Tag Archives: mythology

Did Jews Borrow Greek Myths: 3 examples

Myth_Sembelance_Theories_GreeceHow are Shared Myths Possible?

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.

Conclusion

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.

Related Books:

Books that discuss the Greek Myth & Bible Story connection include:

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Fighting Dragons & Santa

Dragon Fighting (HT: Elfwood.com)

Our house is on top of a hill and we have forest around much of our property.  I love walks in the woods with my kids.  Sometimes for fun, during walks, my son and I grab large sticks and pretend to fight invisible dragons.  We both love the manly power behind the swords and fighting off evil, dangerous creatures to protect the innocent.  But of course the dragons are a myth like Santa Claus.

My daughter is not much into dragons but loves Santa and the Tooth Fairy.  However, my children realized quicker than most (by years) that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy were just stories.  Prior to their disbelief, when my son was pretty convinced that Santa Clause was a fabrication, he asked me, “Dad, Santa isn’t real, is he?  You and Mom do all that, right?”  I tried to quickly think what was behind the obvious question.

You see, my wife and I never really spoke of Santa as real at any time, but many of his friends firmly believed in Santa perhaps because their parents had woven the story with much more sincerity.   My son had been talking with kids at school about it and I could tell he was about to share his insights with his friends and perhaps with his younger sister.

So I said to my son, “Do you like slaying Dragons with me in the woods?”
“Yes,” he replied.
I pushed further, “Well, are the dragons real?”
“No, of course not,” he said.
“Well, should we stop pretending because they aren’t real?” I asked timidly (because I loved fighting dragons with him).
“Well, no,” he said.  Then with a smile he said, “Oh, I see, Dad.”
Then I wrapped up our conversation by saying, “And remember, lots of kids really enjoy Santa.  There is no reason to spoil it early for them.”  He understood and agreed.  With that, we went outside and fought dragons for a short while.

My daughter is much more creative than my son in the realm of stories and art.  She does not believe in Santa nor in the Tooth Fairy, but she still talks about them as if they are real and insists on them coming to life at the appropriate times.  But she is very comfortable with the contradictory simultaneous embracing of talking about Mom and Dad as really being these imaginary folks and still using these imaginary creatures to enrich her, and our lives.  As a young child, she could only embrace the myth, now as a mature child, she can do both.

Question for readers:  How did Santa go for you?
Related PostMy son and the Tooth Fairy: sacrificing reason.

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I saw an Angel

My children and I went ice skating last night.  Skating is a brand new thing for all of us.  My son was able to skate by himself with only two or three falls per lap.  My daughter, however, clung to me with rubbery legs flailing while I swayed like a thin tree supporting a swing blowing in the wind.  But all of us were nothing but smiles as we skated to lovely Christmas music.

The skating party was thrown by my kids’ dentist who rents out the huge rink every Christmas for his clients and their families.  So there were tons of kids of all ages and temperaments.  There were roughnecks speed-skaters, zipping between us beginners, there were teenagers who were chatting instead of skating, there were Dads trying to impress, well, who knows who, and there were tiny kids with Moms patiently pushing them around.  It was a carnival.

My daughter and I were just trying to avoid bruises — too slow to feel like we were really skating and too fast for our own good.  At one point my daughter was having particular trouble staying up.  She was slipping, left go of my hand and grabbed my arm and jacket, throwing us both off-balance.  Then quietly and almost effortlessly, a red-headed girl skater came up right next to my daughter.  And as she passed us, with the deftness of a Kung Fu master, she lightly lifted my daughter’s arm to perfectly re-establish her balance without my daughter really realizing she’d been helped.

The angelic visitor turned and smiled softly at us as she continued around the rink as if to gently say, “It was nothing.  Have a good evening.”

The stranger’s kindness which expected no gratitude made her appear to be an angel.  It was rather surreal, actually.  I watched her as she skated away, disappearing into the crowd.  She had the grace of an angel, leaving no trace of herself.

Using religious symbols in non-religious ways is one way to weaken their doctrinaire and superstitious use.  The symbol can then lose its dogma and regains its original rich, mythical beauty.   Some may think we should shun all things religious, but a world without myths and symbols is dry.  Instead, we should be as creative as our ancestors and embrace symbols to make them our own.

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