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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

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    Friday
    Dec232011

    Is the Bible a Collection of Ancient Myths?

    There is a myth among many that the Bible is merely a collection of fantasy stories mixed with some truths and good rules to live by much like any other work of ancient literature. The argument goes that the Bible is simply a reworking of common and previous tales of that time.

     

    To think this, one must have done only a cursory study of the Bible and of other religions and the myths of ancient history. Even C.S. Lewis, an avowed atheist and professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University in England, recorded with his own hand, “that in other religions there was “no such historical claim as in Christianity.”

     

    His knowledge of literature forced him to treat the gospel record as a trustworthy account. “I was by now,” he said, “too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myth.”” (http://www.forerunner.com/forerunner/X0016_How.html)

     

    It is obvious many of the myths and stories of various cultures parallel each other. What is not so obvious is their origin. “What if” the Jonah story was in fact the inspiration for Jason and the Argonauts? “What if” “The Epic of Gilgamesh” was inspired by Noah’s flood story?

     

    In fact, nearly every ancient culture has a world-wide flood story (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html), and there is geological evidence of immense flooding (though scientists refuse to call them “world-wide”) that has led to one theory of why the dinosaurs all suddenly vanished.

     

    Did you ever play “telephone” in school in which everyone sits in a circle, one person creates and whispers an original message, and the others in turn whisper it to the next person until the end. Then the ending message is announced and compared with the original. Sometimes the messages are the same or nearly. Other times they get wildly off-course.

     

    I think a similar phenomenon has happened with ancient myths. There was an original (which of course, I believe is the Bible’s version) message, event, or tale that became transported, embellished, or taken over by other cultures. 

     

    What I want to emphasize, and what I think most people fail to recognize are the differences between the stories. These differences prove (or show some evidence) that one is the original while the others are mere fantasy.  


    (These are a few articles I’ve written on the differences in theme between the Bible and other ancient works. The last link looks at the uniqueness of Christianity)

    Sin and Redemption in the Epic of Gilgamesh vs. The Bible
     

    Wisdom and Education in Proverbs vs. The Tao Te Chang
     

    We are One or are We?

     

    I see it much the same as visiting a zoo and drawing all sorts of comparisons between the animals; they all eat and drink out of troughs, they all need a certain amount of space, they all poop and stink, etc. But it is the differences between them all which make a zoo trip interesting.

     

    They all eat, but some eat plants and others meat. They nearly all have either four legs or wings but they all use them in unique ways. I have pet cats that look and even act very much like the wild cats in zoos, but it would benefit me immensely to know and be wary of the differences!

     

    You and I are both human and I’m sure share other similarities, but we are in fact very different people. We look differently, think differently, act differently, and believe differently.

     

    In literature, myth, and religions then, it is important to look not only at the similarities but to balance this out by also honestly looking at the differences. Moses may share many similarities with Jesus, but they were in fact two different people from two different backgrounds with two different destinies.

     

    Moses was a great prophet of God’s, Jesus claimed to be God. Moses was God’s friend while Jesus claimed to be God’s Son. Moses lived a long life and died and was buried, Jesus lived a relatively short life, was murdered, and resurrected.

     

    From the floods link posted above, I chose a story at random to critique:

    “Bhil (central India):

    Out of gratitude for the dhobi feeding it, a fish told a dhobi (a pious man) that a great deluge was coming. The man prepared a large box in which he embarked with his sister and a cock. After the flood, a messenger of Rama sent to find the state of affairs discovered the box by the cock's crowing.

    Rama had the box brought to him and questioned the man. Facing north, east, and west, the man swore that the woman was his sister; facing south, the man said she was his wife. Told that the fish gave the warning, Rama had the fish's tongue removed, and fish have been tongueless since.

    Rama ordered the man to repopulate the world, so he married his sister, and they had seven daughters and seven sons. The firstborn received a horse as a gift from Rama, but, being unable to ride, he instead went into the forest to cut wood, and so his descendants have been woodcutters to this day. [Gaster, pp. 95-96]”

     
    Since the similarities to the Biblical version are obvious, let’s look at the differences:

    1. A fish told the nameless pious man what was going to happen, while the Bible says God told Noah what was going to happen, why, and what specifically to do about it.
    2. This story leaves out the “why” of the flood while the Bible tells exactly why it happened.
    3. The “ark” in this story is a box (as is the case in “Gilgamesh”) as opposed to the dimensions of the ark in the Bible actually creating a floatable boat. This is especially significant when one considers the Israelites were desert nomads, not seafaring people.
    4. The god, Rama in this story seems to know nothing about the man until the flood is over and is angry enough to punish the fish for spilling the beans. In Noah’s flood, God needs no messenger but keeps His eye on Noah and his family throughout the ordeal. Noah and his family are saved because of their piousness.
    5. There is the obvious dilemma of how all the animals were recreated or repopulated when only a rooster was saved in this story (and later a horse was given as a gift).
    6. There are moral issues Rama doesn’t seem to mind. The man lied about his sister being his wife, and then (apparently the god Rama is fooled into believing it) Rama commands the man and his “wife” to repopulate the globe via incest. These do not appear in the Biblical account.

     
    Neither of the stories actually “prove” a flood happened, but of the two, which one is more logical?


    The same could be said for many other myths versus the Bible. All throughout it the Bible gives specific dates, names, places, and historical events, many of which have been verified by archeologists. The same cannot be said for the myths of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, or Celts.

     

    The way the God of the Bible is portrayed is vastly different from the gods and goddesses of other ancient cultures (God is described as never-changing, always just, loving, merciful, etc. and only Himself, while other gods/goddesses were fickle, hard to please, and unfair).

     

    The way in which the Bible is recorded (records set down in writing as opposed to oral traditions), the way in which it is passed on (from parent to child, not just priest to priest), and the morals it promotes (though there are admittedly some similarities between cultures, there are stark differences as well.

     

    Two cultures may promote “love” and “peace” but define them quite differently) are all just a few ways in which the Bible is different from other ancient myths.


    I encourage you to draw your own conclusions by reading a ancient tale or book and comparing it with an equivalent one from the Bible, paying careful attention to the details while comparing and contrasting.

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