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 (A. D. 230), one of the shining lights of the Christian church, was another Father of this class. Porphyry (a Neo-platonist philosopher) objects to him on this account.[413:1]
He also was born in the great cradle and nursery of superstition—Egypt—and studied under that celebrated philosopher, Ammonius Saccus, who taught that "Christianity and Paganism, when rightly understood, differed in no essential point, but had a common origin." This man was so sincere in his devotion to the cause of monkery, or Essenism, that he made himself an eunuch "for the kingdom of heaven's sake."[413:2] The writer of the twelfth verse of the nineteenth chapter of Matthew, was without doubt an Egyptian monk. The words are put into the mouth of the Jewish Jesus, which is simply ridiculous, when it is considered that the Jews did not allow an eunuch so much as to enter the congregation of the Lord.[413:3]
St. Gregory (A. D. 240), bishop of Neo-Cæsarea in Pontus, was another celebrated Christian Father, born of Pagan parents and educated a Pagan. He is called Thaumaturgus, or the wonder-worker, and is said to have performed miracles when still a Pagan.[413:4] He, too, was an Alexandrian student. This is the Gregory who was commended by his namesake of Nyssa for changing the Pagan festivals into Christian holidays, the better to draw the heathen to the religion of Christ.[413:5]
Mosheim, the ecclesiastical historian, in speaking of the Christian church during the second century, says:
"The profound respect that was paid to the Greek and Roman mysteries, and the extraordinary sanctity that was attributed to them, induced the Christians to give their religion a mystic air, in order to put it upon an equal footing, in point of dignity, with that of the Pagans. For this purpose they gave the name of mysteries to the institutions of the gospel, and decorated, particularly the holy sacrament, with that solemn title. They used, in that sacred institution, as also in that of baptism, several of the terms employed in the heathen mysteries, and proceeded so far at length, as even to adopt some of the rites and ceremonies of which those renowned mysteries consisted."[413:6]
We have seen, then, that the only difference between Christianity and Paganism is that Brahma, Ormuzd, Osiris, Zeus, Jupiter, etc., are called by another name; Crishna, Buddha, Bacchus, Adonis, Mithras, etc., have been turned into Christ Jesus: Venus' pigeon into the Holy Ghost; Diana, Isis, Devaki, etc., into the [Pg 414]Virgin Mary; and the demi-gods and heroes into saints. The exploits of the one were represented as the miracles of the other. Pagan festivals became Christian holidays, and Pagan temples became Christian churches.
Mr. Mahaffy, Fellow and Tutor in Trinity College, and Lecturer on Ancient History in the University of Dublin, ends his "Prolegomena to Ancient History" in the following manner:
"There is indeed, hardly a great or fruitful idea in the Jewish or Christian systems, which has not its analogy in the (ancient) Egyptian faith. The development of the one God into a trinity; the incarnation of the mediating deity in a Virgin, and without a father; his conflict and his momentary defeat by the powers of darkness; his partial victory (for the enemy is not destroyed); his resurrection and reign over an eternal kingdom with his justified saints; his distinction from, and yet identity with, the uncreate incomprehensible Father, whose form is unknown, and who dwelleth not in temples made with hands—all these theological conceptions pervade the oldest religion of Egypt. So, too, the contrast and even the apparent inconsistencies between our moral and theological beliefs—the vacillating attribution of sin and guilt partly to moral weakness, partly to the interference of evil spirits, and likewise of righteousness to moral worth, and again to the help of good genii or angels; the immortality of the soul and its final judgment—all these things have met us in the Egyptian ritual and moral treatises. So, too, the purely human side of morals, and the catalogue of virtues and vices, are by natural consequences as like as are the theological systems. But I recoil from opening this great subject now; it is enough to have lifted the veil and shown the scene of many a future contest."[414:1]
In regard to the moral sentiments expressed in the books of the New Testament, and believed by the majority of Christians to be peculiar to Christianity, we shall touch them but lightly, as this has already been done so frequently by many able scholars.
The moral doctrines that appear in the New Testament, even the sayings of the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord's Prayer, are found with slight variation, among the Rabbins, who have certainly borrowed nothing out of the New Testament.
Christian teachers have delighted to exhibit the essential superiority of Christianity to Judaism, have quoted with triumph the maxims that are said to have fallen from the lips of Jesus, and which, they surmised, could not be paralleled in the elder Scriptures, and have put the least favorable construction on such passages in the ancient books as seemed to contain the thoughts of evangelists and apostles. A more ingenious study of the Hebrew law, according to the oldest traditions, as well as its later interpretations by the prophets, reduces these differences materially by bringing into relief sentiments and precepts whereof the New Testament morality is but an echo.
There are passages in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, even tenderer in their humanity than anything in the Gospels. The preacher from the Mount, the prophet of the Beatitudes, does but repeat with persuasive lips what the law-givers of his race proclaimed in mighty tones of command. Such an acquaintance with the later literature of the Jews as is really obtained now from popular sources, will convince the ordinarily fair mind that the originality of the New Testament has been greatly over-estimated.
"To feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, bury the dead, loyally serve the king, forms the first duty of a pious man and faithful subject,"
is an abstract from the Egyptian "Book of the Dead," the oldest Bible in the world.
Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, born 551 B. C., said:
"Obey Heaven, and follow the orders of Him who governs it. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do to another what you would he should do unto you; and do not unto another what you would should not be done unto you; thou only needest this law alone, it is the foundation and principle of all the rest. Acknowledge thy benefits by the return of other benefits, but never revenge injuries."[415:1]
The following extracts from Manu and the Maha-bharata, an Indian epic poem, written many centuries before the time of Christ Jesus,[415:2] compared with similar sentiment contained in the books of the New Testament, are very striking.