Renaissance Humanists rediscovered Plutarch and Rabelais' Fourth Boook of Pantagruel's adventures quotes at length a famous anecdote from The Failure of the Oracles (Moralia, 5-29), about a divine voice commanding one Thamous to proclaim the death of the great god Pan in Palodes (the seafront of Buthrotum, at the outlet of lake Butrint; present-day Albania).
Did Rabelais give a tongue-in-cheek explanation of the incident;
that the voice heralded the crucifixion of Jesus while it was taking place in Jerusalem?
If so, who did he think was the great Pan in Plutarch's story? Was he the same hero for whom Pantagruel apparently sheds tears?
From fullbooks.com, unknown translator:
Chapter 28: How Pantagruel related a very sad story of the death of the heroes.
Epitherses, the father of Aemilian the rhetorician, sailing from Greece to Italy in a ship freighted with divers goods and passengers, at night the wind failed 'em near the Echinades, some islands that lie between the Morea and Tunis, and the vessel was driven near Paxos. When they were got thither, some of the passengers being asleep, others awake, the rest eating and drinking, a voice was heard that called aloud, Thamous! which cry surprised them all. This same Thamous was their pilot, an Egyptian by birth, but known by name only to some few travellers. The voice was heard a second time calling Thamous, in a frightful tone; and none making answer, but trembling and remaining silent, the voice was heard a third time, more dreadful than before.
This caused Thamous to answer: Here am I; what dost thou call me for? What wilt thou have me do? Then the voice, louder than before, bid him publish when he should come to Palodes, that the great god Pan was dead.
[...] Thamous said his advice was that if they happened to have a fair wind they should proceed without mentioning a word on't, but if they chanced to be becalmed he would publish what he had heard. Now when they were near Palodes they had no wind, neither were they in any current. Thamous then getting up on the top of the ship's forecastle, and casting his eyes on the shore, said that he had been commanded to proclaim that the great god Pan was dead. The words were hardly out of his mouth, when deep groans, great lamentations, and doleful shrieks, not of one person, but of many together, were heard from the land.
The news of this--many being present then--was soon spread at Rome; insomuch that Tiberius, who was then emperor, sent for this Thamous, and having heard him gave credit to his words. And inquiring of the learned in his court and at Rome who was that Pan, he found by their relation that he was the son of Mercury and Penelope, as Herodotus and Cicero in his third book of the Nature of the Gods had written before.
Then, Rabelais goes on to explain:
For my part, I understand it of that great Saviour of the faithful who was shamefully put to death at Jerusalem by the envy and wickedness of the doctors, priests, and monks of the Mosaic law. And methinks my interpretation is not improper; for he may lawfully be said in the Greek tongue to be Pan, since he is our all.
[...] The time also concurs with this interpretation of mine; for this most good, most mighty Pan, our only Saviour, died near Jerusalem during the reign of Tiberius Caesar.
A different opinion has been voiced since: Thamous the Egyptian overheard sectators of Tammuz
reenacting the death of their deity and the lament of his consort, cf. Ezekiel 8:14. Cf. also this post to M.S.E: Question 2978.
(Edit) Here is a compatible scenario: the same day that Epitherses crossed to Italy, a train of Levantine boats were doing the same, with plans to make their devotions together the following night.
One of them lagged behind and, seeing the wind slacken, they elected to land in Paxos and celebrate there instead; whereas, they reckoned, the rest of their party would shelter for the night at the mouth of the Butrint canal, not daring to navigate the narrower part of the Straits of Corfu in the dark.
On hearing offers for assistance in Greek from a boat drifting north, the stragglers took the opportunity to dramatize a bit the observances of their chums, and tasked Thamous with a somewhat cryptic message in case he was not an initiate of their cult.
If the worshippers were Lebanese, the incident took place in early Springtime. Which could account for the bafflement of Tiberius: he might have known of the Greek Adonia, however this took place on St John's Eve not Easter, and he need not know the name Adonis was the rendering of Tammuz in Greek.
Rabelais closes the chapter with the following detail:
Pantagruel, having ended this discourse, remained silent and full of contemplation. A little while after we saw the tears flow out of his eyes as big as ostrich's eggs. God take me presently if I tell you one single syllable of a lie in the matter.
This raises the following questions:
Q1. In which season did the incident occur: Easter? Midsummer? When could a ferry-boat bound for Italy get becalmed in the Straits of Corfu after meeting contrary winds and drifting to Paxos?
Q2. Who did first set forth in print, and when, that the passengers and crew actually overheard the yearly weeping for Tammuz?
(Edit) Salomon Reinach alleged to have concocted the hypothesis himself in La mort du grand Pan; Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 1907 (Vol. 31). In a footnote, however, he acknowledged the German folklorist Felix Liebrecht as the 1st (1856) to suggest Thamous the Egyptian misheard Tammuz for his own name. Any earlier contender out there?
Q3. Could Rabelais have heard of this alternative interpretation, and could Pantagruel, a character from French folklore, have favored it over the Christian one?
(Edit) As a priest, he would certainly know of Origen's Commentary on the Book of Ezekiel which ties the Greek Adonis to the Biblical Tammuz and, as a Humanist, Lucian's description of the Byblian variant of the cult.
Q4. Given that chapter 28 is explicitly about the deaths of heroes and that Rabelais does not hail Jesus as one, even if he dubs him the great Pan of Christianity, which hero would Pantagruel be possibly weeping?