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: 72


Again he says:

[Pg 107]

"As soon as the ancient language and religion of India became known in Europe it was asserted that Sanskrit, like all other languages, was to be derived from Hebrew, and the ancient religion of the Brahmans from the Old Testament. There was at that time an enthusiasm among Oriental scholars, particularly at Calcutta, and an interest for Oriental antiquities in the public at large, of which we, in these days of apathy for Eastern literature, can hardly form an adequate idea. Everybody wished to be first in the field, and to bring to light some of the treasures which were supposed to be hidden in the sacred literature of the Brahmans. . . . No doubt the temptation was great. No one could look down for a moment into the rich mine of religious and mythological lore that was suddenly opened before the eyes of scholars and theologians, without being struck by a host of similarities, not only in the languages, but also in the ancient traditions of the Hindoos, the Greeks, and the Romans; and if at that time the Greeks and Romans were still supposed to have borrowed their language and their religion from Jewish quarters, the same conclusion could hardly be avoided with regard to the language and the religion of the Brahmans of India. . . .

"The student of Pagan religion as well as Christian missionaries were bent on discovering more striking and more startling coincidences, in order to use them in confirmation of their favorite theory that some rays of a primeval revelation, or some reflection of the Jewish religion, had reached the uttermost ends of the world."[107:1]

The result of all this is summed up by Prof. Müller as follows:

"It was the fate of all (these) pioneers, not only to be left behind in the assault which they had planned, but to find that many of their approaches were made in a false direction, and had to be abandoned."[107:2]

Before closing this chapter, we shall say a few words on the religion of Israel. It is supposed by many—in fact, we have heard it asserted by those who should know better—that the Israelites were always monotheists, that they worshiped One God only—Jehovah.[107:3] This is altogether erroneous; they were not different from their neighbors—the Heathen, so-called—in regard to their religion.

In the first place, we know that they revered and worshiped a Bull, called Apis,[107:4] just as the ancient Egyptians did. They [Pg 108]worshiped the sun,[108:1] the moon,[108:2] the stars and all the host of heaven.[108:3]

They worshiped fire, and kept it burning on an altar, just as the Persians and other nations.[108:4] They worshiped stones,[108:5] revered an oak tree,[108:6] and "bowed down" to images.[108:7] They worshiped a "Queen of Heaven" called the goddess Astarte or Mylitta, and "burned incense" to her.[108:8] They worshiped Baal,[108:9] Moloch,[108:10] and Chemosh,[108:11] and offered up human sacrifices to them,[108:12] after which in some instances, they ate the victim.[108:13]

It was during the Captivity that idolatry ceased among the Israelites.[108:14] The Babylonian Captivity is clearly referred to in the book of Deuteronomy, as the close of Israel's idolatry.[108:15]

There is reason to believe that the real genius of the people was first called into full exercise, and put on its career of development at this time; that Babylon was a forcing nursery, not a prison cell; creating instead of stifling a nation. The astonishing outburst of intellectual and moral energy that accompanied the return from the Babylonish Captivity, attests the spiritual activity of that "mysterious and momentous" time. As Prof. Goldziher says: "The intellect of Babylon and Assyria exerted a more than passing influence on that of the Hebrews, not merely touching it, but entering deep into it, and leaving its own impression upon it."[108:16]

[Pg 109]

This impression we have already partly seen in the legends which they borrowed, and it may also be seen in the religious ideas which they imbibed.

The Assyrian colonies which came and occupied the land of the tribes of Israel filled the kingdom of Samaria with the dogma of the Magi, which very soon penetrated into the kingdom of Judah. Afterward, Jerusalem being subjugated, the defenseless country was entered by persons of different nationalities, who introduced their opinions, and in this way, the religion of Israel was doubly mutilated. Besides, the priests and great men, who were transported to Babylon, were educated in the sciences of the Chaldeans, and imbibed, during a residence of fifty years, nearly the whole of their theology. It was not until this time that the dogmas of the hostile genius (Satan), the angels Michael, Uriel, Yar, Nisan, &c., the rebel angels, the battle in heaven, the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection, were introduced and naturalized among the Jews.[109:1]

Note.—It is not generally known that the Jews were removed from their own land until the time of the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar, but there is evidence that Jerusalem was plundered by the Edomites about 800 B. C., who sold some of the captive Jews to the Greeks (Joel, iii. 6). When the captives returned to their country from "the Islands which are beyond the sea" (Jer. xxv. 18, 22), they would naturally bring back with them much of the Hellenic lore of their conquerors. In Isaiah (xi. 11), we find a reference to this first captivity in the following words: "In that day the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the Islands of the sea;" i. e., Greece.