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

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We shall now, after giving a brief history of the Pentateuch, refer to the legends of which we have been treating, and endeavor to show from whence the Hebrews borrowed them. The first of these is "The Creation and Fall of Man."

Egypt, the country out of which the Israelites came, had no story of the Creation and Fall of Man, such as we have found among the Hebrews; they therefore could not have learned it from them. The Chaldeans, however, as we saw in our first chapter, had this legend, and it is from them that the Hebrews borrowed it.

The account which we have given of the Chaldean story of the Creation and Fall of Man, was taken, as we stated, from the writings of Berosus, the Chaldean historian, who lived in the time of Alexander the Great (356-325 B. C.), and as the Jews were acquainted with the story some centuries earlier than this, his works did not prove that these traditions were in Babylonia before the Jewish captivity, and could not afford testimony in favor of the statement that the Jews borrowed this legend from the Babylonians at that time. It was left for Mr. George Smith, of the British Museum, to establish, without a doubt, the fact that this legend was known to the Babylonians at least two thousand years before the time assigned for the birth of Jesus. The cuneiform inscriptions discovered by him, while on an expedition to Assyria, organized by the London "Daily Telegraph," was the means of doing this, and although by far the greatest number of these tablets belong to the age of Assurbanipal, who reigned over Assyria B. C. 670, it is "acknowledged on all hands that these tablets are not the originals, but are only copies from earlier texts." "The Assyrians acknowledge themselves that this literature was borrowed from Babylonian sources, and of course it is to Babylonia we have to look to ascertain the approximate dates of the original documents."[98:2] Mr. Smith then shows, from "fragments of the Cuneiform account of the Creation and Fall" which have been discovered, that, "in the period from b. c. 2000 to [Pg 99]1500, the Babylonians believed in a story similar to that in Genesis." It is probable, however, says Mr. Smith, that this legend existed as traditions in the country long before it was committed to writing, and some of these traditions exhibited great difference in details, showing that they had passed through many changes.[99:1]

Professor James Fergusson, in his celebrated work on "Tree and Serpent Worship," says:

"The two chapters which refer to this (i. e., the Garden, the Tree, and the Serpent), as indeed the whole of the first eight of Genesis, are now generally admitted by scholars to be made up of fragments of earlier books or earlier traditions, belonging, properly speaking, to Mesopotamia rather than to Jewish history, the exact meaning of which the writers of the Pentateuch seem hardly to have appreciated when they transcribed them in the form in which they are now found."[99:2]

John Fiske says:

"The story of the Serpent in Eden is an Aryan story in every particular. The notion of Satan as the author of evil appears only in the later books, composed after the Jews had come into close contact with Persian ideas."[99:3]

Prof. John W. Draper says:

"In the old legends of dualism, the evil spirit was said to have sent a serpent to ruin Paradise. These legends became known to the Jews during their Babylonian captivity."[99:4]

Professor Goldziher also shows, in his "Mythology Among the Hebrews,"[99:5] that the story of the creation was borrowed by the Hebrews from the Babylonians. He also informs us that the notion of the bôrê and yôsêr, "Creator" (the term used in the cosmogony in Genesis) as an integral part of the idea of God, are first brought into use by the prophets of the captivity. "Thus also the story of the Garden of Eden, as a supplement to the history of the Creation, was written down at Babylon."

Strange as it may appear, after the Genesis account, we may pass through the whole Pentateuch, and other books of the Old Testament, clear to the end, and will find that the story of the "Garden of Eden" and "Fall of Man," is hardly alluded to, if at all. Lengkerke says: "One single certain trace of the employment of the story of Adam's fall is entirely wanting in the Hebrew Canon (after the Genesis account). Adam, Eve, the Serpent, the woman's [Pg 100]seduction of her husband, &c., are all images, to which the remaining words of the Israelites never again recur."[100:1]

This circumstance can only be explained by the fact that the first chapters of Genesis were not written until after the other portions had been written.

It is worthy of notice, that this story of the Fall of Man, upon which the whole orthodox scheme of a divine Saviour or Redeemer is based, was not considered by the learned Israelites as fact. They simply looked upon it as a story which satisfied the ignorant, but which should be considered as allegory by the learned.[100:2]

Rabbi Maimonides (Moses Ben Maimon), one of the most celebrated of the Rabbis, says on this subject:—