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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Moses the credit of performing some of the miracles which were attributed to that god.

It is related in the hymns of Orpheus,[51:2] that Bacchus had a rod with which he performed miracles, and which he could change into a serpent at pleasure. He passed the Red Sea, dry shod, at the head of his army. He divided the waters of the rivers Orontes and Hydaspus, by the touch of his rod, and passed through them dry-shod.[51:3] By the same mighty wand, he drew water from the rock,[51:4] and wherever they marched, the land flowed with wine, milk and honey.[51:5]

Professor Steinthal, speaking of Dionysus (Bacchus), says:

Like Moses, he strikes fountains of wine and water out of the rock. Almost all the acts of Moses correspond to those of the Sun-gods.[51:6]

Mons. Dupuis says:

"Among the different miracles of Bacchus and his Bacchantes, there are prodigies very similar to those which are attributed to Moses; for instance, such as the sources of water which the former caused to sprout from the innermost of the rocks."[51:7]

In Bell's Pantheon of the Gods and Heroes of Antiquity,[51:8] an account of the prodigies attributed to Bacchus is given; among these, are mentioned his striking water from the rock, with his magic wand, his turning a twig of ivy into a snake, his passing through the Red Sea and the rivers Orontes and Hydaspus, and of his enjoying the light of the Sun (while marching with his army in India), when the day was spent, and it was dark to others. All these are parallels too striking to be accidental.

We might also mention the fact, that Bacchus, as well as Moses [Pg 52]was called the "Law-giver," and that it was said of Bacchus, as well as of Moses, that his laws were written on two tables of stone.[52:1] Bacchus was represented horned, and so was Moses.[52:2] Bacchus "was picked up in a box, that floated on the water,"[52:3] and so was Moses.[52:4] Bacchus had two mothers, one by nature, and one by adoption,[52:5] and so had Moses.[52:6] And, as we have already seen, Bacchus and his army enjoyed the light of the Sun, during the night time, and Moses and his army enjoyed the light of "a pillar of fire, by night."[52:7]

In regard to the children of Israel going out from the land of Egypt, we have no doubt that such an occurrence took place, although not in the manner, and not for such reasons, as is recorded by the sacred historian. We find, from other sources, what is evidently nearer the truth.

It is related by the historian Choeremon, that, at one time, the land of Egypt was infested with disease, and through the advice of the sacred scribe Phritiphantes, the king caused the infected people (who were none other than the brick-making slaves, known as the children of Israel), to be collected, and driven out of the country.[52:8]

Lysimachus relates that:

"A filthy disease broke out in Egypt, and the Oracle of Ammon, being consulted on the occasion, commanded the king to purify the land by driving out the Jews (who were infected with leprosy, &c.), a race of men who were hateful to the Gods."[52:9] "The whole multitude of the people were accordingly collected and driven out into the wilderness."[52:10]

Diodorus Siculus, referring to this event, says:

"In ancient times Egypt was afflicted with a great plague, which was attributed to the anger of God, on account of the multitude of foreigners in Egypt: by whom the rites of the native religion were neglected. The Egyptians accordingly drove them out. The most noble of them went under Cadmus and Danaus to Greece, but the greater number followed Moses, a wise and valiant leader, to Palestine."[52:11]

[Pg 53]

After giving the different opinions concerning the origin of the Jewish nation, Tacitus, the Roman historian, says:

"In this clash of opinions, one point seems to be universally admitted. A pestilential disease, disfiguring the race of man, and making the body an object of loathsome deformity, spread all over Egypt. Bocchoris, at that time the reigning monarch, consulted the oracle of Jupiter Hammon, and received for answer, that the kingdom must be purified, by exterminating the infected multitude, as a race of men detested by the gods. After diligent search, the wretched sufferers were collected together, and in a wild and barren desert abandoned to their misery. In that distress, while the vulgar herd was sunk in deep despair, Moses, one of their number, reminded them, that, by the wisdom of his councils, they had been already rescued out of impending danger. Deserted as they were by men and gods, he told them, that if they did not repose their confidence in him, as their chief by divine commission, they had no resource left. His offer was accepted. Their march began, they knew not whither. Want of water was their chief distress. Worn out with fatigue, they lay stretched on the bare earth, heart broken, ready to expire, when a troop of wild asses, returning from pasture, went up the steep ascent of a rock covered with a grove of trees. The verdure of the herbage round the place suggested the idea of springs near at hand. Moses traced the steps of the animals, and discovered a plentiful vein of water. By this relief the fainting multitude was raised from despair. They pursued their journey for six days without intermission. On the seventh day they made halt, and, having expelled the natives, took possession of the country, where they built their city, and dedicated their temple."[53:1]

Other accounts, similar to these, might be added, among which may be mentioned that given by Manetho, an Egyptian priest, which is referred to by Josephus, the Jewish historian.

Although the accounts quoted above are not exactly alike, yet the main points are the same, which are to the effect that Egypt was infected with disease owing to the foreigners (among whom were those who were afterwards styled "the children of Israel") that were in the country, and who were an unclean people, and that they were accordingly driven out into the wilderness.

When we compare this statement with that recorded in Genesis, it does not take long to decide which of the two is nearest the truth.

Everything putrid, or that had a tendency to putridity, was carefully avoided by the ancient Egyptians, and so strict were the Egyptian priests on this point, that they wore no garments made of any animal substance, circumcised themselves, and shaved their whole bodies, even to their eyebrows, lest they should unknowingly harbor any filth, excrement or vermin, supposed to be bred from putrefaction.[53:2] We know from the laws set down in Leviticus, that the Hebrews were not a remarkably clean race.

[Pg 54]

Jewish priests, in making a history for their race, have given us but a shadow of truth here and there; it is almost wholly mythical. The author of "The Religion of Israel," speaking on this subject, says:

"The history of the religion of Israel must start from the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt. Formerly it was usual to take a much earlier starting-point, and to begin with a religious discussion of the religious ideas of the Patriarchs. And this was perfectly right, so long as the accounts of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were considered historical. But now that a strict investigation has shown us that all these stories are entirely unhistorical, of course we have to begin the history later on."[54:1]

The author of "The Spirit History of Man," says:

"The Hebrews came out of Egypt and settled among the Canaanites. They need not be traced beyond the Exodus. That is their historical beginning. It was very easy to cover up this remote event by the recital of mythical traditions, and to prefix to it an account of their origin in which the gods (Patriarchs), should figure as their ancestors."[54:2]

Professor Goldzhier says:

"The residence of the Hebrews in Egypt, and their exodus thence under the guidance and training of an enthusiast for the freedom of his tribe, form a series of strictly historical facts, which find confirmation even in the documents of ancient Egypt (which we have just shown). But the traditional narratives of these events (were) elaborated by the Hebrew people."[54:3]

Count de Volney also observes that:

"What Exodus says of their (the Israelites) servitude under the king of Heliopolis, and of the oppression of their hosts, the Egyptians, is extremely probable. It is here their history begins. All that precedes . . . is nothing but mythology and cosmogony."[54:4]

In speaking of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt, Dr. Knappert says:

"According to the tradition preserved in Genesis, it was the promotion of Jacob's son, Joseph, to be viceroy of Egypt, that brought about the migration of the sons of Israel from Canaan to Goshen. The story goes that this Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers, and after many changes of fortune received the vice-regal office at Pharaoh's hands through his skill in interpreting dreams. Famine drives his brothers—and afterwards his father—to him, and the Egyptian prince gives them the land of Goshen to live in. It is by imagining all this that the [Pg 55]legend tries to account for the fact that Israel passed some time in Egypt. But we must look for the real explanation in a migration of certain tribes which could not establish or maintain themselves in Canaan, and were forced to move further on.

"We find a passage in Flavius Josephus, from which it appears that in Egypt, too, a recollection survived of the sojourn of some foreign tribes in the north-eastern district of the country. For this writer gives us two fragments out of a lost work by Manetho, a priest, who lived about 250 B. C. In one of these we have a statement that pretty nearly agrees with the Israelitish tradition about a sojourn in Goshen. But the Israelites were looked down on by the Egyptians as foreigners, and they are represented as