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: 148

four years before the time assigned for the birth of Jesus, and who was therefore contemporary with him, was celebrated for the wonderful miracles he performed. Oracles in various places declared that he was endowed with a portion of Apollo's power to cure diseases, and foretell events; and those who were affected were commanded to apply to him. The priests of Iona made over the diseased to his care, and his cures were considered so remarkable, that divine honors were decreed to him.[261:3]

He at one time went to Ephesus, but as the inhabitants did not hearken to his preaching, he left there and went to Smyrna, where he was well received by the inhabitants. While there, ambassadors [Pg 262]came from Ephesus, begging him to return to that city, where a terrible plague was raging, as he had prophesied. He went immediately, and as soon as he arrived, he said to the Ephesians: "Be not dejected, I will this day put a stop to the disease." According to his words, the pestilence was stayed, and the people erected a statue to him, in token of their gratitude.[262:1]

In the city of Athens, there was one of the dissipated young citizens, who laughed and cried by turns, and talked and sang to himself, without apparent cause. His friends supposed these habits were the effects of early intemperance, but Apollonius, who happened to meet the young man, told him he was possessed of a demon; and, as soon as he fixed his eyes upon him, the demon broke out into all those horrid, violent expressions used by people on the rack, and then swore he would depart out of the youth, and never enter another.[262:2] The young man had not been aware that he was possessed by a devil, but from that moment, his wild, disturbed looks changed, he became very temperate, and assumed the garb of a Pythagorean philosopher.

Apollonius went to Rome, and arrived there after the emperor Nero had passed very severe laws against magicians. He was met on the way by a person who advised him to turn back and not enter the city, saying that all who wore the philosopher's garb were in danger of being arrested as magicians. He heeded not these words of warning, but proceeded on his way, and entered the city. It was not long before he became an object of suspicion, was closely watched, and finally arrested, but when his accusers appeared before the tribunal and unrolled the parchment on which the charges against him had been written, they found that all the characters had disappeared. Apollonius made such an impression on the magistrates by the bold tone he assumed, that he was allowed to go where he pleased.[262:3]

Many miracles were performed by him while in Rome, among others may be mentioned his restoring a dead maiden to life.

She belonged to a family of rank, and was just about to be married, when she died suddenly. Apollonius met the funeral procession that was conveying her body to the tomb. He asked them to set down the bier, saying to her betrothed: "I will dry up the tears you are shedding for this maiden." They supposed he was going to pronounce a funeral oration, but he merely took her hand, bent over her, and uttered a few words in a low tone. She opened [Pg 263]her eyes, and began to speak, and was carried back alive and well to her father's house.[263:1]

Passing through Tarsus, in his travels, a young man was pointed out to him who had been bitten thirty days before by a mad dog, and who was then running on all fours, barking and howling. Apollonius took his case in hand, and it was not long before the young man was restored to his right mind.[263:2]

Domitian, Emperor of Rome, caused Apollonius to be arrested, during one of his visits to that city, on charge of allowing himself to be worshiped (the people having given him divine honors), speaking against the reigning powers, and pretending that his words were inspired by the gods. He was taken, loaded with irons, and cast into prison. "I have bound you," said the emperor, "and you will not escape me."

Apollonius was one day visited in his prison by his steadfast disciple, Damus, who asked him when he thought he should recover his liberty, whereupon he answered: "This instant, if it depended upon myself," and drawing his legs out of the shackles, he added: "Keep up your spirits, you see the freedom I enjoy." He was brought to trial not long after, and so defended himself, that the emperor was induced to acquit him, but forbade him to leave Rome. Apollonius then addressed the emperor, and ended by saying: "You cannot kill me, because I am not mortal;" and as soon as he had said these words, he vanished from the tribunal.[263:3] Damus (the disciple who had visited him in prison) had previously been sent away from Rome, with the promise of his master that he would soon rejoin him. Apollonius vanished from the presence of the emperor (at Rome) at noon. On the evening of the same day, he suddenly appeared before Damus and some other friends who were at Puteoli, more than a hundred miles from Rome. They started, being doubtful whether or not it was his spirit, but he stretched out his hand, saying: "Take it, and if I escape from you regard me as an apparition."[263:4]

[Pg 264]

When Apollonius had told his disciples that he had made his defense in Rome, only a few hours before, they marveled how he could have performed the journey so rapidly. He, in reply, said that they must ascribe it to a god.[264:1]

The Empress Julia, wife of Alexander Severus, was so much interested in the history of Apollonius, that she requested Flavius Philostratus, an Athenian author of reputation, to write an account of him. The early Christian Fathers, alluding to this life of Apollonius, do not deny the miracles it recounts, but attribute to them the aid of evil spirits.[264:2]

Justin Martyr was one of the believers in the miracles performed by Apollonius, and by others through him, for he says:

"How is it that the talismans of Apollonius have power in certain members of creation? for they prevent, as we see, the fury of the waves, and the violence of the winds, and the attacks of wild beasts, and whilst our Lord's miracles are preserved by tradition alone, those of Apollonius are most numerous, and actually manifested in present facts, so as to lead astray all beholders."[264:3]

So much for Apollonius. We will now speak of another miracle performer, Simon Magus.

Simon the Samaritan, generally called Simon Magus, produced marked effects on the times succeeding him; being the progenitor of a large class of sects, which long troubled the Christian churches.

In the time of Jesus and Simon Magus it was almost universally believed that men could foretell events, cure diseases, and obtain control over the forces of nature, by the aid of spirits, if they knew how to invoke them. It was Simon's proficiency in this occult science which gained him the surname of Magus, or Magician.

The writer of the eighth chapter of "The Acts of the Apostles" informs us that when Philip went into Samaria, "to preach Christ unto them," he found there "a certain man called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one. To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying: This man is the great power of God."[264:4]

Simon traveled about preaching, and made many proselytes. He professed to be "The Wisdom of God," "The Word of God," [Pg 265]"The Paraclete, or Comforter," "The Image of the Eternal Father, Manifested in the Flesh," and his followers claimed that he was "The First Born of the Supreme."[265:1] All of these are titles, which, in after years, were applied to Christ Jesus. His followers had a gospel called "The Four Corners of the World," which reminds us of the reason given by Irenæus, for there being four Gospels among the Christians. He says:

"It is impossible that there could be more or less than four. For there are four climates, and four cardinal winds; but the Gospel is the pillar and foundation of the Church, and its breath of life. The Church, therefore, was to have four pillars, blowing immortality from every quarter, and giving life to men."[265:2]

Simon also composed some works, of which but slight fragments remain, Christian authority having evidently destroyed them. That he made a lively impression on his contemporaries is indicated by the subsequent extension of his doctrines, under varied forms, by the wonderful stories which the Christian Fathers relate of him, and by the strong dislike they manifested toward him.

Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian, says of him:

"The malicious power of Satan, enemy to all honesty, and foe to all human salvation, brought forth at that time this monster Simon, a father and worker of all such mischiefs, as a great adversary unto the mighty and holy Apostles.

"Coming into the city of Rome, he was so aided by that power which prevaileth in this world, that in short time he brought his purpose to such a pass, that his picture was there placed with others, and he honored as a god."[265:3]

Justin Martyr says of him:

"After the ascension of our Savior into heaven, the DEVIL brought forth certain men which called themselves gods, who not only suffered no vexation of you (Romans), but attained unto honor amongst you, by name one Simon, a Samaritan, born in the village of Gitton, who (under Claudius Cæsar) by the art of devils, through whom he dealt, wrought devilish enchantments, was esteemed and counted in your regal city of Rome for a god, and honored by you as a god, with a picture between two bridges upon the river Tibris, having this Roman inscription: 'Simoni deo Sancto' (To Simon the Holy God). And in manner all the Samaritans, and certain also of other nations, do worship him, acknowledging him for their chief god."[265:4]

According to accounts given by several other Christian Fathers, he could make his appearance wherever he pleased to be at any moment; could poise himself on the air; make inanimate things [Pg 266]move without visible assistance; produce trees from the earth suddenly; cause a stick to reap without hands; change himself into the likeness of any other person, or even into the forms of animals; fling himself from high precipices unhurt, walk through the streets accompanied by spirits of the dead; and many other such like performances.[266:1]

Simon went to Rome, where he gave himself out to be an "Incarnate Spirit of God."[266:2] He became a favorite with the Emperor Claudius, and afterwards with Nero. His Christian opponents, as we have seen in the cases cited above, did not deny the miracles attributed to him, but said they were done through the agency of evil spirits, which was a common opinion among the Fathers. They claimed that every magician had an attendant evil spirit, who came when summoned, obeyed his commands, and taught him ceremonies and forms of words, by which he was able to do supernatural things. In this way they were accustomed to account for all the miracles performed by Gentiles and heretics.[266:3]

Menander—who was called the "Wonder-Worker"—was another great performer of miracles. Eusebius, speaking of him, says that he was skilled in magical art, and performed devilish operations; and that "as yet there be divers which can testify the same of him."[266:4]

Dr. Conyers Middleton, speaking on this subject, says:

"It was universally received and believed through all ages of the primitive church, that there was a number of magicians, necromancers, or conjurors, both among the Gentiles, and the heretical Christians, who had each their peculiar demon or evil spirit, for their associates, perpetually attending on their persons and obsequious to their commands, by whose help they could perform miracles, foretell future events, call up the souls of the dead, exhibit them to open view, and infuse into people whatever dreams or visions they saw fit, all which is constantly affirmed by the primitive writers and apologists, and commonly applied by them to prove the immortality of the soul."[266:5]

After quoting from Justin Martyr, who says that these magicians could convince any one "that the souls of men exist still after death," he continues by saying:

"Lactantius, speaking of certain philosophers who held that the soul perished with the body, says: 'they durst not have declared such an opinion, in the presence of any magician, for if they had done it, he would have confuted them [Pg 267]upon the spot, by sensible experiments; by calling up souls from the dead, and rendering them visible to human eyes, and making them speak and foretell future events."[267:1]

The Christian Father Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, who was contemporary with Irenæus (A. D. 177-202), went so far as to declare that it was evil spirits who inspired the old poets and prophets of Greece and Rome. He says:

"The truth of this is manifestly shown; because those who are possessed by devils, even at this day, are sometimes exorcised by us in the name of God; and the seducing spirits confess themselves to be the same demons who before inspired the Gentile poets."[267:2]