Posted tagged ‘Modern Christian Mythology’

Modern Christian Mythology: Long Lives of the Patriarchs

July 14, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: Long Lives of the Patriarchs

Many cultures have mythological tales that set the origin of their culture in a glorious or past. Their forefathers, whether real or mythical are often given great wisdom, insight, and near supernatural powers. And, long life spans was a particularly sought after trait in pre-scholastic societies in which long life was the only measurement of a man’s wisdom. An explanation does not need to be given for every story that is obviously mythological. Who,after all, spends an extraordinary amount of time explaining the flight ability of Pegasus? But, when we do have a parallel, it can be quite interesting to look at to gain insight into the evolving nature of myths and legends.

And, the case of the long lives of the Biblical Patriarchs does have a very interesting parallel, indeed, since their ages appear to be inspired by earlier Sumerian legends of the long lives of their early kings, many of whom are believed to be purely mythical.

Now, the list of the patriarchs is given in two locations in the Bible, each differing from each other (Genesis chapter 4 and chap 5, the J source and P source, respectively). The names are slightly different and are in a slightly different order in each list. When the P source was compiling his list, he must have come into contact with the Sumerian king list and used it as a source.

They understood the reigns as the lifespan, just in need of conversion. The focus on _ is their age at the time of the birth of their children

“In P’s list there are ten patriarchs before the Flood …
the Babylonians told similarly of ten kings who reigned before the
Flood, and who reigned moreover for the portentous period of …432,000 years.
These are their names, with the number of years that each
reigned, according to Berossus 2; —

-S.R. Driver, The Book of Genesis with introduction and notes

Priestly List Sumerian Kings
1 Adam 130 Alorus 36,000
2 Seth 105 Alaparus 10,800
3 Enosh 90 Amelon 46,800
4 Kenan 70 Ammenon 43,200
5 Mahahalel 65 Megalaros 64,800
6 Jared 162 Daonus 36,000
7 Enoch 65 Edoranchus 64,800
8 Methuselah 187 Amempsinus 36,000
9 Lamech 182 Otiartes 28,800
10 Noah 500 Xisuthros 64,800
Flood age 100
Sum 1,656 Sum 432,000
Sabbaths 86,400 Sosses 86,400

Once the total number of units were “known”, the lives of each of the patriarchs were filled in. Some of the numbers may have had significance (the life span of Enoch, who was associated with the sun, was 365 years) other may have just been random numbers (both Mahahalel and Enoch had “65” assigned to them).

There’s other correlations between the names in the list, too:

(information from Driver, paraphrased by me)

  • The third names, Babylonian Amelon and Hebrew Enosh both mean “man”
  • The fourth names, Babylonian Ammdnon and Hebrew Kain, both mean “smith”‘
  • The fifth names, Babylonian Amegalarus, a variation of ‘ man of Aruru,’ (a Sumerian god), Hebrew Mahalal’el is a variation on, ‘praise of EL’
  • The eighth names, Babylonian Amenipsinus is a corruption of ‘the man of Sin’, (Sin being the moon-god), and Hebrew Methushelah ‘or man of god’ or ‘man of the moon-god, depending on the original name

So, why would the writer of the Priestly Code use a pre-existing list of Sumerian kings to compose his list? Can you imagine an ancient historian trying to put together the history of his people and happening upon a actual written record that he could use to calculate his own time frame? What a great find that would have been. He must have been ecstatic.

Modern Christian Mythology: Ritual Satanic Abuse in the ’80’s

July 7, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: Ritual Satanic Abuse in the ’80’s

Remember the 1980’s, when pretty much everyone in America was either abused by or accused of being in a satanic cult? And Ronald Reagan was in office, too. Ah, good times. It all seems to track back to 1980, which saw the publication of a book entitled, Michelle Remembers. Michelle Remembers contained the supposed “recovered memories” of satanic ritual abuse by it’s author, Michelle Smith. Once published, it caught on like wild fire among evangelical Christian circles, and it started a wave of “recovered memories” all across the nation. The book has since been pretty thoroughly discredited for containing uncorroborated events and highly unlikely scenarios (hey, when the Church of Satan threatens to sue for libel, it’s pretty bad). But, at the time, no one seemed even remotely interested in questioning the book and it was viewed as an accurate testimonial of a victim of a secret nationwide underground ring of satanists groups that were continually killing babies and sacrificing animals (and, of course, continuously re-hiding the remains so they would never be found). Several other books were published in it’s aftermath, most where also discredited.

Not only where the existence of these satanic cults called into question, but the entire practice of “recovered memories” and the use of hypnosis in therapy was ended by all credible therapists. For a couple of light reading books about the belief in recovered memories and the chaotic mess sloppy investigation can cause, see Remembering Satan and Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens. And, of course, there’s also the Salem Witch trials, which should always be kept fresh in our minds.

Modern Christian Mythology: Eucharist Miracle of Lanciano

June 30, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: Eucharist Miracle of Lanciano

The Miracle of Lanciano is a claim that, in Lanciano Italy circa 700 CE, a particular instance of the Eucharist (a Christian rite in which bread, usually in the form of a cracker, and wine, sometimes grape juice, is consumed in imitation of the story of the Last Supper), physically turned into a chunk of meat and some blood. Since, in the Catholic version of the ritual, the food is believed to change into the body and blood of the god/man Jesus, the chunk of flesh is supposedly a piece of Jesus’ body. The chunk of meat is currently kept in a jar.

Personally, I find it hard to fathom that even a die hard catholic would believe this story, silly as it is. Even in Catholic theology, the Eucharist isn’t supposed to literally turn into a piece of meat and some blood, it’s a spiritual change. To believe it turns into flesh is pure magic and superstition, not religious reverence. Not to mention that faking this particular miracle would be easy even for a poor stage magician.

None of the claimed “facts” of the can be proved or disproved because they are pretty general in nature. The evidence may indeed be a piece of meat, even human meat; human flesh would be easy enough to get from a cadaver. So, how can this be debunked? Merely by questioning it. Why would the Eucharist suddenly “literally” turn into meat when millions of Catholics all over the world merely chewed on a cracker? Why would a supernatural being with the ability to create the universe perform such a meaningless miracle in a small Italian town at a time when evidence could not easily be taken and communication was so poor? Surely, a miracle a bit more convincing would convince a lot more people, thereby saving a lot more souls. That fact that this miracle is so seldom brought up even by believing Catholics is a testament to it’s dubious nature.

Modern Christian Mythology: Out of Body Experiences

June 23, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: Out of Body Experiences

The belief in Out of Body Experiences (OBEs), Astral Projection, or Near Death Experiences (NDEs) is not a belief held exclusively by Christianity, though the religion does have a vested interest in the belief. After all, if you can prove that there is consciousness outside of the human body, then it would be a very small leap to propose a literal existence of the soul, a key, yet unproven, concept in the Christian belief system.

While a casual Sunday afternoon spent watching In Search Of or the “History” Channel, may lead one to believe that OBEs are well known in the medical world, closer scrutiny at the actual data makes it clear that all we have are the vague recollections of personal experiences, usually of a time when a patient’s body was under extreme duress, like during surgery or after head trauma of some sort.

So, how would we, as researchers, test the claims made by an individual about an experience they had while in a disorientated state? Modern ethics keeps us from going around hitting people on the head with lead pipes, of course, so we have to wait until people have these experiences naturally. And, the only controlled environment in which OBEs happen with any regularity is in a hospital. Next, we would need to verify what they are experiencing what they believe they are experiencing. If we take the claims of OBEs seriously, they float above their body, looking down. If that is the case, they should then be able to see objects that are on top of shelves and cabinets that they could not see while they are lying in bed looking up.

And that is exactly what Dr Sam Parnia is doing. In an intense study of OBEs, cards with easily descriptive pictures on them are being placed on top of shelves in an hospital resuscitation area. As of yet, no one has been able to describe the cards.

On the laboratory side of the research, experiences similar to NDEs have been replicated by electrical stimulation and virtual reality simulations, and researchers from the University of Maribor, Slovenia have found that there appears to be a strong correlation between Near Death Experiences and the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood stream.

What really amazes me, is that anyone that experienced a blow to the head would be
so insistent that anything that they experienced while in a diminished capacity
was absolutely real.

Modern Christian Mythology: A Young Earth

June 16, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: A Young Earth

This common myth is derived from a literal reading of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew bible. In order to find out when Adam and Eve where molded out of dirt, the ages of the patriarchs listed in the book of Genesis are added up and, presto, with only a little remedial math and a lot of really dull reading, you too can prestidigitate the magic date (October 23, 4004 BC, according to Bishop Usher).

Modern archeology, though, has shed some purer light on the origin of this myth, though:

An ancient Sumerian kings list that has been discovered seems to match up with the ages of the Biblical patriarchs. The reigns of the kings were extraordinarily long (pointing to the mythical nature of the kings listed, of whom no historical trace has ever been found). The kings were assumed by that ancients to have lived before the Gilgamesh flood myth. This Sumerian flood story was so popular, copies of it have been all around the Mediterranean, including translations in Hittite and Hurrian. The reigns of the kings listed lasted into the thousands of years, though the units they used were a base 60 measurement that could easily have been confused with the Hebrew base ten numerals. Once the conversion is done, the reigns match up with the Biblical patriarchs too closely to ignore.

Babylonian influence is evident more than any other in the primitive legends. We can demonstrate this in the case of the legend of the Deluge, of which we possess the Babylonian version; and we have strong reasons for accepting it in the case of the story of creation, which agrees with the Babylonian story in the characteristic point of the division of the primeval sea into two portions; also in the legend of Nimrod, and in the traditions of the patriarchs, the ten patriarchs of the race as given by P being ultimately the same as the ten primitive kings of the Babylonians.

-“The Legends of Genesis” by By Hermann Gunkel

see also, “From ancient writings to sacred texts: the Old Testament and Apocrypha” By Solomon Alexander Nigosian

Modern Christian Mythology: The Garden of Eden

June 9, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: the Garden of Eden

Who wouldn’t want there to exist an earthly paradise? Especially one that not everyone knows about; keep the real estate affordable.

Like other parts of the book of Genesis, the Eden story is paralleled in Sumerian mythology, specifically the Epic of Gilgamesh, which predates the compilation of the Hebrew sources by over a thousand years:

The Sumerian poem “Enki and Ninhursag: A Paradise Myth” begins with a eulogy of Dilmun, describing it as a place that is pure, clean, and bright, where there is neither sickness nor death. Similarly, the characterization of the serpent, the eating of the fruit of the tree, and the deprivation of human immortality, are all paralleled in the Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh”, in which the legendary hero succeeds in obtaining the “plant of life” only to have it stolen by a serpent, thus depriving him of immortality.
-“From Ancient Writings to Sacred Texts: the Old Testament and Apocrypha” By Solomon Alexander Nigosian

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Modern Christian Mythology: The End Times

June 2, 2010

Modern Christian Mythology: The End Times

What’s better at kick starting a religion than a lot of talk about the end of the world? Nothing.

Beginning with post Exilic Jewish religious writings like Jeremiah and Daniel and continuing into early Christian writings, the end of the world has been coming for quite awhile.

The gloomy outlook on the future (or lack thereof) is most prominent in early writings from the 1st century CE, like the Pauline Epistles (the authentic ones), Revelations, and the Gospel According to Mark.

But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,and the stars shall be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory …

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished.

-Mark 13: 24-30

and, to reiterate

Verily I say unto you, There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power.

-Mark 9:1

Paul himself thought he would be alive when the end came,  as shown in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

However, by the second century, Christian writings began to pull back on the eminence of the end, falling back on the excuse that, well, maybe god didn’t mean what he said:

Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

… But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

-2 Peter: 4-8

I guess 50 years or so was as a bit too long to wait for the end.

But, some folks still haven’t given up hope. The End can still be nigh. Long after “this generation” passed away, Hal Lindsey made quite an impact with The Late Great Planet Earth, a book that compared the present day’s news (that present being 1970) with Biblical predictions of the imminent apocalypse.

So, why was there all this doom and gloom talk in Christian writings from the last quarter of the 1st century? Well, during the Jewish Roman Wars (66-73 CE), the Romans killed about 1 million Jews, and that’s bound to make any peoples think the world was about to end. I don’t think we need to look much further than that


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