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: 128[Pg 218]to life, there were mournful rites celebrated in honor of his suffering and his death. The large wound he had received was shown, just as the wound was shown which was made to Christ by the thrust of the spear. The feast of his resurrection was fixed at the 25th of March."[218:1]
In Calmet's "Fragments," the resurrection of Adonis is referred to as follows:
"In these mysteries, after the attendants had for a long time bewailed the death of this just person, he was at length understood to be restored to life, to have experienced a resurrection; signified by the re-admission of light. On this the priest addressed the company, saying, 'Comfort yourselves, all ye who have been partakers of the mysteries of the deity, thus preserved: for we shall now enjoy some respite from our labors:' to which were added these words: 'I have scaped a sad calamity, and my lot is greatly mended.' The people answered by the invocation: 'Hail to the Dove! the Restorer of Light!'"[218:2]
Alexander Murray tells us that the ancient Greeks also celebrated this festival in honor of the resurrection of Adonis, in the course of which a figure of him was produced, and the ceremony of burial, with weeping and songs of wailing, gone through. After these a joyful shout was raised: "Adonis lives and is risen again."[218:3]
Plutarch, in his life of Alcibiades and of Nicias, tells us that it was at the time of the celebration of the death of Adonis that the Athenian fleet set sail for its unlucky expedition to Sicily; that nothing but images of dead Adonises were to be met with in the streets, and that they were carried to the sepulchre in the midst of an immense train of women, crying and beating their breasts, and imitating in every particular the lugubrious pomp of interments. Sinister omens were drawn from it, which were only too much realized by subsequent events.[218:4]
It was in an oration or address delivered to the Emperors Constans and Constantius that Julius Firmicius wrote concerning the rites celebrated by the heathens in commemoration of the resurrection of Adonis. In his tide of eloquence he breaks away into indignant objurgation of the priest who officiated in those heathen mysteries, which, he admitted, resembled the Christian sacrament in honor of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, so closely that there was really no difference between them, except that no sufficient proof had been given to the world of the resurrection of Adonis, and no divine oracle had borne witness to his resurrection, [Pg 219]nor had he shown himself alive after his death to those who were concerned to have assurance of the fact that they might believe.
The divine oracle, be it observed, which Julius Firmicius says had borne testimony to Christ Jesus' resurrection, was none other than the answer of the god Apollo, whom the Pagans worshiped at Delphos, which this writer derived from Porphyry's books "On the Philosophy of Oracles."[219:1]
Eusebius, the celebrated ecclesiastical historian, has also condescended to quote this claimed testimony from a Pagan oracle, as furnishing one of the most convincing proofs that could be adduced in favor of the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
"But thou at least (says he to the Pagans), listen to thine own gods, to thy oracular deities themselves, who have borne witness, and ascribed to our Saviour (Jesus Christ) not imposture, but piety and wisdom, and ascent into heaven."
This was vastly obliging and liberal of the god Apollo, but, it happens awkwardly enough, that the whole work (consisting of several books) ascribed to Porphyry, in which this and other admissions equally honorable to the evidences of the Christian religion are made, was not written by Porphyry, but is altogether the pious fraud of Christian hands, who have kindly fathered the great philosopher with admissions, which, as he would certainly never have made himself, they have very charitably made for him.[219:2]
The festival in honor of the resurrection of Adonis was observed in Alexandria in Egypt—the cradle of Christianity—in the time of St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (A. D. 412), and at Antioch—the ancient capital of the Greek Kings of Syria—even as late as the time of the Emperor Julian (A. D. 361-363), whose arrival there, during the solemnity of the festival, was taken as an ill omen.[219:3]
It is most curious that the arrival of the Emperor Julian at Antioch—where the followers of Christ Jesus, it is said, were first called Christians—at that time, should be considered an ill omen. Why should it have been so? He was not a Christian, but a known apostate from the Christian religion, and a zealous patron of Paganism. The evidence is very conclusive; the celebration in honor of the resurrection of Adonis had become to be known as a Christian festival, which has not been abolished even unto this day. The ceremonies held in Roman Catholic countries on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday, are nothing more than the festival of the death and resurrection of Adonis, as we shall presently see.
Even as late as the year A. D. 386, the resurrection of Adonis was celebrated in Judea. St. Jerome says:
"Over Bethlehem (in the year 386 after Christ) the grove of Tammuz, that is, of Adonis, was casting its shadow! And in the grotto where formerly the infant Anointed (i. e., Christ Jesus) cried, the lover of Venus was being mourned."[220:1]
In the idolatrous worship practiced by the children of Israel was that of the worship of Adonis.
Under the designation of Tammuz, this god was worshiped, and had his altar even in the Temple of the Lord which was at Jerusalem. Several of the Psalms of David were parts of the liturgical service employed in his worship; the 110th, in particular, is an account of a friendly alliance between the two gods, Jehovah and Adonis, in which Jehovah adorns Adonis for his priest, as sitting at his right hand, and promises to fight for him against his enemies. This god was worshiped at Byblis in Phœnicia with precisely the same ceremonies: the same articles of faith as to his mystical incarnation, his precious death and burial, and his glorious resurrection and ascension, and even in the very same words of religious adoration and homage which are now, with the slightest degree of variation that could well be conceived, addressed to the Christ of the Gospel.
The prophet Ezekiel, when an exile, painted once more the scene he had so often witnessed of the Israelitish women in the Temple court bewailing the death of Tammuz.[220:2]
Dr. Parkhurst says, in his "Hebrew Lexicon":
"I find myself obliged to refer Tammuz, as well as the Greek and Roman Hercules, to that class of idols which were originally designed to represent the promised Saviour (Christ Jesus), the desire of all nations. His other name, Adonis, is almost the very Hebrew word 'Our Lord,' a well-known title of Christ."[220:3]
So it seems that the ingenious and most learned orthodox Dr. Parkhurst was obliged to consider Adonis a type of "the promised Saviour (Christ Jesus), the desire of all nations." This is a very favorite way for Christian divines to express themselves, when pushed thereto, by the striking resemblance between the Pagan, virgin-born, crucified, and resurrected gods and Christ Jesus.
If the reader is satisfied that all these things are types or symbols of what the "real Saviour" was to do and suffer, he is welcome [Pg 221]to such food. The doctrine of Dr. Parkhurst and others comes with but an ill grace, however, from Roman Catholic priests, who have never ceased to suppress information when possible, and when it was impossible for them to do so, they claimed these things to be the work of the devil, in imitation of their predecessors, the Christian Fathers.
Julius Firmicius has said: "The devil has his Christs," and does not deny that Adonis was one. Tertullian and St. Justin explain all the conformity which exists between Christianity and Paganism, by asserting "that a long time before there were Christians in existence, the devil had taken pleasure to have their future mysteries and ceremonies copied by his worshipers."[221:1]
Prof. Mahaffy, lecturer on ancient history in the University of Dublin, observes that:
"The Resurrection and reign over an eternal kingdom, by an incarnate mediating deity born of a virgin, was a theological conception which pervaded the oldest religion of Egypt."[221:4]
The ancient Egyptians celebrated annually, in early spring, about the time known in Christian countries as Easter, the resurrection and ascension of Osiris. During these mysteries the misfortunes and tragical death of the "Saviour" were celebrated in a species of drama, in which all the particulars were exhibited, accompanied with loud lamentations and every mark of sorrow. At this time his image was carried in a procession, covered—as were those in the temples—with black veils. On the 25th of March his resurrection from the dead was celebrated with great festivity and rejoicings.[221:5]
Alexander Murray says:
"The worship of Osiris was universal throughout Egypt, where he was gratefully regarded as the great exemplar of self-sacrifice—in giving his life for others—as the manifestor of good, as the opener of truth, and as being full of goodness and truth. After being dead, he was restored to life."[221:6]
Mons. Dupuis says on this subject:
"The Fathers of the Church, and the writers of the Christian sect, speak frequently of these feasts, celebrated in honor of Osiris, who died and arose from [Pg 222]the dead, and they draw a parallel with the adventurers of their Christ. Athanasius, Augustin, Theophilus, Athenagoras, Minucius Felix, Lactantius, Firmicius, as also the ancient authors who have spoken of Osiris . . . all agree in the description of the universal mourning of the Egyptians at the festival, when the commemoration of that death took place. They describe the ceremonies which were practiced at his sepulchre, the tears, which were there shed during several days, and the festivities and rejoicings, which followed after that mourning, at the moment when his resurrection was announced."[222:1]
Mr. Bonwick remarks, in his "Egyptian Belief," that:
"It is astonishing to find that, at least, five thousand years ago, men trusted an Osiris as the 'Risen Saviour,' and confidently hoped to rise, as he arose, from the grave."[222:2]
Again he says:
"Osiris was, unquestionably, the popular god of Egypt. . . . Osiris was dear to the hearts of the people. He was pre-eminently 'good.' He was in life and death their friend. His birth, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, embraced the leading points of Egyptian theology." "In his efforts to do good, he encounters evil. In struggling with that, he is overcome. He is killed. The story, entered into in the account of the Osiris myth, is a circumstantial one. Osiris is buried. His tomb was the object of pilgrimage for thousands of years. But he did not rest in his grave. At the end of three days, or forty, he arose again, and ascended to heaven. This is the story of his humanity." "As the invictus Osiris, his tomb was illuminated, as is the holy sepulchre of Jerusalem now. The mourning song, whose plaintive tones were noted by Herodotus, and has been compared to the 'miserere' of Rome, was followed, in three days, by the language of triumph."[222:3]
Herodotus, who had been initiated into the Egyptian and Grecian "Mysteries," speaks thus of them:
"At Sais (in Egypt), in the sacred precinct of Minerva; behind the chapel and joining the wall, is the tomb of one whose name I consider it impious to divulge on such an occasion; and in the inclosure stand large stone obelisks, and there is a lake near, ornamented with a stone margin, formed in a circle, and in size, as appeared to me, much the same as that in Delos, which is called the circular. In this lake they perform by night the representation of that person's adventures, which they call mysteries. On these matters, however, though accurately acquainted with the particulars of them, I must observe a discreet silence; and respecting the sacred rites of Ceres, which the Greeks call Thesmyphoria, although I am acquainted with them, I must observe silence except so far as is lawful for me to speak of them."[222:4]
Horus, son of the virgin Isis, experienced similar misfortunes. The principal features of this sacred romance are to be found in the writings of the Christian Fathers. They give us a description of the grief which was manifested at his death, and of the rejoicings at his resurrection, which are similar to those spoken of above.[222:5]
Atys, the Phrygian Saviour, was put to death, and rose again from the dead. Various histories were given of him in various places, but all accounts terminated in the usual manner. He was one of the "Slain Ones" who rose to life again on the 25th of March, or the "Hilaria" or primitive Easter.[223:1]
Mithras, the Persian Saviour, and mediator between God and man, was believed by the inhabitants of Persia, Asia Minor and Armenia, to have been put to death, and to have risen again from the dead. In their mysteries, the body of a young man, apparently dead, was exhibited, which was feigned to be restored to life. By his sufferings he was believed to have worked their salvation, and on this account he was called their "Saviour." His priests watched his tomb to the midnight of the veil of the 25th of March, with loud cries, and in darkness; when all at once the lights burst forth from all parts, and the priest cried:
"Rejoice, Oh sacred Initiated, your god is risen. His death, his pains, his sufferings, have worked our salvation."[223:2]
Mons. Dupuis, speaking of the resurrection of this god, says:
"It is chiefly in the religion of Mithras. . . . that we find mostly these features of analogy with the death and resurrection of Christ, and with the mysteries of the Christians. Mithras, who was also born on the 25th of December, like Christ, died as he did; and he had his sepulchre, over which his disciples came to shed tears. During the night, the priests carried his image to a tomb, expressly prepared for him; he was laid out on a litter, like the Phœnician Adonis.
"These funeral ceremonies, like those on Good Friday (in Roman Catholic churches), were accompanied with funeral dirges and groans of the priests; after having spent some time with these expressions of feigned grief; after having lighted the sacred flambeau, or their paschal candle, and anointed the image with chrism or perfumes, one of them came forward and pronounced with the gravest mien these words: 'Be of good cheer, sacred band of Initiates, your god has risen from the dead. His pains and his sufferings shall be your salvation.'"[223:3]
In King's "Gnostics and their Remains" (Plate XI.), may be seen the representation of a bronze medal, or rather disk, engraved [Pg 224]in the coarsest manner, on which is to be seen a female figure, standing in the attitude of adoration, the object of which is expressed by the inscription—ORTVS SALVAT, "The Rising of the Saviour"—i. e., of Mithras.[224:1]
"This medal" (says Mr. King), "doubtless had accompanied the interment of some individual initiated into the Mithraic mysteries; and is certainly the most curious relic of that faith that has come under my notice."[224:2]
Bacchus, the Saviour, son of the virgin Semele, after being put to death, also arose from the dead. During the commemoration of the ceremonies of this event the dead body of a young man was exhibited with great lamentations, in the same manner as the cases cited above, and at dawn on the 25th of March his resurrection from the dead was celebrated with great rejoicings.[224:3] After having brought solace to the misfortunes of mankind, he, after his resurrection, ascended into heaven.[224:4]
Hercules, the Saviour, the son of Zeus by a mortal mother, was put to death, but arose from the funeral pile, and ascended into heaven in a cloud, 'mid peals of thunder. His followers manifested gratitude to his memory by erecting an altar on the spot from whence be ascended.[224:5]
Memnon is put to death, but rises again to life and immortality. His mother Eos weeps tears at the death of her son—as Mary does for Christ Jesus—but her prayers avail to bring him back, like Adonis or Tammuz, and Jesus, from the shadowy region, to dwell always in Olympus.[224:6]
Baldur, the Scandinavian Lord and Saviour, is put to death, but does not rest in his grave. He too rises again to life and immortality.[224:8]
When "Baldur the Good," the beneficent god, descended into hell, Hela (Death) said to Hermod (who mourned for Baldur): "If all things in the world, both living and lifeless, weep for him, then shall he return to the Æsir (the gods)." Upon hearing this, messengers were dispatched throughout the world to beg everything [Pg 225]to weep in order that Baldur might be delivered from hell. All things everywhere willingly complied with this request, both men and every other living being, so that wailing was heard in all quarters.[225:1]
Thus we see the same myth among the northern nations. As Bunsen says:
"The tragedy of the murdered and risen god is familiar to us from the days of ancient Egypt: must it not be of equally primeval origin here?" [In Teutonic tradition.]
The ancient Scandinavians also worshiped a god called Frey, who was put to death, and rose again from the dead.[225:2]
The ancient Druids celebrated, in the British Isles, in heathen times, the rites of the resurrected Bacchus, and other ceremonies, similar to the Greeks and Romans.[225:3]
Quetzalcoatle, the Mexican crucified Saviour, after being put to death, rose from the dead. His resurrection was represented in Mexican hieroglyphics, and may be seen in the Codex Borgianus.[225:4]
The Jews in Palestine celebrated their Passover on the same day that the Pagans celebrated the resurrection of their gods.
Besides the resurrected gods mentioned in this chapter, who were believed in for centuries before the time assigned for the birth of Christ Jesus, many others might be named, as we shall see in our chapter on "Explanation." In the words of Dunbar T. Heath:
"We find men taught everywhere, from Southern Arabia to Greece, by hundreds of symbolisms, the birth, death, and resurrection of deities, and a resurrection too, apparently after the second day, i. e., on the third."[225:5]
And now, to conclude all, another god is said to have been born on the same day[225:6] as these Pagan deities; he is crucified and buried, and on the same day[225:7] rises again from the dead. Christians of Europe and America celebrate annually the resurrection of their [Pg 226]Saviour in almost the identical manner in which the Pagans celebrated the resurrection of their Saviours, centuries before the God of the Christians is said to have been born. In Roman Catholic churches, in Catholic countries, the body of a young man is laid on a bier, and placed before the altar; the wound in his side is to be seen, and his death is bewailed in mournful dirges, and the verse, Gloria Patri, is discontinued in the mass. All the images in the churches and the altar are covered with black, and the priest and attendants are robed in black; nearly all lights are put out, and the windows are darkened. This is the "Agonie," the "Miserere," the "Good Friday" mass. On Easter Sunday[226:1] all the drapery has disappeared; the church is illuminated, and rejoicing, in place of sorrow, is manifest. The Easter hymns partake of the following expression:
"Rejoice, Oh sacred Initiated, your God is risen. His death, his pains, his sufferings, have worked our salvation."
Cedrenus (a celebrated Byzantine writer), speaking of the 25th of March, says:
"The first day of the first month, is the first of the month Nisan; it corresponds to the 25th of March of the Romans, and the Phamenot of the Egyptians. On that day Gabriel saluted Mary, in order to make her conceive the Saviour. I observe that it is the same month, Phamenot, that Osiris gave fecundity to Isis, according to the Egyptian theology. On the very same day, our God Saviour (Christ Jesus), after the termination of his career, arose from the dead; that is, what our forefathers called the Pass-over, or the passage of the Lord. It is also on the same day, that our ancient theologians have fixed his return, or his second advent."[226:2]
We have seen, then, that a festival celebrating the resurrection of their several gods was annually held among the Pagans, before the time of Christ Jesus, and that it was almost universal. That it dates to a period of great antiquity is very certain. The adventures of these incarnate gods, exposed in their infancy, put to death, and rising again from the grave to life and immortality, were acted on the Deisuls and in the sacred theatres of the ancient Pagans,[226:3] just as the "Passion Play" is acted to-day.
Eusebius relates a tale to the effect that, at one time, the Christians [Pg 227]were about to celebrate "the solemn vigils of Easter," when, to their dismay, they found that oil was wanted. Narcissus, Bishop of Jerusalem, who was among the number, "commanded that such as had charge of the lights, speedily to bring unto him water, drawn up out of the next well." This water Narcissus, "by the wonderful power of God," changed into oil, and the celebration was continued.[227:1]
This tells the whole story. Here we see the oil—which the Pagans had in their ceremonies, and with which the priests anointed the lips of the Initiates—and the lights, which were suddenly lighted when the god was feigned to have risen from the dead.
With her usual policy, the Christian Church endeavored to give a Christian significance to the rites borrowed from Paganism, and in this case, as in many others, the conversion was particularly easy.
In the earliest times, the Christians did not celebrate the resurrection of their Lord from the grave. They made the Jewish Passover their chief festival, celebrating it on the same day as the Jews, the 14th of Nisan, no matter in what part of the week that day might fall. Believing, according to the tradition, that Jesus on the eve of his death had eaten the Passover with his disciples, they regarded such a solemnity as a commemoration of the Supper and not as a memorial of the Resurrection. But in proportion as Christianity more and more separated itself from Judaism and imbibed paganism, this way of looking at the matter became less easy. A new tradition gained currency among the Roman Christians to the effect that Jesus before his death had not eaten the Passover, but had died on the very day of the Passover, thus substituting himself for the Paschal Lamb. The great Christian festival was then made the Resurrection of Jesus, and was celebrated on the first pagan holiday—Sun-day—after the Passover.
This Easter celebration was observed in China, and called a "Festival of Gratitude to Tien." From there it extended over the then known world to the extreme West.
The ancient Pagan inhabitants of Europe celebrated annually this same feast, which is yet continued over all the Christian world. This festival began with a week's indulgence in all kinds of sports, called the carne-vale, or the taking a farewell to animal food, because it was followed by a fast of forty days. This was in honor of the Saxon goddess Ostrt or Eostre of the Germans, whence our Easter.[227:2]
The most characteristic Easter rite, and the one most widely diffused, is the use of Easter eggs. They are usually stained of various colors with dye-woods or herbs, and people mutually make presents of them; sometimes they are kept as amulets, sometimes eaten. Now, "dyed eggs were sacred Easter offerings in Egypt;"[228:1] the ancient Persians, "when they kept the festival of the solar new year (in March), mutually presented each other with colored eggs;"[228:2] "the Jews used eggs in the feast of the Passover;" and the custom prevailed in Western countries.[228:3]
The stories of the resurrection written by the Gospel narrators are altogether different. This is owing to the fact that the story, as related by one, was written to correct the mistakes and to endeavor to reconcile with common sense the absurdities of the other. For instance, the "Matthew" narrator says: "And when they saw him (after he had risen from the dead) they worshiped him; but some doubted."[228:4]
To leave the question where this writer leaves it would be fatal. In such a case there must be no doubt. Therefore, the "Mark" narrator makes Jesus appear three times, under such circumstances as to render a mistake next to impossible, and to silence the most obstinate skepticism. He is first made to appear to Mary Magdalene, who was convinced that it was Jesus, because she went and told the disciples that he had risen, and that she had seen him. They—notwithstanding that Jesus had foretold them of his resurrection[228:5]—disbelieved, nor could they be convinced until he appeared to them. They in turn told it to the other disciples, who were also skeptical; and, that they might be convinced, Jesus also appeared to them as they sat at meat, when he upbraided them for their unbelief.
This story is much improved in the hands of the "Mark" narrator, but, in the anxiety to make a clear case, it is overdone, as often happens when the object is to remedy or correct an oversight or mistake previously made. In relating that the disciples doubted the words of Mary Magdalene, he had probably forgotten Jesus had promised them that he should rise, for, if he had told them this, why did they doubt?
Neither the "Matthew" nor the "Mark" narrator says in what way Jesus made his appearance—whether it was in the body or only in the spirit. If in the latter, it would be fatal to the whole theory [Pg 229]of the resurrection, as it is a material resurrection that Christianity taught—just like their neighbors the Persians—and not a spiritual.[229:1]
To put this disputed question in its true light, and to silence the objections which must naturally have arisen against it, was the object which the "Luke" narrator had in view. He says that when Jesus appeared and spoke to the disciples they were afraid: "But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed they had seen a spirit."[229:2] Jesus then—to show that he was not a spirit—showed the wounds in his hands and feet. "And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a