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: 70two tables of stone.[104:2]
The next legend treated was that of "Samson and his Exploits."
Those who, like the learned of the last century, maintain that the Pagans copied from the Hebrews, may say that Samson was the model of all their similar stories, but now that our ideas concerning antiquity are enlarged, and when we know that Hercules is well known to have been the God Sol, whose allegorical history was spread among many nations long before the Hebrews were ever heard of, we are authorized to believe and to say that some Jewish mythologist—for what else are their so-called historians—composed the anecdote of Samson, by partly disfiguring the popular traditions of the Greeks, Phenicians and Chaldeans, and claiming that hero for his own nation.[104:3]
The Babylonian story of Izdubar, the lion-killer, who wandered [Pg 105]to the regions of the blessed (the Grecian Elysium), who crossed a great waste of land (the desert of Lybia, according to the Grecian mythos), and arrived at a region where splendid trees were laden with jewels (the Grecian Garden of the Hesperides), is probably the foundation for the Hercules and other corresponding myths. This conclusion is drawn from the fact that, although the story of Hercules was known in the island of Thasus, by the Phenician colony settled there, five centuries before he was known in Greece,[105:1] yet its antiquity among the Babylonians antedates that.
The age of the legends of Izdubar among the Babylonians cannot be placed with certainty, yet, the cuneiform inscriptions relating to this hero, which have been found, may be placed at about 2000 years B. C.[105:2] "As these stories were traditions," says Mr. Smith, the discoverer of the cylinders, "before they were committed to writing, their antiquity as tradition is probably much greater than that."[105:3]
With these legends before them, the Jewish priests in Babylon had no difficulty in arranging the story of Samson, and adding it to their already fabulous history.
As the Rev. Dr. Isaac M. Wise remarks, in speaking of the ancient Hebrews: "They adopted forms, terms, ideas and myths of all nations with whom they came in contact, and, like the Greeks, in their way, cast them all in a peculiar Jewish religious mold."
We have seen, in the chapter which treats of this legend, that it is recorded in the book of Judges. This book was not written till after the first set of Israelites had been carried into captivity, and perhaps still later.[105:4]
After this we have "Jonah swallowed by a Big Fish," which is the last legend treated.
We saw that it was a solar myth, known to many nations of antiquity. The writer of the book—whoever he may have been—lived in the fifth century before Christ—after the Jews had become acquainted and had mixed with other nations. The writer of this wholly fictitious story, taking the prophet Jonah—who was evidently an historical personage—for his hero, was perhaps intending to show the loving-kindness of Jehovah.[105:5]
We have now examined all the principal Old Testament legends, and, after what has been seen, we think that no impartial person can still consider them historical facts. That so great a number of educated persons still do so seems astonishing, in our way of thinking. They have repudiated Greek and Roman mythology with disdain; why then admit with respect the mythology of the Jews? Ought the miracles of Jehovah to impress us more than those of Jupiter? We think not; they should all be looked upon as relics of the past.
That Christian writers are beginning to be aroused to the idea that another tack should be taken, differing from the old, is very evident. This is clearly seen by the words of Prof. Richard A. Armstrong, the translator of Dr. Knappert's "Religion of Israel" into English. In the Preface of this work, he says:
"It appears to me to be profoundly important that the youthful English mind should be faithfully and accurately informed of the results of modern research into the early development of the Israelitish religion. Deplorable and irreparable mischief will be done to the generation, now passing into manhood and womanhood, if their educators leave them ignorant or loosely informed on these topics; for they will then be rudely awakened by the enemies of Christianity from a blind and unreasoning faith in the supernatural inspiration of the Scriptures; and being suddenly and bluntly made aware that Abraham, Moses, David, and the rest did not say, do, or write what has been ascribed to them, they will fling away all care for the venerable religion of Israel and all hope that it can nourish their own religious life. How much happier will those of our children and young people be who learn what is now known of the actual origin of the Pentateuch and the Writings, from the same lips which have taught them that the Prophets indeed prepared the way for Jesus, and that God is indeed our Heavenly Father. For these will, without difficulty, perceive that God's love is none the feebler and that the Bible is no less precious, because Moses knew nothing of the Levitical legislation, or because it was not the warrior monarch on his semi-barbaric throne, but some far later son of Israel, who breathed forth the immortal hymn of faith, 'The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.'"