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: 205The question now arises, Why was the Christian Saviour represented as a serpent? Simply because the heathen Saviours were represented in like manner.
From the earliest times of which we have any historical notice, the serpent has been connected with the preserving gods, or Saviours; the gods of goodness and of wisdom. In Hindoo mythology, the serpent is intimately associated with Vishnu, the preserving god, the Saviour.[356:2] Serpents are often associated with the Hindoo gods, as emblems of eternity.[356:3] It was a very sacred animal among the Hindoos.[356:4]
Worshipers of Buddha venerate serpents. "This animal," says Mr. Wake, "became equal in importance as Buddha himself." And Mr. Lillie says:
"That God was worshiped at an early date by the Buddhists under the symbol of the Serpent is proved from the sculptures of oldest topes, where worshipers are represented so doing."[356:5]
The Egyptians also venerated the serpent. It was the special symbol of Thoth, a primeval deity of Syro-Egyptian mythology, and of all those gods, such as Hermes and Seth, who can be connected with him.[356:6] Kneph and Apap were also represented as serpents.[356:7]
Herodotus, when he visited Egypt, found sacred serpents in the temples. Speaking of them, he says:
"In the neighborhood of Thebes, there are sacred serpents, not at all hurtful to men: they are diminutive in size, and carry two horns that grow on the top of the head. When these serpents die, they bury them in the temple of Jupiter; for they say they are sacred to that god."[356:8]
The third member of the Chaldean triad, Héa, or Hoa, was represented by a serpent. According to Sir Henry Rawlinson, the most important titles of this deity refer "to his functions as the source of all knowledge and science." Not only is he "The Intelligent Fish," but his name may be read as signifying both "Life" and a "Serpent," and he may be considered as "figured by the great serpent which occupies so conspicuous a place among the [Pg 357]symbols of the gods on the black stones recording Babylonian benefactors."[357:1]
The Phenicians and other eastern nations venerated the serpent as symbols of their beneficent gods.[357:2]
Æsculapius, the healing god, the Saviour, was also worshiped under the form of a serpent.[357:4] "Throughout Hellas," says Mr. Cox, "Æsculapius remained the 'Healer,' and the 'Restorer of Life,' and accordingly the serpent is everywhere his special emblem."[357:5]
Why the serpent was the symbol of the Saviours and beneficent gods of antiquity, will be explained in Chap. XXXIX.
The Dove, among the Christians, is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Matthew narrator relates that when Jesus went up out of the water, after being baptized by John, "the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him."
Here is another piece of Paganism, as we find that the Dove was the symbol of the Holy Spirit among all nations of antiquity. Rev. J. P. Lundy, speaking of this, says:
"It is a remarkable fact that this spirit (i. e., the Holy Spirit) has been symbolized among all religious and civilized nations by the Dove."[357:6]
And Earnest De Bunsen says:
"The symbol of the Spirit of God was the Dove, in Greek, peleia, and the Samaritans had a brazen fiery dove, instead of the brazen fiery serpent. Both referred to fire, the symbol of the Holy Ghost."[357:7]
Buddha is represented, like Christ Jesus, with a dove hovering over his head.[357:8]
The virgin goddess Juno is often represented with a dove on her head. It is also seen on the heads of the images of Astarte, Cybele, and Isis; it was sacred to Venus, and was intended as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.[357:9]