different names. The Roman Empire had absorbed the Greek religion into its own in the 2nd century B.C. and changed the names of the Greek gods to Roman ones.

Zeus became Jupiter, Athena became Minerva, and Artemis became Diana. Greeks still worshipped their gods, but they went by a different name and had slightly different customs to account for the new Roman Empire

Also see Why Do Greek Gods Have Small Genitals? to learn more.

Christian cross in Greece
What did the first Christians think of Greek gods? See below

When Did Christianity Start?

In contrast to Greek mythology, the start of Christianity is easy to identify. [2] The calendar system used today is based on the birth of Jesus Christ. Christianity began during Jesus’s lifetime, as he gathered followers and preached about salvation. 

Christianity started around 30 A.D. during Jesus’s ministry. Jesus taught he was the son of the one and only God, and he gathered hundreds of followers during his lifetime. After his death, his followers spread his message, forming the early Christian church.

However, Christianity is rooted in beliefs and texts much older than Jesus Christ. Christianity grew out of Judaism, which is a significantly older religion.

Judaism predicts that a Messiah will come to save the Jewish people. Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, while Jews believe the Messiah hasn’t yet come. Jesus himself was Jewish, and most of his early followers were Jews.

Judaism is almost 4,000 years old. [3] It began around 2,000 A.D., making it older than Greek mythology. Christians use Jewish texts in their Old Testament, and many of the basic teachings of Christianity come from Judaism. While Christianity is younger than Greek mythology, its roots are much older.

Also see Why Are Greek Gods So Petty? to learn more.

Greek New Testament
The Christian New Testament is written in Greek

What Did the First Christians Think of Greek Gods?

Christianity is an exclusive belief system. While the faith doesn’t support violence, it does encourage its followers to convert non-believers or “make disciples of all nations,” found in Matthew 28:19. Because early Christians believed it was their God-given duty to convert non-believers, there was tension between them and the Greco-Roman pagans.

Early Christians didn’t believe in Greek or Roman gods and didn’t tolerate them, either. The first Christians weren’t violent to Greco-Roman pagans, but they didn’t approve of the pagan religion. Later, Christians in the third and fourth centuries started to outlaw pagan worship.

Christians don’t believe that other world religions are valid. They believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation and heaven. This belief is evident in John 14:6, where Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Christians believe they need to share this message with everyone, regardless of their original religion.

Several portions of the New Testament of the Bible address the conflict between Christians and Greco-Roman pagans. The Apostle Paul, one of the early Christian church leaders, wrote letters to other church leaders experiencing difficulties. Paul’s exploits are also found in Acts, referring to many Greco-Roman gods by name.

In Acts 14, Paul and another Christian heal a disabled man. The people who witness this miracle believe that the Christians are gods incarnate, Zeus and Hermes, disguised as humans.

Paul and his companion react dramatically, tearing their clothes and crying in disgust. They don’t want to be identified with Greek or Roman gods, and they want their Christian god to receive the credit for the miracle.

Later, Paul causes a riot in the city of Ephesus. His preachings against gods made by human hands enrage the silversmiths who craft totems for Artemis or Diana. They riot and threaten to throw Paul and his companions out of the city for daring to speak against Artemis.

In Acts 17, Paul sees a pagan altar inscribed “to the unknown god.” The Greeks and Romans not only absorbed other religions into their own; they included an extra altar in case they were missing any gods. Paul responds by telling the people that the true God doesn’t live in a temple and doesn’t need human offerings.

Most early Christians followed Paul’s example. They weren’t violent to practitioners of Greek paganism, but they didn’t approve of the religion, either. The early Christians didn’t want to be associated with paganism because they considered it false and blasphemous. They wanted the Greek pagans to see the truth and follow Christianity instead. 


Greek mythology predates Christianity, and Christianity is one of the main reasons Greek mythology is not a widely practiced religion.

Also see Did Greek Gods Sleep? to learn more.

[1] Source
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