of Kristen Lindbeck, p. 92-93, Columbia University Press, 1993.
| LEGENDARY AND MIDRASHIC |
| BIBLICAL ELIJAH || HERMES
| Herald of the Messiah or End |
| Will come before "the |
day of the Lord."
Herald of the gods.
Messenger of God, answers when
asked what God is doing; associated
with God as supporter of human
(that is, Rabbinic) initiative—never
punishes chutzpah in relation to
God, though angels do.
|Prophet and, as such, |
God's messenger. He
is also a prophet who
feels free to complain to
God, but is intolerant of
| Messenger of Zeus,
but one who is not
afraid to speak boldly
before him, as he does
in his origin myth.
| Protector of poor/powerless, appearing |
in disguise to fool Gentile
courts or refusing to visit haughty or
unjust Jews in power.
Performed two beneficent
individual widows, both
of whom helped him.
With Zeus, blesses
Philemon and Baucis,
who welcome them in
Gives money to the deserving
unpredictably and not because
specifically appealed to.
Gives a bottomless flour
jar and oil jug to the
widow of Sidon.
| God of financial matters:
a windfall was a
Source of wise proverbs and solves
difficult questions. Later, the word
unresolved in the Talmud is taken to
be an acronym for "until Elijah will
come and solve it."
God of rhetorical arts
and wisdom when
connected to Thoth,
Egyptian god of
Travels between Earth, Eden, and
the heavenly court/academy.
Ascends to heaven |
Travels and mediates
| Occasionally heals. || Heals and revives from |
| Associated with
Asclepius, patron of
| Sometimes portrayed as an angel. || || At times identified as
an angel by Christians
authors and Jewish
| Sometimes appears in dreams. || || Appears in or brings
| Helps travelers in several stories; |
gives advice for prayer when traveling;
is met while traveling.
| Has no fixed address. || Patron of travelers.
| Sometimes fallible in legend, and |
more so in midrash, which holds
Elijah was too harsh.
| Definitely fallible in |
| Will lie or deceive to protect the |
righteous—especially when appearing
in disguise. In midrash it says
that Elijah "stole the key to rain,"
causing the drought he prophesied,
and had to give it back to revive the
| || God of fast-talkers
and thieves; in his
origin myth steals
Apollo's cattle as an
| In two stories found in a graveyard |
or at a tomb—both ritually unclean
| || God of graveyards.
| Once in Bavli, and at least once in |
early medieval sources, acts as God's
| || Heavenly scribe, especially
| On one occasion heralds a rabbi |
new-come to paradise.
| || Guide of souls to
the afterlife, heralds
Once a peacemaker between rabbis.
| Peacemaker (in Malachi). ||
| Not a respecter of authority, helps |
rabbis challenge God. Rescues
rabbis from trouble in clever and
sometimes embarrassing ways.
| || Trickster.