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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The mother of Abraham was at that time with child, but, of course, he escaped from being put to death, although many children were slaughtered.

Zoroaster, the chief of the religion of the Magi, was a "dangerous child." Prodigies had announced his birth; he was exposed to dangers from the time of his infancy, and was obliged to fly into Persia, like Jesus into Egypt. Like him, he was pursued by a king, his enemy, who wanted to get rid of him.[169:3]

His mother had alarming dreams of evil spirits seeking to destroy the child to whom she was about to give birth. But a good spirit came to comfort her and said: "Fear nothing! Ormuzd will protect this infant. He has sent him as a prophet to the people. The world is waiting for him."[169:4]

Perseus, son of the Virgin Danae, was also a "dangerous child." Acrisius, king of Argos, being told by the oracle that a son born of his virgin daughter would destroy him, immured his daughter Danae in a tower, where no man could approach her, and by this means hoped to keep his daughter from [Pg 170]becoming enceinte. The god Jupiter, however, visited her there, as it is related of the Angel Gabriel visiting the Virgin Mary,[170:1] the result of which was that she bore a son—Perseus. Acrisius, on hearing of his daughter's disgrace, caused both her and the infant to be shut up in a chest and cast into the sea. They were discovered by one Dictys, and liberated from what must have been anything but a pleasant position.[170:2]

Æsculapius, when an infant, was exposed on the Mount of Myrtles, and left there to die, but escaped the death which was intended for him, having been found and cared for by shepherds.[170:3]

Hercules, son of the virgin Leto, was left to die on a plain, but was found and rescued by a maiden.[170:4]

Œdipous was a "dangerous child." Laios, King of Thebes, having been told by the Delphic Oracle that Œdipous would be his destroyer, no sooner is Œdipous born than the decree goes forth that the child must be slain: but the servant to whom he is intrusted contents himself with exposing the babe on the slopes of Mount Kithairon, where a shepherd finds him, and carries him, like Cyrus or Romulus, to his wife, who cherishes the child with a mother's care.[170:5]

The Theban myth of Œdipous is repeated substantially in the Arcadian tradition of Telephos. He is exposed, when a babe, on Mount Parthenon, and is suckled by a doe, which represents the wolf in the myth of Romulus, and the dog of the Persian story of Cyrus. Like Moses, he is brought up in the palace of a king.[170:6]

As we read the story of Telephos, we can scarcely fail to think of the story of the Trojan Paris, for, like Telephos, Paris is exposed as a babe on the mountain-side.[170:7] Before he is born, there are portents of the ruin which he is to bring upon his house and people. Priam, the ruling monarch, therefore decrees that the child shall be left to die on the hill-side. But the babe lies on the slopes of Ida and is nourished by a she-bear. He is fostered, like Crishna and others, by shepherds, among whom he grows up.[170:8]

Iamos was left to die among the bushes and violets. Aipytos, the chieftain of Phaisana, had learned at Delphi that a child had been born who should become the greatest of all the seers and prophets of the earth, and he asked all his people where the babe [Pg 171]was: but none had heard or seen him, for he lay away amid the thick bushes, with his soft body bathed in the golden and pure rays of the violets. So when he was found, they called him Iamos, the "violet child;" and as he grew in years and strength, he went down into the Alpheian stream, and prayed to his father that he would glorify his son. Then the voice of Zeus was heard, bidding him come to the heights of Olympus, where he should receive the gift of prophecy.[171:1]

Chandragupta was also a "dangerous child." He is exposed to great dangers in his infancy at the hands of a tributary chief who has defeated and slain his suzerain. His mother, "relinquishing him to the protection of the Devas, places him in a vase, and deposits him at the door of a cattle pen." A herdsman takes the child and rears it as his own.[171:2]

Jason is another hero of the same kind. Pelias, the chief of Iolkos, had been told that one of the children of Aiolos would be his destroyer, and decreed, therefore, that all should be slain. Jason only is preserved, and brought up by Cheiron.[171:3]

Bacchus, son of the virgin Semele, was destined to bring ruin upon Cadmus, King of Thebes, who therefore orders the infant to be put into a chest and thrown into a river. He is found, and taken from the water by loving hands, and lives to fulfill his mission.[171:4]

Herodotus relates a similar story, which is as follows:

"The constitution of the Corinthians was formerly of this kind; it was an oligarchy, (a government in the hands of a selected few), and those who were called Bacchiadæ governed the city. About this time one Eetion, who had been married to a maiden called Labda, and having no children by her, went to Delphi to inquire of the oracle about having offspring. Upon entering the temple he was immediately saluted as follows; 'Eetion, no one honors thee, though worthy of much honor. Labda is pregnant and will bring forth a round stone; it will fall on monarchs, and vindicate Corinth.' This oracle, pronounced to Eetion, was by chance reported to the Bacchiadæ, who well knew that it prophesied the birth of a son to Eetion who would overthrow them, and reign in their stead; and though they comprehended, they kept it secret, purposing to destroy the offspring that should be born to Eetion. As soon as the woman brought forth, they sent ten persons to the district where Eetion lived, to put the child to death; but, the child, by a divine providence, was saved. His mother hid him in a chest, and as they could not find the child they resolved to depart, and tell those who sent them that they had done all that they had commanded. After this, Eetion's son grew up, and having escaped this danger, the name of Cypselus was given him, from the chest. When Cypselus reached man's estate, and consulted the oracle, an ambiguous answer was given him at Delphi; relying on which he attacked and got possession of Corinth."[171:5]

[Pg 172]

Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were exposed on the banks of the Tiber, when infants, and left there to die, but escaped the death intended for them.

The story of the "dangerous child" was well known in ancient Rome, and several of their emperors, so it is said, were threatened with death at their birth, or when mere infants. Julius Marathus, in his life of the Emperor Augustus Cæsar, says that before his birth there was a prophecy in Rome that a king over the Roman people would soon be born. To obviate this danger to the republic, the Senate ordered that all the male children born in that year should be abandoned or exposed.[172:1]

The flight of the virgin-mother with her babe is also illustrated in the story of Astrea when beset by Orion, and of Latona, the mother of Apollo, when pursued by the monster.[172:2] It is simply the same old story, over and over again. Someone has predicted that a child born at a certain time shall be great, he is therefore a "dangerous child," and the reigning monarch, or some other interested party, attempts to have the child destroyed, but he invariably escapes and grows to manhood, and generally accomplishes the purpose for which he was intended. This almost universal mythos was added to the fictitious history of Jesus by its fictitious authors, who have made him escape in his infancy from the reigning tyrant with the usual good fortune.