Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times

Larry Holzwarth - August 16, 2019

Miracles abound in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, as well as in other ancient literature deemed, for whatever reason, to not merit inclusion in the canon. From their frequency the modern reader could infer that miracles were somewhat commonplace, but from the awe with which their worker’s were regarded it is clear that such inference would be in error. According to the biblical narratives, the sick were healed, including infirmities such as lameness, blindness, leprosy, and faulty limbs. Trees were condemned to bear no fruit, the dead were brought back to life, two fish were made to feed multitudes, supported by a few loaves of bread, and of course, water was made into wine when the latter beverage ran short at a wedding celebration.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Feeding large crowds with improbably small amounts of food is a miracle which appears in mythology, the Hebrew scriptures, and the New Testament. Wikimedia

Not only Jesus of Nazareth performed miracles, Moses and Aaron demonstrated their own before Pharaoh, there are numerous instances of divine intercession cited, and the activities of other miracle workers, presumably persons of less pure intent, are referred to throughout the Bible. The ancient world teemed with miracle workers and the wonders they wrought. Many very similar miracles ascribed to figures in the Bible, including some of those of Jesus appear in recognizable form in the myths and legends of other cultures. To point out their existence, and the similarities they share, is not to disparage those of any belief system or culture. It is simply a presentation of the stories passed down through various means from ancient cultures and civilizations. Here are some of the miracles of past civilizations and what they bear in common with the miracles of the Bible.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Numerous mythological figures – including Bacchus – were said to have changed water into wine. Wikimedia

1. The Wedding at Cana and the changing of the Nile from water to blood

The first miracle performed by Jesus of Nazareth according to the gospels is the conversion of water into wine at the Wedding at Cana. Who was being married, and why Jesus took responsibility for the guests’ refreshment (at his mother’s request) are topics of dispute and debate among biblical scholars of different religious backgrounds, as is the alcoholic content of the wine. Some religions preach that the wine was non-alcoholic grape juice, which doesn’t explain the passage pointing out that some hosts save the best wine for last, when the guests are too tipsy to know the difference (John 2:10, NRSV), but no matter. Converting ordinary water in wine, a beverage which had later significance in Jesus’ ministry, is cited as a sign of his divinity. But, as the Book of Exodus attests, Moses also converted water into another liquid.

In the first of the Plagues of Egypt, the Nile becomes a river of blood, after it is struck by Moses with a staff (which had previously been turned into a snake), as commanded by the Lord. There is little if any evidence, beyond the story recounted in Exodus, that the ancient Israelites of Moses were ever in the nation of Egypt, thus the story of Moses’ miracle is considered to be mythological at best, though it is linked to the later story of both Cana, when water is changed to wine, and the story of the last supper, when wine is changed to blood. The Greek god Dionysius (Bacchus in his Roman configuration) also changed water into wine when the spirit so moved him. It is possible, some say likely, that the changing of the water into wine at Cana (a town of which the location is unknown, and Jesus’ presence at the wedding is unexplained) that the miracle was borrowed by the writer of the Gospel of John from the legends of Dionysius, a story itself well known in ancient Palestine.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Figs and fig trees were frequently used symbols in the ancient world, including in the Bible. Wikimedia

2. The miracle of the deficient fig tree

According to both Matthew and Mark, Jesus upon departing Bethany encountered a fig tree which, to the consternation of the hungry Jesus, bore no fruit. Jesus cursed the tree to never bear fruit, evidently in a hungry pique (ripe figs were not in season, making it unreasonable to expect any). The story of Jesus and the fig tree bears many interpretations, depending again on the basic beliefs of the pontificator, but one thing is clear from the story without the learned assistance of biblical scholars. Jesus was disappointed that he didn’t get any figs, and responded by assuring no one else would either, at least from that particular tree (Matthew 21: 18 – 22). The Gospel of Luke contains a story which is a parable of a fig tree with many similarities, but without the curse upon the tree as levied by Jesus. The story in all cases is presented as an example of the power of faith in prayer.

Ancient myths regarding the cursing of plants, fruit trees, crops, and other examples of horticulture abound in the tales of the gods from Egypt, Rome, Greek, Phoenicia, and Mesoamerica. The story is presented as a disappointed reaction in Mark and Matthew, a parable in Luke, and whether it was a miracle to be taken literally or a teaching example depends entirely on the reader’s view of the Bible. Either way, tales of gods and mythic figures using food giving plants as demonstrations of their miraculous powers are common. The fig tree is not usually cited in discussions of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, but it does appear in three of the four gospels.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Stories similar to that of Jonah and the Great Fish occur in mythologies of ancient peoples around the world. Wikimedia

3. Jonah and the Great Fish and its many similar myths

The biblical story of Jonah, swallowed by a great fish (the bible does not call the beast a whale, as it is popularly described), is one which contains similarities with many other tales from mythology from diverse cultures. It has also been liberally borrowed from in subsequent writings; Pinocchio and his cronies were swallowed by a whale only to be spit out again, and Han Solo temporarily parked the Millennium Falcon in the belly of a beast while eluding the pursuit of enemies. Finnish mythology includes a god named Ilmarinen, who though immortal and having the ability to create virtually anything found his luck with women to be abysmal. Ilmarinen too survived being taken into the belly of a whale, along with several other adventures involving other gods and mythical beasts.

Phoenician mythology also includes tales of men swallowed by beasts of the sea, and it should be considered that the authors of the Hebrew books which became the Old Testament were aware of the mythology of the Phoenicians which permeated the region. They were not aware however that a great beast which lived in the sea was a mammal, and thus the great fish of Jonah could well have been a whale, though the true genus of whatever swallowed Jonah is immaterial. Another tale of man versus whale/great fish occurs in the mythology of the Romans and Greeks, with many similarities to that of Jonah, and thus the survival of a man in the belly of a beast, whether fish, whale, or some other unknown, while certainly something to be considered a miracle, is not unique to the Bible, and was likely borrowed from another culture.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Greek myths like that of Heracles were known to the writers of the Old and New Testaments, and many are similar to Bible stories. Wikimedia

4. Heracles/Hercules and the Great Fish

The ancient Greek god and hero Heracles also survived an encounter with a great beast of the sea, which he battled fiercely before being devoured by the animal, whatever it was. Heracles however survived within the belly of the beast, being contained within for a period of three days. He fought his way free, rather than simply waiting for the beast to tire of the stomach discomfort his presence caused, and by doing so added to his legend which was told freely by Phoenician and Greek sailors and fishermen. Thus the tale was well known in the region where Israelite traders and fisherman gathered. The Roman version of Heracles, who is known as Hercules, had a similar encounter and result, and his experience too was a popular topic for seafaring tales.

The Jewish writer or writers of the book of Jonah were likely aware of the tale, probably through the recounting of the Phoenicians, and the story was adjusted to fit the morals of the account in what became the Book of Jonah. Jonah, like Heracles/Hercules, spent three days in the belly of the beast before he was miraculously (in the Judeo/Christian version) regurgitated into the world of the living. The miracle of Jonah’s survival and return to the land of the living, and the three day period involved, takes on additional meaning when considered alongside the Crucifixion/Resurrection for Christians. Yet another mythological hero who survived within the accommodating entrails of a sea monster was Jason, of Argonauts fame, and there are many similar stories of fish swallowing men encounters in the ancient tales of civilizations around the world, including among the American Indians.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
David’s improbable triumph over Goliath is similar to often told stories of the victory of an underdog against impossible odds. Wikimedia

5. David and Goliath and other tales of improbable victories by the underdog

The victory of the shepherd David defeating the fearsome giant Goliath in personal combat is presented in the Book of 1 Samuel, though the size of the giant is variously reported in other texts. Another version of the story has Goliath being defeated in battle by Elhanan (2 Samuel 21) though biblical scholars intent on protecting the version in 1 Samuel contend that he was another Goliath of similar physical dimensions. 1 Chronicles presents the second Goliath as being a brother of the first giant, of the name Lahmi. 1 Samuel was likely written in the late 7th century BCE, with 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles being written about 300 years later. The miraculous victory by the diminutive (in relation to his opponent) David against the giant thus has multiple biblical recountings and explanations.

The Iliad, which describes incidents of single combat among champions selected by contending armies to represent them, includes a tale with marked similarities to those of 1 Samuel. Indeed, the rendition in the biblical version describes the armor worn by Goliath in a manner more in common with the ancient Greeks than those of the Israelites and their enemies. In the Greek version, the youngest son of a family (Nestor) emerges to do battle with the giant presented by the enemy and kills him in one-to-one combat, just as David, youngest son of his family, does in the Hebrew version of the tale. The fathers of both David and Nestor advise their sons against doing battle, and in both the son prevails. Ancient myths predating the accounts in Samuel of miraculous victories by inexperienced champions against fearsome enemies are common throughout mythology, many predating those of the Bible by centuries.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Raising the dead, as Jesus did with Lazarus, was not a unique occurrence, according to the Bible as well as other sources. Wikimedia

6. Jesus was not the only Biblical personage to raise the dead, according to the Bible

In the ancient world, where according to the documents which have survived to allow us to see what life was like at the time, miracles occurred with greater regularity than in the modern world (though the ancients would no doubt consider modern life at its most mundane to be miraculous. Imagine Moses encountering an iPhone). But the sine qua non of miracle working in the ancient world would seem to be the raising of the dead back to life. Jesus practiced this act on several occasions, including raising a man described as having been dead and in his tomb for four days (Lazarus, John 11). According to John, the raising of Lazarus, who reappears with Jesus shortly before the Crucifixion, caused many to believe in Jesus.

Jesus was not alone in raising the dead according to ancient literature, including other books within the Bible. In 1 Kings 17 – 24, the prophet Elijah raises back to life the dead son of a widow, after she mocks him. When the formerly dead child is presented to the widow by the prophet she announces, “Now by this I know thou art a man of God” (1 Kings 17:24). The raising of the dead by Elijah, and by other Old Testament prophets, was part of the scripture studied by the Jewish hierarchy and religious scholars, including Jesus, and was well known as part of the scriptures which Jesus himself often quoted during his sermons and parables. Thus the raising of the dead, which the Gospel of John would have us believe proved that Jesus was divine, was known to have been accomplished by others and were part of the Jewish tradition. It was part of other traditions as well.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Walking on water was an attribute of ancient gods – including Orion – of many cultures of the ancient world. Wikimedia

7. Jesus walking on water and its predecessors

The four books known as the Gospels were written long after the life of Jesus Christ, according to the consensus of most Bible scholars, and were authored by Hellenistic Jews in the Greek language. They were not named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, nor were they first-hand witnesses to the stories which they committed to papyrus, in Greek. Additionally, the older gospels, as well as other ancient documents, were referenced in the writing of each, explaining some, though not all, of the differences as well as the similarities they share. Some find these historical facts to be unacceptable. So be it. For those with open minds they go a long way towards explaining the impossible, as well as the improbable. The tale of Jesus walking upon the water, which appears in Mark, Matthew, and John (as well as Peter’s tentative attempt to do likewise) has a precedent, which was known to the writers of the story.

The god Orion (the Hunter), was the son of Poseidon, Greek god of the sea, and Euryale. As the son of Poseidon Orion had the ability to walk upon the surface of the sea, even when it was wrought by storms, and did so frequently. This ability, and Orion’s resorting to it when he traveled to the island of Chios and ravaged the daughter of the island’s ruler, was described in Greek legends, including by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and in greater detail by the poet Hesiod in his Astronomy, fully seven centuries before the life of Christ. Walking upon water was thus a behavior attributable to gods well-documented before the life of Jesus of Nazareth was described by the Hellenistic writers, and it would have been unthinkable for the Son God to lack the abilities demonstrated by the gods of the ancients. Virgil’s Aeneid, written about two decades BCE, reiterated the ability of walking upon water as exercised by Orion.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Being born of a virgin was attributed to many ancient deities, including Zoroaster, also called Zarathrustra. Wikimedia

8. The miracle of birth from a virgin existed long before the birth of Christ, in ancient traditions

Zoroaster, whose name is an adaption from the Greek Zoroastres, was a priest, one of the learned which in his time would have been called one of the Magi, though not one of the Magi which tradition has visiting the manger to worship the newly born Jesus in Bethlehem. Zoroaster lived approximately 1200 years before the events of the first Christmas, teaching in the region which is now eastern Iran. The religion which he espoused is monotheistic, and shares with Christianity the concepts of life after death, an eternal reward for earthly deeds and/or misdeeds, a day of judgment, and the eventual destruction of evil. Zoroastrianism also includes the belief in one god, the Supreme Being, and that the chief promulgator of beliefs in the religion was born of a virgin.

As with Christianity, the belief in the virgin birth as a central tenet in the religion was one which evolved over time in order to comply with earlier prophecy among some sects. The change of belief, in which the virgin birth became an important part, appeared around the time the followers of the religion were dispersed and displaced by Alexander the Great, and Hellenistic dogma began to merge with what remained. The miracle of a virgin birth, making the founder of the religious system uncorrupted by necessarily corrupt man, is one which predates the miracle of the virgin birth which so many believe is presented in the Bible. Zoroaster is but one of many such examples of a virgin birth occurring before that of Jesus of Nazareth.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
A miraculous conception and subsequent virgin birth also is a belief in Hinduism and attributed to Vishnu. Wikimedia

9. The Christian miraculous conception has a parallel in Hinduism which is much older

According to the Immaculate Conception of the Christian New Testament, Mary was visited by an angel who told her that she was with child, who would be the Son of God. The Immaculate Conception is a miracle of the Bible believed by most Christian faiths. The debate over whether Mary remained a Virgin following the birth of Jesus centers for many on whether Jesus had siblings and whether Mary was in fact their mother, or if they had been fathered by Joseph in an earlier marriage. In Hinduism, a birth similar to that described in the New Testament takes place, and is part of the Hindu tradition dating more than one thousand years before the advent of the Common Era. Contacts between the ancient cultures were common through trade and through the conquests of the Persians, Mesopotamians, Greeks, and others throughout antiquity.

In the Hindu variation, Vishnu, who was divine and who felt great sympathy for the inhabitants of the earth, entered the womb of Devaki, who had previously given birth to six sons, all dead as a result of an earthly feud. The fruit of Vishnu’s entry was Krishna, born of Devaki and by right of fatherhood by Vishnu, a divine being. Krishna is both a name in and of itself and one of the names of Vishnu, (the 57th). Krishna was thus not born of a virgin, as his mother had borne many children before him, but he was born of an immaculate conception. Following his birth his mother was forced to flee with him into exile to protect him from being murdered by an earthly rival jealous of his power. Like Jesus of Nazareth, with whom there are other similarities in teaching and history, Krishna returned to heaven, from whence he is to come again.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
The Prophet Elisha also fed a multitude – though his crowd was smaller than Jesus’ – using an impossibly small amount of food. Wikimedia

10. Feeding the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and some fish

In the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth twice faces hungry crowds who evidently came to hear him speak without concerning themselves over the subject of having enough food (what today would be called overflow crowds were the result of a leper whom Jesus cured of the disease. Jesus warned the leper not to tell anyone of the miracle, the leper told anyway, and Jesus’s fame spread rapidly). On both occasions the crowds were fed when comparatively minute quantities of food – in the form of loaves of bread and fishes – were distributed, and after all present were no longer hungry the disciples gathered the leftovers, which were a greater amount of food than what had been available when the feeding began. This miracle is presented as proof of Jesus’s divinity and that He will provide all that is necessary for those who follow him devoutly. But it was a miracle which had been presented before.

The earlier miracle isn’t from the mythologies of the Greeks, or Mesopotamians, or Phoenicians, or another ancient people. Instead, it is from the documents of the Jews, the Holy Scriptures, and it was a miracle wrought by the prophet Elisha, who also on one occasion raised the dead, according to the Old Testament. In 2 Kings (4: 42-44) Elisha feeds a large crowd with a few loaves of bread and some fruits, after which they, “had some left over”. Elisha worked a smaller crowd than Jesus (100) according to the accounts in the Bible, and he started with a bit more food, but the miracle of feeding many with an impossibly small amount of food preceded the ministry of Jesus, performed by a prophet who likewise raised the dead, if the stories are to be taken literally.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Apollonius if Tyana was one of many believed to cast out demons in the ancient world. Wikimedia

11. Casting out demons was a feat accomplished by healers and sorcerers

As Jesus conducted his ministry in Galilee, he was said to have encountered an unknown number of poor souls possessed by demons, whom he restored by casting the demons out, a clear sign of his divinity and rule over heaven, the earth, and the underworld. At least according to the New Testament and those who believe it infallible. But the earth on which Jesus lived was well-populated with faith-healers and exorcists who cast out demons. Jesus himself warned his disciples against them. Ancient records record they were relatively common. About the same time Jesus lived and conducted his ministry, Apollonius of Tyana wandered about the ancient world, famed for both raising the dead and casting demons and evil spirits from the souls of the living.

Apollonius reported a vision of the murder of Domitian in 96 CE, which he received on the day the Emperor was assassinated. The vision was reported by Roman historians which included the normally reliable Cassius Dio. Apollonius is believed to have been known in India during his lifetime, and though he, like Jesus, was eventually encountered by Roman authority over the crime of sedition, he wasn’t executed. Apollonius (though long dead) reportedly appeared to the Roman Emperor Aurelian when the latter prepared to sack the city of Tyana in 272 CE. Warned by the apparition to spare the population of the city, Aurelian complied. Until the appearance in writing of the earliest works of Paul and the gospels, Apollonius was at the center of a cult of followers which rivalled that of Jesus, and he was attributed with many of the same miracles of healing which were ascribed to Jesus in the growing Christian literature.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Both the scriptures which preceded the ministry of Jesus and the Acts of the Apostles which followed are filled with miracles and miracle workers, Wikimedia

12. In the time of Jesus miracles were relatively easy, or so it would seem

The people of the areas in which Jesus of Nazareth lived his relatively short life were not, as a general rule, considered to be educated. Illiteracy has been estimated to have been as high as 90% of the population of what the Romans called Judea, and as is usually the case with an uninformed people, superstition and folklore ruled. As has been noted, witchcraft and sorcery were rife, and the Holy Scriptures which were the basis of religious and civil law dictated that the world upon which they lived was flat (Isaiah 11:12), held up in the firmament by pillars (1 Samuel 2:8), and that it was stationary in place. Heaven, which existed above the firmament, was layered, as was noted by Paul in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians. Earthquakes, floods, tempests at sea, were all actions of gods, or in the case of the monotheistic Israelites, God.

What is today understood to be mental illness was to the world of the ancients’ demonic possession. For centuries miracles had been recorded by certain holy men, visionaries, and seers. Stories of those miracles were handed down in oral tradition, as well as in the sacred scriptures. The miracles of the prophets Elijah and Elisha were repeated by those who documented the ministry of Jesus in the four gospels, and by Paul in the letters which he wrote to the followers forming the early church. Competition between false messiahs and faith healers was as common in His day as it is more than two millennia later, and many of the miracles presented, themselves borrowed from the books of the Old Testament, faced skeptics among the followers of other faith healers and itinerant preachers of the time.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
The earliest Epistles of Paul appeared before the gospels, and are the oldest known books of the New Testament. Wikimedia

13. The oldest books of the New Testament do not discuss the miracles of Jesus

The first stories about and references to Jesus of Nazareth to appear in writing are the works now known as the Epistles of Paul, written circa 60 CE. In one of these works, Romans, Paul somewhat sadly mentions to the followers of the emerging sect of Christians that they do not know how to pray. Paul’s comment indicates that the story of the Apostles asking Jesus to teach them to pray, and His response of providing what is now universally known as the Lord’s Prayer, was an event of which he, Paul, had no knowledge. The prayer would not become known until the gospel of Mark, which was also the first to document the miracles which were performed by Jesus during his ministry. Paul did not record any of them in his letters.

Mark called upon the prophecy of Isaiah to create the miracle stories which appear in the Old Testament, many of which were expanded upon by Matthew. Isaiah provided the guidelines for the miracles to be performed in his prophecy; the blind shall see, the deaf shall be made to hear, the lame to walk, and those incapable of speech would be given voice. Isaiah predicted that the dead would rise again to rejoin the living. Thus, without eyewitness testimony to confirm (or deny) the miracles being ascribed to the ministry of Jesus, those of the Old Testament and other ancient myths and legends found a new source. Even the virgin birth, which had long been a feature of mythological tales of many civilizations, found a new manner of presentation, and eventually became one of the tenets of the Church.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
The Ascension, which was absent the oldest extant copy of Mark and added much later, was just one of several bodily entries into heaven described in the Bible, as well as other ancient writings. Wikimedia

14. The bodily ascent of Jesus into Heaven following the Resurrection

According to the Bible and most Christian faiths, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and after a period of time among the living on earth was taken bodily into heaven, a miracle known as the Ascension. As with other miracles attributed to Jesus, not all of the Gospels relate the event in the same manner. Luke and John refer to the Ascension in descriptions and timing differing from Matthew and Mark. It is mentioned in several of the later Epistles of Paul. As with many of the miracles attributed to Jesus and his ministry, ascending bodily into heaven was an occurrence mentioned with some regularity in ancient documents and folklore, including that of the Jews of Jesus’s day. The Old Testament and contemporaneous literature which is not part of the accepted liturgical canon are replete with stories of bodily ascent into the eternal reward.

Among them are Enoch (included in Genesis as well as apocryphal works), Ezra, Baruch, who was the companion of Jeremiah, Elijah, and Job’s children, who were delivered bodily to heaven after being resurrected in the book describing Job’s trials at the hands of God and Satan. Non-Jews included Augustus, the Emperor of Rome, whose ascent was witnessed by members of the Roman Senate. The Greek hero Heracles, as well as his Roman counterpart Hercules, ascended into heaven, according to the ancient myths about them. The Ascension of Jesus is thus one more miracle which occurred to other personages both before and after his own, and is another miraculous event ignored by Paul in the earliest written records though described later in letters which today appear in the Bible.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Legends of the Great Flood, deemed by most experts to have been a scientific impossiblity, are common throughout the globe. Wikimedia

15. The Great Flood and the preservation of the human race

The biblical version of the flood myth described in Genesis includes the miracle of the survival of humanity, thanks to the compassion of God and the obedience of Noah, who was well over a half century old when he built the ark according to God’s design. Though the myth is prominent in the Bible, as well as in the beliefs of creationists and those who believe in a literal interpretation of the book, it also appears in the myths of several civilizations and ancient peoples. It is found in the myths of ancient Mesopotamia, halfway around the world in the beliefs of the North American Ojibwa peoples (and others), in Hindu and ancient Chinese mythology, and in the ancient tribes of Australia. It appears in African legend and in the civilizations of the South American continent. Modern scientific study denies the historicity of the event.

It is widely believed that massive tsunamis may have originated in the Indian Ocean basin well over 60 million years ago, the result of meteor impact, and inundating more than half of the globe. This theory is of course disputed by those who believe science to be false and the world to be less than 7,000 years old. The Bible story of Genesis, and a repentant God promising to never again destroy his creation by flood, is thus the relation of a miracle which is repeated in more or less similar events across cultures and belief systems. Those that fervently believe in the story of Noah and his family, a clan critical to subsequent Bible stories, deny that the flood is a myth, and creationists in Kentucky have built an ark celebrating the young earth theory, less than a half-hour drive from a site where fossils millions of years old have been found.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Leviathan (Litan) is part of a biblical creation story which stands in disagreement with the account written in Genesis. Wikimedia

16. The miracle of creation varies with ancient cultures and beliefs, as well as within the Bible

In the Bible the world and all that inhabits it, as well as the stars and planets, and everything else which comprises the universe, were created in six days. According to the beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the world was created, deliberately by God, out of nothing, in accordance with His own design. The recounting of the event, which was presumably later shared with man since there was no man present to observe its occurrence, is considered to be, by true believers, sacrosanct and literally true. The Genesis story is neither the only nor the oldest of the creation stories which were believed by the ancients, and it shares some features with myths which preceded it, at least if the age of the Book of Genesis is considered as its point of origin.

The creation tale recounted in Genesis – the miracle of God’s creating the universe – isn’t even the oldest such story contained in the Bible. The Books of Job and Isaiah, both of which were likely available to the writer (s) of Genesis, contain another account, which also appears in Psalm 74. Hence the miracle of creation which begins with the words, “In the beginning”, references other works which preceded the beginning with which Genesis begins. The earlier account contains a description of God slaying a great beast known as Leviathan in the Hebrew stories and as Litan in the account contained within what is known as the Ugarit text, named for the Canaanite city in which tablets which contain the story were found. The oldest miracle in the Hebrew bible shares some of its story with miracles recorded earlier, which were themselves undoubtedly passed down the generations by oral tradition before being recorded in stone.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
Accounts comparing Jesus Christ as a retelling of the Egyptian myths regarding Horus are largely Internet myths with little factual bearing or accurate sources. Wikimedia

17. The comparison of Jesus and Horus

In recent years, largely through the use of the Internet and innumerable blogs and other sites, a group which claims that the story of Jesus of Nazareth as told in the Bible and other ancient texts not considered to be part of the biblical canon is a rewriting of the story of Horus. Horus was a god of prehistoric Egypt whose cult of worshipers existed at least into the days of the Roman occupation. Most often he was described as the son of Isis and Osiris, born of a virgin, and began his ministry around the age of thirty. He is said to have travelled with 12 disciples, performed many of the same miracles as did Jesus at a later date, delivered a recitation of his philosophy on a mount, was executed between two thieves, and rose from the dead after three days. The consensus among the believers in the Horus myth, at least the modern recreation of it, is that all of the actions and teachings of Jesus were mere retellings of the life and events of Horus.

The problem with the Horus/Jesus comparison is that there isn’t any truth in it, and that the so-called comparison is an internet myth. While many of the miracles attributed to Jesus do have similar examples from other cultures, there are few which compare directly to Horus. Egyptian beliefs did not ascribe a virgin birth to Horus, nor a baptism at 30 (or any other age), and his known disciples never numbered twelve. Horus did perform miracles, as would be expected of any self-respecting god of his era. But miracle workers, as seen already, were commonplace according to the oral and written accounts of life in the ancient world. And the majority of the Egyptian legends regarding Horus recount that he did not die between thieves. He didn’t die at all, instead becoming merged, as it were, with the sun god Ra, allowing him to be reborn each day at sunrise.

Biblical Miracles that Appear in Multiple Cultures and Times
The ancient Egyptian deity Osiris is but one of many believed by followers to have risen after death. Wikimedia

18. The dying god which rises again traverses many cultures and ages

The crux of Christianity as described in the New Testament is that Jesus overcame eternal damnation and rose again after dying upon the cross, obtaining through his sacrifice the salvation of humanity. The Resurrection is the central miracle of the Christian faith. But gods which died only to rise again and move among the living were present in other cultures before that described in the Bible. Legends of the Norse; among the ancient Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas in Mesoamerica; in Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands; within the ancient peoples of North America; and among the regions from which western civilization sprang forth, all included legends of deities which returned to life after experiencing death. A variant upon the theme is the departure from earth for one’s heavenly reward, presumably eternal, via bodily ascension.

The promise of eternal life dominated religious beliefs before the life of Jesus, and was presented in the resurrection of deities and other figures. Osiris, worshiped for centuries before Jesus, was believed to have risen after death. Jainists, Buddhists, and Hindus all had examples of resurrection in their beliefs. In multiple cultures the Phoenix, symbolic of the sun, rose from its own ashes every 500 years or so, reborn. For Christians the greatest of all the miracles related in the Bible is the resurrection of Jesus, for others it was an event which never occurred, and Jesus is relegated to the role of a prophet, as He is in both Judaism and Islam. At issue is whether the miracle of resurrection is to be believed, or whether it is to be relegated to the status of myth, which it would thus share with deities both before and after the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the tales of the Testaments of Judeo-Christian tradition.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The god who comes: Dionysian Mysteries Revisited”. Rosemarie Taylor-Perry. 2003

“The Myths of Rome”. T.P. Wiseman. 2004

“Jonah and the Whale is an Ancient Sun Myth”. February 2013

“The Iliad”. Homer, translated by A. T. Murray. 1954. Online

“Elijah raises the widow’s son”. 1 Kings 17: 17-24. The Bible, KJV

“The Greek Myths”. Robert Graves. 1955

“Zoroaster’s Religion” (in German). Michael Stausberg. 2002

“An Introduction to Hinduism”. Gavin Flood. 1996

“Elisha feeds 100 people”. 2 Kings 4: 42-44. The Bible, KJV

“Apollonius of Tyana”. Entry, Livius: Articles on Ancient History. Online

“Heaven according to Paul”. 2 Corinthians 4: 11. Online

“The Historical Jesus: A Essential Guide”. James H. Charlesworth. 2008

“Job: A Peek Behind the Curtain”. Online

“Before Noah: Myths of the Flood Are Far Older Than the Bible”. Ishaan Tharoor, TIME Magazine. April 2, 2014

“Horus and Jesus: mythological plagiarism?” Will & Testament, BBC Online. May 1, 2009

“Thematic Guide to World Mythology”. Lorena Laura Stookey. 2004