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: 34It was believed in, and taught by, the Brahminical Hindoos,[42:2] the Buddhists,[42:3] the natives of Egypt,[42:4] several philosophers of [Pg 43]ancient Greece,[43:1] the ancient Druids,[43:2] the natives of Madagascar,[43:3] several tribes of Africa,[43:4] and North America,[43:5] the ancient Mexicans,[43:4] and by some Jewish and Christian sects.[43:5]
"It deserves notice, that in both of these religions (i. e., Jewish and Christian), it found adherents as well in ancient as in modern times. Among the Jews, the doctrine of transmigration—the Gilgul Neshamoth—was taught in the mystical system of the Kabbala."[43:6]
"All the souls," the spiritual code of this system says, "are subject to the trials of transmigration; and men do not know which are the ways of the Most High in their regard." "The principle, in short, of the Kabbala, is the same as that of Brahmanism."
"On the ground of this doctrine, which was shared in by Rabbis of the highest renown, it was held, for instance, that the soul of Adam migrated into David, and will come in the Messiah; that the soul of Japhet is the same as that of Simeon, and the soul of Terah, migrated into Job."
"Of all these transmigrations, biblical instances are adduced according to their mode of interpretation—in the writings of Rabbi Manasse ben Israel, Rabbi Naphtali, Rabbi Meyer ben Gabbai, Rabbi Ruben, in the Jalkut Khadash, and other works of a similar character."[43:4]
The doctrine is thus described by Ovid, in the language of Dryden:
By time corrupted, or consumed by fires?
Nor dies the spirit, but new life repeats
Into other forms, and only changes seats.
Ev'n I, who these mysterious truths declare,
Was once Euphorbus in the Trojan war;
My name and lineage I remember well,
And how in fight by Spartan's King I fell.
In Argive Juno's fame I late beheld
My buckler hung on high, and own'd my former shield
Then death, so called, is but old matter dressed
In some new figure, and a varied vest.
Thus all things are but alter'd, nothing dies,
And here and there the unbodied spirit flies."
The Jews undoubtedly learned this doctrine after they had been subdued by, and become acquainted with other nations; and the writer of this story, whoever he may have been, was evidently endeavoring to strengthen the belief in this doctrine—he being an advocate of it—by inventing this story, and making Jacob a witness to the truth of it. Jacob would have been looked upon at the time the story was written (i. e., after the Babylonian captivity), [Pg 44]as of great authority. We know that several writers of portions of the Old Testament have written for similar purposes. As an illustration, we may mention the book of Esther. This book was written for the purpose of explaining the origin of the festival of Purim, and to encourage the Israelites to adopt it. The writer, who was an advocate of the feast, lived long after the Babylonish captivity, and is quite unknown.[44:1]
The writer of the seventeenth chapter of Matthew has made Jesus a teacher of the doctrine of Transmigration.
The Lord had promised that he would send Elijah (Elias) the prophet, "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord,"[44:2] and Jesus is made to say that he had already come, or, that his soul had transmigrated unto the body of John the Baptist, and they knew it not.[44:3]
And in Mark (viii. 27) we are told that Jesus asked his disciples, saying unto them; "Whom do men say that I am?" whereupon they answer: "Some say Elias; and others, one of the prophets;" or, in other words, that the soul of Elias, or one of the prophets, had transmigrated into the body of Jesus. In John (ix. 1, 2), we are told that Jesus and his disciples seeing a man "which was blind from his birth," the disciples asked him, saying; "Master, who did sin, this man (in some former state) or his parents." Being