Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 106forty days' fast was found among them.[177:3]
Fasting and self-denial were observances practiced by all nations of antiquity. The Hindoos have days set apart for fasting on many different occasions throughout the year, one of which is when the birth-day of their Lord and Saviour Crishna is celebrated. On this occasion, the day is spent in fasting and worship. They abstain entirely from food and drink for more than thirty hours, at the end of which Crishna's image is worshiped, and the story of his miraculous birth is read to his hungry worshipers.[177:4]
Among the ancient Egyptians, there were times when the priests submitted to abstinence of the most severe description, being forbidden to eat even bread, and at other times they only ate it mingled with hyssop. "The priests in Heliopolis," says Plutarch, "have many fasts, during which they meditate on divine things."[177:5]
Among the Sabians, fasting was insisted on as an essential act of religion. During the month Tammuz, they were in the habit of fasting from sunrise to sunset, without allowing a morsel of food or drop of liquid to pass their lips.[177:6]
The Jews also had their fasts, and on special occasions they gave themselves up to prolonged fasts and mortifications.
Fasting and self-denial were observances required of the Greeks who desired initiation into the Mysteries. Abstinence from food, chastity and hard couches prepared the neophyte, who broke his fast on the third and fourth day only, on consecrated food.[177:7]
The same practice was found among the ancient Mexicans and Peruvians. Acosta, speaking of them, says:
"These priests and religious men used great fastings, of five and ten days together, before any of their great feasts, and they were unto them as our four ember weeks. . . .
"They drank no wine, and slept little, for the greatest part of their exercises (of penance) were at night, committing great cruelties and martyring themselves for the devil, and all to be reputed great fasters and penitents."[178:1]
In regard to the number of days which Jesus is said to have fasted being specified as forty, this is simply owing to the fact that the number forty as well as seven was a sacred one among most nations of antiquity, particularly among the Jews, and because others had fasted that number of days. For instance; it is related[178:2] that Moses went up into a mountain, "and he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights, and he did neither eat bread, nor drink water," which is to say that he fasted.
In Deuteronomy[178:3] Moses is made to say—for he did not write it, "When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, . . . then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water."
Elijah also had a long fast, which, of course, was continued for a period of forty days and forty nights.[178:4]
St. Joachim, father of the "ever-blessed Virgin Mary," had a long fast, which was also continued for a period of forty days and forty nights. The story is to be found in the apocryphal gospel Protevangelion.[178:5]
The ancient Persians had a religious festival which they annually celebrated, and which they called the "Salutation of Mithras." During this festival, forty days were set apart for thanksgiving and sacrifice.[178:6]
The forty days' fast was found in the New World.
Godfrey Higgins tells us that:
"The ancient Mexicans had a forty days' fast, in memory of one of their sacred persons (Quetzalcoatle) who was tempted (and fasted) forty days on a mountain."[178:7]
Lord Kingsborough says:
"The temptation of Quetzalcoatle, and the fast of forty days, . . . are very curious and mysterious."[178:8]
Mr. Bonwick says:
"The Spaniards were surprised to see the Mexicans keep the vernal forty days' fast. The Tammuz month of Syria was in the spring. The forty days were kept for Proserpine. Thus does history repeat itself."[179:2]
The Spanish monks accounted for what Lord Kingsborough calls "very curious and mysterious" circumstances, by the agency of the devil, and burned all the books containing them, whenever it was in their power.
The forty days' fast was also found among some of the Indian tribes in the New World. Dr. Daniel Brinton tells us that "the females of the Orinoco tribes fasted forty days before marriage,"[179:3] and Prof. Max Müller informs us that it was customary for some of the females of the South American tribes of Indians "to fast before and after the birth of a child," and that, among the Carib-Coudave tribe, in the West Indies, "when a child is born the mother goes presently to work, but the father begins to complain, and takes to his hammock, and there he is visited as though he were sick. He then fasts for forty days."[179:4]
The females belonging to the tribes of the Upper Mississippi, were held unclean for forty days after childbirth.[179:5] The prince of the Tezcuca tribes fasted forty days when he wished an heir to his throne, and the Mandanas supposed it required forty days and forty nights to wash clean the earth at the deluge.[179:6]
The number forty is to be found in a great many instances in the Old Testament; for instance, at the end of forty days Noah sent out a raven from the ark.[179:7] Isaac and Esau were each forty years old when they married.[179:8] Forty days were fulfilled for the embalming of Jacob.[179:9] The spies were forty days in search of the land of Canaan.[179:10] The Israelites wandered forty years in the wilderness.[179:11] The land "had rest" forty years on three occasions.[179:12] The land was delivered into the hand of the Philistines forty years.[179:13] Eli judged Israel forty years.[179:14] King David reigned forty years.[179:15]
King Solomon reigned forty years.[180:1] Goliath presented himself forty days.[180:2] The rain was upon the earth forty days at the time of the deluge.[180:3] And, as we saw above, Moses was on the mount forty days and forty nights on each occasion.[180:4] Can anything be more mythological than this?
The number forty was used by the ancients in constructing temples. There were forty pillars around the temple of Chilminar, in Persia; the temple at Baalbec had forty pillars; on the frontiers of China, in Tartary, there is to be seen the "Temple of the forty pillars." Forty is one of the most common numbers in the Druidical temples, and in the plan of the temple of Ezekiel, the four oblong buildings in the middle of the courts have each forty pillars.[180:5] Most temples of antiquity were imitative—were microcosms of the Celestial Templum—and on this account they were surrounded with pillars recording astronomical subjects, and intended both to do honor to these subjects, and to keep them in perpetual remembrance. In the Abury temples were to be seen the cycles of 650-608-600-60-40-30-19-12, etc.[180:6]