Under the Protection of the Dioscuri . . . .
From the Daily Office Lectionary for Friday in the week of Proper 16, Year 1 (Pentecost 13, 2015)
Acts 28:11 ~ Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead.
One of the things I most love about Holy Scripture are the odd little details that its writers throw in; this is true for both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures in the Bible, and it is true for the Scriptures of other faiths. I sometimes wonder if there is point to them, or if they are just odd little details, the sort of thing someone would write down in their diary without much thought other than to report a stray fact.
This is particularly so with Luke’s mention of the ship’s figurehead of the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux. Is this just something he noted in his journal and then repeated when transcribing his diary notes into his history for Theophilos? Or is he saying something about the faith of the Alexandrian ship captain and his crew? Something about Paul’s (and his own) open-mindedness in sailing on a Gentile ship under the protection of pagan demi-gods? Something about the Dioscuri themselves.
The myths about the Twins, the children of Leda and Zeus (who seduced their mother in the form of a swan) are varied and contradictory. One story holds that both are the sons of Zeus; another version says that only Pollux is and that Castor is the son of Leda’s earthly husband Tyndareus. Thus, only Pollux is “naturally” a demi-god but it is said that Pollux bargained with his father to give like status to his half-twin Castor. They have an ambiguous relationship with immortality being required, after their earthly life, to spend half of their time in Pluto’s realm of the dead, Hades, while allowed to spend the other half alive on Olympus with Zeus. They are said to be helpers of humankind, particularly of travelers and sailors; their intervention is sought during times of crisis.
Is Luke suggesting something, some parallelism perhaps, in specifically noting that he and Paul are bringing to Rome the Gospel of the Son of Yahweh on board a ship under the protection of the sons of Zeus? Probably not; his mention of the figurehead of the Twin Brothers is probably just one of those odd little details one records in a diary.