SBC Life Articles

The Parthenon Code

Is there a single, unifying, theme of all human history? If so, what is it? Robert Bowie Johnson Jr. attempts to answer this question with his book, The Parthenon Code.

The ancient Preacher, as he was concluding his appraisal of man's quest for meaning, said, "… of making many books there is no end …" Ecclesiastes 12:12. (I think that the ancient writer may be surprised how many more books there are now, than when he first wrote that). Not only are they numerous; most books are pretty predictable. They go where we expect them to. When a book comes along that breaks new ground, we are inclined to sit up and take notice. I believe that this is just such a book.

This book focuses on an idea unfamiliar to some of us, certainly to me, the history of the line of Cain. It then takes that knowledge and builds upon a familiar base, the history of the "line of Seth;" and it does it in a way that is most interesting! Apparently, learning takes place when the unfamiliar is joined to the familiar. Of course, the history of Seth's family line is detailed in the Bible. In essence, the book breaks unfamiliar ground while deferring to old knowledge — the teaching of the Bible.

The Parthenon Code traces the two tendencies in human-kind. One tendency is to yield to, or acquiesce to, God. The other tendency is to rebel against, or resist, Him. That tendency is found in every human heart.

Johnson believes that both the Book of Genesis and the artwork found on the Parthenon are telling the same story — but from a reversed perspective. He writes that Genesis tells the story of the submissive, "the line of Seth." The Parthenon, meanwhile, tells the story of those who resist the God of the Bible, the "line of Cain," (spelled "Kain" in some non-biblical material).

The author compares the art found on ancient Greek vases with the statuary found on the Parthenon, and discerns a detailed story of the Greek gods and their resistance to and struggle against the God of the Bible. A common, unambiguous story, opposite from that told in Scripture, is detected when that evaluation is made. It is a story in which the God of Noah — the God of Seth — is actually defeated by the Greek gods!

The struggle between two lines is, of course, consistent with biblical emphasis. In the Old Testament we are told of what is referred to as the "line of Cain" and are introduced to a people who are unified principally around their common resistance to God. We are also introduced to those who submit to the Lord, who are referred to as the "line of Seth."

The story of the "line of Seth" leads unsurprisingly to the biblical teaching of the Kingdom of God. At its very minimum, the Kingdom of God refers to God's rule of life. The willing subjects of that Kingdom are those who are submissive to God, who bow beneath His Kingship. Those who are outside the Kingdom are those who resist God's rule of them. They continually resist His rule of their life, and are habitual rebels to God.

The Scriptures teach that this works itself out individually when one repents of his sin, or rebellion, and believes in the Lord. He confesses, or agrees together with God — he stops arguing for his own way, and takes God's offer of an alternate path to follow. Putting down his arms figuratively, he bows to the Lordship of Christ, believing in Him as both Lord and Savior. This lies at the heart of what has been called "Lordship salvation." The premise is that one must bow to the Lordship of Christ or that one is not truly repentant and is not truly saved.

I believe that the challenge to the concept of submission, which has become popular among some, is very dangerous in that one of the marks of a Christian is submission to the Lordship of Christ!

Yet, we never seem to get over the tendency to resist God. The division among men is not gender-related, or racial, or economic, or national — it is personal. That makes sense of Paul's harder teaching on the activity of the principle of sin, even among believers. Some Arminian writers describe that tendency as a signal one has "fallen from grace," or become "reprobate." They confuse the resistance as though it is found only within unbelievers. I believe, and I think Baptists join me, in understanding that this resistance is located in every man's heart.

Many spiritual leaders don't seem to understand it, but this struggle transcends theological debate — in our sociological setting it is what the Culture War is all about. Western culture is divided between those of us who are committed to the right of God to direct our lives, including our public lives, and those who believe that direction is to be resisted. It isn't just about politics or public policy. Cynics dismiss the question by saying "It's just politics." That approach betrays a great biblical or spiritual misconception.

I couldn't agree more with Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who said in a recent essay:

"We are no longer one nation. A nation is not a racial grouping but a grouping of people with common beliefs and value systems. That makes us two nations occupying the same piece of real estate.

"… I stress that this divide is not about skin color … The divide is about values. There are blacks and whites on both sides just as there are men and women on both sides. …

"Mainstream media regularly resuscitate the hoary old myth that divorce plagues the Bible belt at higher than the national average. They do so, again, by averaging out the entire population of those states they consider to be the "Bible belt." In reality, some of the citizens of Alabama and Mississippi are religious while others are secular. It doesn't surprise me that secular citizens in the south divorce more than their secular northern counterparts. Economics does play a role in divorce. …

"Viewing us Americans as just one country and averaging all the figures together still makes us look only a little worse than other countries. America is pulled down by its dysfunctional secular half."

The Parthenon Code points to a struggle portrayed in ancient art, the reality of which continues to plague us today.

This book is worthwhile. I recommend you spend time reading and studying it. It is clearly grasped once the reader understands the premise unfamiliar to some. I think you will be helped by that understanding, both of the familiar, and also of the unfamiliar.

    About the Author

  • A. William Merrell