Heathen Anticipations of the Messiah
Hebrews 1:1-3
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,…

From the remotest ages prophetic utterances, announcing better times and a coming deliverance, had pervaded the ancient world. Such mutilated and ancient prophecies are found amongst the most widely differing nations. It was the hope of the Persians that a time would come, a Messianic time, in which Ahriman would be annihilated, the world renewed, and delivered from all evil; in which all mankind would be converted to a state of obedience to law, and the happy condition of former times restored. The Indians expected, at the end of the present age of sin, the tenth Avatar, that is, incarnation. That of Buddha was the ninth, and this would be an incarnation of Vishnu, who would appear under the name Kalki, overthrow all evil, and restore the happy times which had prevailed at the beginning of the world. Even the Chinese were not without such Messianic hopes. The advent of a great and Holy One in the West is frequently announced in their sacred books — One who was not only to lay down the way of perfection, but also to destroy the ancient idols. Nor were similar expectations less familiar to other Oriental nations. Among the Greeks they were profoundly expressed in the legend of Prometheus. Prometheus chained to the rock, in daily torment, utters the oracle, known to himself alone, that the dominion of the false god Zeus will one day be terminated b, a Son of God, who will be mightier than Zeus, while he himself beholds Hercules as his deliverer in the distant future. But this deliverance — as Hermes announces to him — is not to take place without vicarious suffering: —

"And of that anguish, look not for the end

Before some god shall come to bear thy woes,

And will to pass to Hades' sunless realm

And the dark, cloudy depths of Tartarus."And this is done by Chiron, the most just and wise of the Centaurs, the son of Chronos, sacrificing himself for him, while Hercules kills the eagle at his breast, and so delivers him from his torments. AEschylus made this significant legend the subject of a dramatic trilogy, of which, indeed, only a fragment, the "Prometheus Bound," remains. Enough has, however, been preserved to show us how the deep ideas of the Greek world concerning guilt, atonement, and the redemption of mankind are poetically reflected therein. This poetic legend is indeed almost a prediction of the true Redeemer.

(Prof. Luthardt.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

WEB: God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,

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