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
Horus, the Egyptian Saviour, performed great miracles, among which was that of raising the dead to life.[256:8]
Osiris of Egypt also performed great miracles;[256:9] and so did the virgin goddess Isis.
Pilgrimages were made to the temples of Isis, in Egypt, by the sick. Diodorus, the Grecian historian, says that:
"Those who go to consult in dreams the goddess Isis recover perfect health. Many whose cure has been despaired of by physicians have by this means been saved, and others who have long been deprived of sight, or of some other part of the body, by taking refuge, so to speak, in the arms of the goddess, have been restored to the enjoyment of their faculties."[257:1]
Serapis, the Egyptian Saviour, performed great miracles, principally those of healing the sick. He was called "The Healer of the World."[257:2]
Marduk, the Assyrian God, the "Logos," the "Eldest Son of Hea;" "He who made Heaven and Earth;" the "Merciful One;" the "Life-Giver," &c., performed great miracles, among which was that of raising the dead to life.[257:3]
"In his gentler aspects he is the giver of joy, the healer of sicknesses, the guardian against plagues. As such he is even a law-giver and a promoter of peace and concord. As kindling new or strange thoughts in the mind, he is a giver of wisdom and the revealer of hidden secrets of the future."[257:5]
The legends related of this god state that on one occasion Pantheus, King of Thebes, sent his attendants to seize Bacchus, the "vagabond leader of a faction"—as he called him. This they were unable to do, as the multitude who followed him were too numerous. They succeeded, however, in capturing one of his disciples, Acetes, who was led away and shut up fast in prison; but while they were getting ready the instruments of execution, the prison doors came open of their own accord, and the chains fell from his limbs, and when they looked for him he was nowhere to be found.[257:6] Here is still another edition of "Peter in prison."
Æsculapius was another great performer of miracles. The ancient Greeks said of him that he not only cured the sick of the most malignant diseases, but even raised the dead.
A writer in Bell's Pantheon says:
"As the Greeks always carried the encomiums of their great men beyond the truth, so they feigned that Æsculapius was so expert in medicine as not only to cure the sick, but even to raise the dead."[258:1]
Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian, speaking of Æsculapius, says:
"He sometimes appeared unto them (the Cilicians) in dreams and visions, and sometimes restored the sick to health."
He claims, however, that this was the work of the Devil, "who by this means did withdraw the minds of men from the knowledge of the true Saviour."[258:2]
For many years after the death of Æsculapius, miracles continued to be performed by the efficacy of faith in his name. Patients were conveyed to the temple of Æsculapius, and there cured of their disease. A short statement of the symptoms of each case, and the remedy employed, were inscribed on tablets and hung up in the temples.[258:3] There were also a multitude of eyes, ears, hands, feet, and other members of the human body, made of wax, silver, or gold, and presented by those whom the god had cured of blindness, deafness, and other diseases.[258:4]
Marinus, a scholar of the philosopher Proclus, relates one of these remarkable cures, in the life of his master. He says:
"Asclipigenia, a young maiden who had lived with her parents, was seized with a grievous distemper, incurable by the physicians. All help from the physicians failing, the father applied to the philosopher, earnestly entreating him to pray for his daughter. Proclus, full of faith, went to the temple of Æsculapius, intending to pray for the sick young woman to the god—for the city (Athens) was at that time blessed in him, and still enjoyed the undemolished temple of The Saviour—but while he was praying, a sudden change appeared in the damsel, and she immediately became convalescent, for the Saviour, Æsculapius, as being God, easily healed her."[258:5]
Dr. Conyers Middleton says:
"Whatever proof the primitive (Christian) Church might have among themselves, of the miraculous gift, yet it could have but little effect towards making proselytes among those who pretended to the same gift—possessed more largely and exerted more openly, than in the private assemblies of the Christians. For in the temples of Æsculapius, all kinds of diseases were believed to be publicly cured, by the pretended help of that deity, in proof of which there were erected in each temple, columns or tables of brass or marble, on which a distinct narrative of each particular cure was inscribed. Pausanias[258:6] writes that in the temple [Pg 259]at Epidaurus there were many columns anciently of this kind, and six of them remaining to his time, inscribed with the names of men and women who had been cured by the god, with an account of their several cases, and the method of their cure; and that there was an old pillar besides, which stood apart, dedicated to the memory of Hippolytus, who had been raised from the dead. Strabo, also, another grave writer, informs us that these temples were constantly filled with the sick, imploring the help of the god, and that they had tables hanging around them, in which all the miraculous cures were described. There is a remarkable fragment of one of these tables still extant, and exhibited by Gruter in his collection, as it was found in the ruins of Æsculapius's temple in the Island of the Tiber, in Rome, which gives an account of two blind men restored to sight by Æsculapius, in the open view,[259:1] and with the loud acclamation of the people, acknowledging the manifest power of the god."[259:2]
Livy, the most illustrious of Roman historians (born B. C. 61), tells us that temples of heathen gods were rich in the number of offerings which the people used to make in return for the cures and benefits which they received from them.[259:3]
A writer in Bell's Pantheon says:
"Making presents to the gods was a custom even from the earliest times, either to deprecate their wrath, obtain some benefit, or acknowledge some favor. These donations consisted of garlands, garments, cups of gold, or whatever conduced to the decoration or splendor of their temples. They were sometimes laid on the floor, sometimes hung upon the walls, doors, pillars, roof, or any other conspicuous place. Sometimes the occasion of the dedication was inscribed, either upon the thing itself, or upon a tablet hung up with it."[259:4]
No one custom of antiquity is so frequently mentioned by ancient historians, as the practice which was so common among the heathens, of making votive offerings to their deities, and hanging them up in their temples, many of which are preserved to this day, viz., images of metal, stone, or clay, as well as legs, arms, and other parts of the body, in testimony of some divine cure effected in that particular member.[259:5]
Votivâ paries indicat humida
Vestimenta maris Deo." (Lib. 1, Ode V.)
It was the custom of offering ex-votos of Priapic forms, at the church of Isernia, in the Christian kingdom of Naples, during the last century, which induced Mr. R. Payne Knight to compile his remarkable work on Phallic Worship.
Juvenal, who wrote A. D. 81-96, says of the goddess Isis, whose religion was at that time in the greatest vogue at Rome, that the painters get their livelihood out of her. This was because "the most common of all offerings (made by the heathen to their deities) were pictures presenting the history of the miraculous cure or deliverance, vouchsafed upon the vow of the donor."[260:1] One of their prayers ran thus:
As all these pictures round thy altars show."[260:2]
In Chambers's Encyclopædia may be found the following:
"Patients that were cured of their ailments (by Æsculapius, or through faith in him) hung up a tablet in his temple, recording the name, the disease, and the manner of cure. Many of these votive tablets are still extant."[260:3]
Alexander S. Murray, of the department of Greek and Roman Antiquities in the British Museum, speaking of the miracles performed by Æsculapius, says:
"A person who had recovered from a local illness would dictate a sculptured representation of the part that had been affected. Of such sculptures there are a number of examples in the British Museum."[260:4]
Justin Martyr, in his Apology for the Christian religion, addressed to the Emperor Hadrian, says:
"As to our Jesus curing the lame, and the paralytic, and such as were crippled from birth, this is little more than what you say of your Æsculapius."[260:5]
At a time when the Romans were infested with the plague, having consulted their sacred books, they learned that in order to be delivered from it, they were to go in quest of Æsculapius at Epidaurus; accordingly, an embassy was appointed of ten senators, at the head of whom was Quintus Ogulnius, and the worship of Æsculapius was established at Rome, A. U. C. 462, that is, B. C. 288. But the most remarkable coincidence is that the worship of this god continued with scarcely any diminished splendor, for several hundred years after the establishment of Christianity.[260:6]