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: 186

And St. Augustin says:

"The cross and baptism were never parted."[319:5]

The ancient Egyptians performed their rite of baptism, and those who were initiated into the mysteries of Isis were baptized.[319:6]

Apuleius of Madura, in Africa, who was initiated into these mysteries, shows that baptism was used; that the ceremony was performed by the attending priest, and that purification and forgiveness of sin was the result.[319:7]

[Pg 320]

The custom of baptism in Egypt is known by the hieroglyphic term of "water of purification." The water so used in immersion absolutely cleansed the soul, and the person was said to be regenerated.[320:1]

They also believed in baptism after death, for it was held that the dead were washed from their sins by Osiris, the beneficent saviour, in the land of shades, and the departed are often represented (on the sarcophagi) kneeling before Osiris, who pours over them water from a pitcher.[320:2]

The ancient Etruscans performed the rite of baptism. In Tab. clxxii. Gorius gives two pictures of ancient Etruscan baptism by water. In the first, the youth is held in the arms of one priest, and another is pouring water upon his head. In the second, the young person is going through the same ceremony, kneeling on a kind of altar. At the time of its baptism the child was named, blessed and marked on the forehead with the sign of the cross.[320:3]

Baptism, or the application of water, was a rite well known to the Jews before the time of Christ Jesus, and was practiced by them when they admitted proselytes to their religion from heathenism. When children were baptized they received the sign of the cross, were anointed, and fed with milk and honey.[320:4] "It was not customary, however, among them, to baptize those who were converted to the Jewish religion, until after the Babylonish captivity."[320:5] This clearly shows that they learned the rite from their heathen oppressors.

Baptism was practiced by the ascetics of Buddhist origin, known as the Essenes.[320:6] John the Baptist was, evidently, nothing more than a member of this order, with which the deserts of Syria and the Thebais of Egypt abounded.

The idea that man is restrained from perfect union with God by his imperfection, uncleanness and sin, was implicitly believed by the ancient Greeks and Romans. In Thessaly was yearly celebrated a great festival of cleansing. A work bearing the name of "Museus" was a complete ritual of purifications. The usual mode of purification was dipping in water (immersion), or [Pg 321]it was performed by aspersion. These sacraments were held to have virtue independent of the dispositions of the candidates, an opinion which called forth the sneer of Diogenes, the Grecian historian, when he saw some one undergoing baptism by aspersion.

"Poor wretch! do you not see that since these sprinklings cannot repair your grammatical errors, they cannot repair either, the faults of your life."[321:1]

And the belief that water could wash out the stains of original sin, led the poet Ovid (43 B. C.) to say:

"Ah, easy fools, to think that a whole flood
Of water e'er can purge the stain of blood."

These ancient Pagans had especial gods and goddesses who presided over the birth of children. The goddess Nundina took her name from the ninth day, on which all male children were sprinkled with holy water,[321:2] as females were on the eighth, at the same time receiving their name, of which addition to the ceremonial of Christian baptism we find no mention in the Christian Scriptures. When all the forms of the Pagan nundination were duly complied with, the priest gave a certificate to the parents of the regenerated infant; it was, therefore, duly recognized as a legitimate member of the family and of society, and the day was spent in feasting and hilarity.[321:3]

Adults were also baptized; and those who were initiated in the sacred rites of the Bacchic mysteries were regenerated and admitted by baptism, just as they were admitted into the mysteries of Mithra.[321:4] Justin Martyr, like his brother Tertullian, claimed that this ablution was invented by demons, in imitation of the true baptism, that their votaries might also have their pretended purification by water.[321:5]

Infant Baptism was practiced among the ancient inhabitants of northern Europe—the Danes, Swedes, Norwegians and Icelanders—long before the first dawn of Christianity had reached those parts. Water was poured on the head of the new-born child, and [Pg 322]a name was given it at the same time. Baptism is expressly mentioned in the Hava-mal and Rigs-mal, and alluded to in other epic poems.[322:1]

The ancient Livonians (inhabitants of the three modern Baltic provinces of Courland, Livonia, and Esthonia), observed the same ceremony; which also prevailed among the ancient Germans. This is expressly stated in a letter which the famous Pope Gregory III. sent to their apostle Boniface, directing him how to act in respect to it.[322:2]

The same ceremony was performed by the ancient Druids of Britain.[322:3]

Among the New Zealanders young children were baptized. After the ceremony of baptism had taken place, prayers were offered to make the child sacred, and clean from all impurities.[322:4]

The ancient Mexicans baptized their children shortly after birth. After the relatives had assembled in the court of the parents' house, the midwife placed the child's head to the east, and prayed for a blessing from the