From WILLIAM EDELEN (1988)
The Contrary Minister
The diffusion of mythological themes from one culture to another and one religion to another is well known to religious historians. It is obvious with origin or creation mythologies.
Actually, the oldest Biblical accounts of creation are not the myths of Genesis, but Psalm 104. This psalm was borrowed from the famous “hymn of the Sun” of Akhenation, Egypt’s great monotheistic Pharaoh (1377-1360 B.C.).
As for the creation mythology of Genesis, both accounts were borrowed from other religions and both contradict one another. In Genesis 1, man is the last of the creation myth. In Chapter 2, man is the first to be created, with all else being created later.
These creation stories are recognized as mythological themes in the religion departments of every major university in this country (as well as the world), and also in the theological seminaries of the majority of mainline Protestant denominations. Only fundamentalist schools refuse to recognize the scholarship of these and related Biblical studies.
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The exegetical commentary on the Genesis creation stories is filled with the relationship between these mythologies and those of Babylonian and Persian origin. For example: “The Babylonian creation myth which echoes throughout the Biblical story must earlier have become a part of Israel’s religious heritage.”
And again: “The idea of man being created in the image of God is probably dependent on Babylonian mythology,” and then following are all the reasons why.
Biblical dictionaries state without hesitation that the “‘man made in the image of God’ part of the myth is a direct copy of the Babylonian story where Aruru forms a mental image of the God Anu…” And Marduk before making man, using his own blood, took counsel with Ea, the high god of wisdom in Babylonian mythology.
As I have said, the diffusion of mythological themes from one religion to another is common knowledge to religious historians. This is as true of the New Testament as of the Old Testament.
The great Heb-Sed festival of ancient Egypt, for example, was celebrated to reaffirm the Pharaoh as divine, or ‘God’s son.’ And in the giant processional that was part of the event, 14 of his ancestors had to precede the Pharaoh in the parade. If 14 were not still living, statues were carried, for 14 had to be the number to reaffirm divinity.
Now, if you read the genealogical table of Jesus in the opening pages of Matthew, you find exactly the same mythological formula, of 14 times three. Chapter 2, verse 17 reads: “All the generations from Abraham to David were Fourteen, and from David to the deportation Fourteen and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ Fourteen.” You have 14 times three. Of course three is the well known triple formula, expressing the numinosity of the “thrice holy” or “holy, holy, holy.”
Next, three times 14 equal 42. In Egyptian mythology, you had to appear before Osiris (The god of resurrection who overcame earth) and with Osiris had to be 42 of his judges. Yu had to face them all after you died.
It is fairly obvious that the mythology surrounding Osiris became a part of the Christ mythology that was built up around the figure of the historical Jesus by the early developing church.
The study of mythological diffusion by anthropologists and religious historans is mandatory for anyone wanting to be a serious student of religion, as well as their own Christianity.
For starters, I would suggest reading the three-volume series The Masks of God by Joseph Campbell. The volumes include Oriental Mythology, Primitive Mythology and Occidental Mythology. I also recommend Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which is a fairly standard university text in religious studies.