Did the Jews borrow from Greek Mythology — I’d bet they did, but literalist Christians vehemently disagree.
When one culture has very similar stories compared to another there are three things that could have happened – see my illustration to the right showing models of where Jews may have gotten their stories.
Either (b) they borrowed the story from the other culture, or (a) both cultures developed them completely independently. The third option is (c) the Judeo-Christian option that Yahweh shared the stories between cultures to help others eventually understand Israel’s truths.
Three Possible Shared Myths
Neil Godfrey just publish a short post on three similar myths shared between Bible myths and Greek myths (taken from West’s book, see below). To aid in reading Neil’s fine post, I have explored some of the time elements below. You can see that the answer is not easy.
(1) Greek Spy in Trojan War, Hebrew Spy in Fall of Jericho
Trojan War: recorded between 500s-800s BCE by Homer (and others) — oral tradition earlier. Dates range from 1100-1300 BCE.
Fall of Jericho: Joshua 6:1-27, possibly 1400-1500 BCE by literalist Christian archeologists. Archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon claimed the walls of Jericho fell around 2,000 BCE before the Biblical story was created which was 800 years after the fall of Jericho. But all of this, as you can imagine, is controversial. And some feel that later penned story may be based on the Ugaritic Epic Poem from around 1500-1200 BCE.
(2) Arion & the Dolphin & Jonah & The Big Fish
Jonah: supposed prophet during 786-746 BCE
Arion: first mentioned 665 BCE
(3) Ereuthalion & Giant, David & Goliath
Ereuthalion: Mentioned in Homer: 500-800s BCE — perhaps much earlier
David & Goliath: 1 Sam 17. Goliath came from Gath (destroyed in 800s BCE). David traditionally lived around 1000 BCE by literalist Biblical scholars. However, Biblical minimalists see the story and historicity as contrived.
It goes unspoken that of the Myth Semblance theories, I only give credibility to the Shared or Independent theories. For literalist Christians, exposing that their Bible stories were borrow or stolen from other cultures is very threatening. The apologetics to counter these charges are amazing. Chronology is the biggest fight: which myth came first. Keeping track of the archeology, vested interests and all the various shared myths is tough stuff. Way over my pay grade. But I hope this post makes Neil’s post a bit richer for you.
Books that discuss the Greek Myth & Bible Story connection include:
- Gaster, Theodor (1969): Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament: a comparative study. $10 Amazon
- West, ML (1999): The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth. $89 Amazon
- Wajdenbaum, Phillippe (2011): Argonauts of the Desert: Structural Analysis of the Hebrew Bible. $62 Amazon