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
Origen flourished and wrote A. D. 225-235, which shows that at that early day there was no rational evidence for Christianity, but it was professedly taught, and men were supposed to believe "these things" (i. e. the Christian legends) without severe examination.
The primitive Christians were perpetually reproached for their gross credulity, by all their enemies. Celsus, as we have already seen, declares that they cared neither to receive nor give any reason for their faith, and that it was a usual saying with them: "Do not examine, but believe only, and thy faith will save thee;" and Julian affirms that, "the sum of all their wisdom was comprised in the single precept, 'believe.'"
Arnobius, speaking of this, says:
"The Gentiles make it their constant business to laugh at our faith, and to lash our credulity with their facetious jokes."
The Christian Fathers defended themselves against these charges by declaring that they did nothing more than the heathens themselves had always done; and reminds them that they too had found the same method useful with the uneducated or common people, who were not at leisure to examine things, and whom they taught therefore, to believe without reason.[275:2]
This "believing without reason" is illustrated in the following words of Tertullian, a Christian Father of the second century, who reasons on the evidence of Christianity as follows:
"I find no other means to prove myself to be impudent with success, and happily a fool, than by my contempt of shame; as, for instance—I maintain that the son of God was born: why am I not ashamed of maintaining such a thing? Why! but because it is a shameful thing. I maintain that the son of God died: well, that is wholly credible because it is monstrously absurd. I maintain that after having been buried, he rose again: and that I take to be absolutely true, because it was manifestly impossible."[275:3]
According to the very books which record the miracles of Jesus, he never claimed to perform such deeds, and Paul declares that the great reason why Israel did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah was [Pg 276]that "the Jews required a sign."[276:1] He meant: "Signs and wonders are the only proofs they will admit that any one is sent by God and is preaching the truth. If they cannot have this palpable, external proof, they withhold their faith."
A writer of the second century (John, in ch. iv. 18) makes Jesus aim at his fellow-countrymen and contemporaries, the reproach: "Unless you see signs and wonders, you do not believe." In connection with Paul's declaration, given above, these words might be paraphrased: "The reason why the Jews never believed in Jesus was that they never saw him do signs and wonders."
Listen to the reply he (Jesus) made when told that if he wanted people to believe in him he must first prove his claim by a miracle: "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign, and no sign shall be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonas."[276:2] Of course, this answer did not in the least degree satisfy the questioners; so they presently came to him again with a more direct request: "If the kingdom of God is, as you say, close at hand, show us at least some one of the signs in heaven which are to precede the Messianic age." What could appear more reasonable than such a request? Every one knew that the end of the present age was to be heralded by fearful signs in heaven. The light of the sun was to be put out, the moon turned to blood, the stars robbed of their brightness, and many other fearful signs were to be shown![276:3] If any one of these could be produced, they would be content; but if not, they must decline to surrender themselves to an idle joy which must end in a bitter disappointment; and surely Jesus himself could hardly expect them to believe in him on his bare word.
Historians have recorded miracles said to have been performed by other persons, but not a word is said by them about the miracles claimed to have been performed by Jesus.
Justus of Tiberias, who was born about five years after the time assigned for the crucifixion of Jesus, wrote a Jewish History. Now, if the miracles attributed to Christ Jesus, and his death and resurrection, had taken place in the manner described by the Gospel narrators, he could not have failed to allude to them. But Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, tells us that it contained "no mention of the coming of Christ, nor of the events concerning him, nor of the prodigies he wrought." As Theodore Parker has remarked: "The miracle is of a most fluctuating character. The miracle-worker of to-day is a matter-of-fact juggler to-morrow. [Pg 277]Science each year adds new wonders to our store. The master of a locomotive steam-engine would have been thought greater than Jupiter Tonans, or the Elohim, thirty centuries ago."
In the words of Dr. Oort: "Our increased knowledge of nature has gradually undermined the belief in the possibility of miracles, and the time is not far distant when in the mind of every man, of any culture, all accounts of miracles will be banished together to their proper region—that of legend."
What had been said to have been done in India was said by the "half Jew"[277:1] writers of the Gospels to have been done in Palestine. The change of names and places, with the mixing up of various sketches of Egyptian, Phenician, Greek and Roman mythology, was all that was necessary. They had an abundance of material, and with it they built. A long-continued habit of imposing upon others would in time subdue the minds of the impostors themselves, and cause them to become at length the dupes of their own deception.
[252:1] Dr. Conyers Middleton: Free Enquiry, p. 177.
[252:2] Indian Antiquities, vol. iii. p. 46.
[253:1] Asiatic Researches, vol. i. p. 237.
[253:2] Hist. Hindostan, vol. ii. p. 331.
[253:3] Ibid. p. 319.
[254:1] Hist. Hindostan, vol. ii. p. 320. Vishnu Parana, bk. v. ch. xx.
[254:2] Prog. Relig. Ideas, vol. i. p. 68.
[254:3] Hist. Hindostan, vol. ii. p. 269.
[254:4] See Hardy's Buddhist Legends, and Eastern Monachism. Beal's Romantic Hist. Buddha. Bunsen's Angel-Messiah, and Huc's Travels, &c.
[254:5] Hardy: Buddhist Legends, pp. xxi. xxii.
[254:6] The Science of Religion, p. 27.
[255:1] Beal: Hist. Buddha, pp. 246, 247.
[255:2] Dhammapada, pp. 47, 50 and 90. Bigandet, pp. 186 and 192. Bournouf: Intro. p. 156. In Lillie's Buddhism, pp. 139, 140.
[256:1] Hardy: Manual of Buddhism.
[256:2] See Prog. Relig. Ideas, vol. i. p. 229.
[256:3] See Tylor: Primitive Culture, vol. i. p. 135, and Hardy: Buddhist Legends, pp. 98, 126, 137.
[256:4] See Tylor: Primitive Culture, vol. i. p. 135.
[256:5] Thornton: Hist. China, vol. i. p. 341.
[256:6] See Dupuis: Origin of Religious Belief, p. 240, and Inman's Ancient Faiths, vol. ii. p. 460.
[256:7] See Higgins: Anacalypsis, vol. ii. p. 34.
[256:8] See Lundy: Monumental Christianity, pp. 303-405.
[256:9] See Bonwick's Egyptian Belief.
[257:1] Quoted by Baring-Gould: Orig. Relig. Belief, vol. i. p. 397.
[257:2] See Prichard's Mythology, p. 347.
[257:3] See Bonwick's Egyptian Belief, p. 404.
[257:4] See Dupuis: Origin of Religious Belief, 258, and Anacalypsis, vol. ii. p. 102. Compare John, ii. 7.
A Grecian festival called THYIA was observed by the Eleans in honor of Bacchus. The priests conveyed three empty vessels into a chapel, in the presence of a large assembly, after which the doors were shut and sealed. "On the morrow the company returned, and after every man had looked upon his own seal, and seen that it was unbroken, the doors being opened, the vessels were found full of wine." The god himself is said to have appeared in person and filled the vessels. (Bell's Pantheon.)
[257:5] Cox: Aryan Mytho., vol. ii. p. 295.
[257:6] Bulfinch: The Age of Fable, p. 225. "And they laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison; but the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth." (Acts, v. 18, 19.)
[258:1] Bell's Pantheon, vol. i. p. 28.
[258:2] Eusebius: Life of Constantine, lib. 3, ch. liv.
"Æsculapius, the son of Apollo, was endowed by his father with such skill in the healing art that he even restored the dead to life." (Bulfinch: The Age of Fable, p. 246.)
[258:3] Murray: Manual of Mythology, pp. 179, 180.
[258:4] See Prog. Relig. Ideas, vol. i. p. 304.
[258:5] Marinus: Quoted in Taylor's Diegesis, p. 151.
[258:6] Pausanias was one of the most eminent Greek geographers and historians.
[259:1] "And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying and saying: thou son of David, have mercy on us. . . . And Jesus said unto them: Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying: According to your faith be it unto you, and their eyes were opened." (Matt. ix. 27-30.)
[259:2] Middleton's Works, vol. i. pp. 63, 64.
[259:3] Ibid. p. 48.
[259:4] Bell's Pantheon, vol. i. p. 62.
[259:5] See Middleton's Letters from Rome, p. 76.
[260:1] See Middleton's Letters from Rome, p. 76.
Picta docet temptes multa tabella tuis."