Biblical Myths

Are biblical stories just retellings of ancient mythological accounts?

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It has long been suggested that stories in the Bible are retellings of far more ancient accounts. For example, Wood (2003) has drawn attention to the fact that there are remarkable similarities between the Sumerian King List and accounts in Genesis, from descriptions of the great flood, to the eight rulers who reigned before the flood, and decreasing longevity of people after the flood.  Dennis MacDonald, professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, has conducted extensive research into both the New Testament and ancient mythology and has also found remarkable similarities between stories in the Bible and the myths and legends of ancient civilizations.  The implication of course is that it suggesets that the Gospels are retellings of ancient stories.

One striking example relates to the disciples James and John, which MacDonald believes are based, at least in part, on the Gemini Twins.  The Twins, Castor and Pollux, had a mortal father named Tyndareus, while also going by the collective epithet Dioscuri – sons of Zeus, “the Thunderer”.  Likewise, James and John are sons of the mortal Zebedee and in Mark 3:17, Jesus gives them the collective label Boanerges – “Sons of Thunder”.

The Gemini Twins were known to call fire down from the sky — referring to their father’s lightning bolts — and had been known in Greek myth to have destroyed entire villages with that power. Again, we see an incredible similarity with the accounts of James and John.  In Luke 9:54 when Jesus is refused entry into a Samaritan village, the brothers ask, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?” Jesus rebukes them for their quick tempers, but it’s assumed they have this power.

Finally, we see that in ancient coins and gems, the Twins are depicted positioned on either side of enthroned deities, such as Zeus, Serapis, Mars and Mithras. In Mark 10:35-40, James and John are seen requesting to sit on the right and left of their Lord on the heavenly throne.

MacDonald has found numerous other examples of similarities between Bible parables and the stories of ancient myths and legends, too numerous, he says, to be accidental. So what could account for these similarities?  Does it mean that the Gospels are not based on true accounts? It is quite possible that both the Bible and ancient mythology are referring to real events that have taken place, expressed in a way that was relevant to the people of the time.  Just where and when these events took place and what exactly transpired is something we may never know.


Great Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology: The Sumerian King List - by Bryant G. Wood 

Biblical Stories Mirror Those Found in Ancient Mythology - by Ed Neumann 

By April Holloway


You wrote, "The Gemini Twins were known to call fire down from the sky — referring to their father’s lightning bolts — and had been known in Greek myth to have destroyed entire villages with that power."

Can you give me a source/reference for that please? Thank you.

I think you are just getting mixed up with the actual Biblical account in the New Testament in Luke 9:54 when James & John ask Jesus if they can destroy a Samaritan town/village with fire. They weren't known "in Greek myth" to have done this, so you have it wrong.

I believe the Bible is based on actual events. They have been twisted and exagerated over thousand years. The “Great Flood” has scientific proof of water levels rising. Doggerland, Variousunder water cities and roads in Greece and Egypt, The lapita in samoa, Gulf of Combay city near India. 


I don't believe before any flood people lived many hundreds of years. I think early societies which hadn't yet learned to accurately measure the length of the year to within a day used the cycle of the moon as a visual counter of a person's age. Thus if somebody said to be nine hundred years old was actually nine hundred moons old he would be near-as-damn-it seventy-five. For some reason the scribes never grasped this but hey!, when God's involved it does makes it a better yarn if they leave in the unlikely.

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