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“AND I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. It shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. iii. 15.) This text is often cited by Christian writers and controversialists as prefiguring the mission of the Christian Savior, viz., the destruction of the serpent, alias the devil. St. John calls “the grand adversary of souls which deceiveth the whole world,” “the dragon, the serpent, the devil, and Satan.” (Rev. xii. 8.). The serpent, then, is the devil; that is, the dragon, the serpent, the devil and Satan are all one. The object of this chapter is to show the origin of the singular figure set forth in the first text quoted, and to prove that those Christian writers who assume it to be a revelation from heaven were profoundly ignorant of oriental history, as the same figure is found in several heathen systems of older date, as we will now cite the facts to prove.
Some of the saviors or demigods of Egypt, India, Greece, Persia, Mexico and Etruria are represented as performing the same drama with the serpent or devil. “Osiris of Egypt (says Mr. Bryant) bruised the head of the serpent after it had bitten his heel.” Descending to Greece, Mr. Faber relates that, “on the spheres Hercules is represented in the act of contending with the serpent, the head of which is placed under his foot; and this serpent guarded the tree with golden fruit in the midst of the garden Hesperides” — Eden. (Origin of Idolatry, vol. i.p. 443.) “And we may observe,” says this author, “the same tradition in the Phenician fable of Ophion or Ophiones.” (Ibid.) In Genesis the serpent is the subject of two legends. But here it will be observed that they are both couched in one.
Again, it is related by more than one oriental writer that Chrishna of India is represented on some very ancient sculptures and stone monuments with his heel on the head of a serpent. Mr. Maurice, in his Indian Antiquities, vol. ii., speaks of “Chrishna crushing the head of a serpent with his foot,” and pronounces the striking similarity of this story with that found in the Christian bible as “very mysterious.” Another author tells us “The image of Chrishna is sculptured in the ancient temples of India, sometimes wreathed in the folds of a serpent which is biting his foot, and sometimes treading victoriously on the head of a serpent.” (Prog. Rel. Ideas, vol. i.) In the Mexican Antiquities, vol. vi., we are told, “A messenger from heaven announced to the first woman created (Suchiquecul), that she should bear a son who should bruise the serpent’s head, and then presented her with a rose.” Here is the origin of the Genesis legend, the rose being the fruit of the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil.” “The ancient Persians,” says Volney, in his “Ruin of Empires,” p. 169, “had the tradition of a virgin, from whom they predicted would be born, or would spring up, a shoot (a son) that would crush the serpent’s head, and thus deliver the world from sin.” And both the serpent and the virgin, he tells us, are represented imaginarily in the heavens, and pictured on their astronomical globes and spheres, as on those of the Romish Christian. (See Burritt’s Geography of the Heavens.)
In the ancient Etrurian story, instead of “the seed of the woman” (the virgin), it is the woman herself who is represented as standing with one foot on the head of a serpent, which has the twig of an apple tree in its mouth to which an apple is suspended (the forbidden fruit), while its tail is twisted around a celestial globe, thus reminding us of St. John’s dragon hauling down one- third of the stars with his tail, (See Rev. xii. 4.) In the ancient celestial diagram of the Etrurian, the head of the virgin is surmounted with a crown of stars — doubtless the same legend from which St. John borrowed his metaphor of a “a woman with a crown of twelve stars on her head.” (Rev. xiii.) “The Regina Stellarum” (Queen of the Stars), spoken of in some of the ancient systems appertains to the same fable. Also the tradition of Achilles of Greece being invulnerable in the heel, as related by Homer. The last clause of the first text quoted reads “It shall bruise thy head” — a very curious prophetic reference to the savior of the world, if the text refers to him, to represent him as being of the neuter gender, for the neuter pronoun it always refers to a thing without sex.
In the further exposition of the serpent tradition, we are now brought to notice, and will trace to its origin, the story of the original transgression and fall of man — two cardinal doctrines of the Christian religion. Like every other tenet of the Christian faith, we find these doctrines taught in heathen systems much older than Christianity, and whose antiquity antedates even the birth of Moses. We will first notice the Persian tradition. “According to the doctrine of the Persians,” says the Rev. J.C. Pitrat, “Meshia and Meshiane, the first man and first woman, were pure, and submitted to Ormuzd, their maker. But Ahriman (the evil one) saw them, and envied them their happiness. He approached them under the form of a serpent, presented fruits to them, and persuaded them that he was the maker of man, of animals, of plants, and of the beautiful universe in which they dwelt. They believed it. Since that time Ahriman was their master. Their natures became corrupt, and this corruption infested their whole posterity.” This story is taken from the Vandidatsade of the Persians, pp. 305 and 428.
The Indian or Hindoo story is furnished us by the Rev. Father Bouchat, in a letter to the bishops of Avranches, and runs thus: “Our Hindoos say the Gods tried by all means to obtain immortality. After many inquiries and trials, they conceived the idea that they would find it in the tree of life, which is the Chorcan (paradise). In fact they succeeded, and by eating once in a while of the fruits of that tree, they kept the precious treasure they so much valued. A famous snake, named Cheiden, saw that the tree of life had been found by the Gods of the second order. As probably he had been intrusted with guarding that tree, he became so angry because his vigilance had been deceived, that he immediately poured out an enormous quantity of poison, which spread over the whole earth.” How much like this story is the story of St. John, “And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood!” (Rev. xii. 15.)
The idea of a snake or serpent inundating the earth from its mouth, as taught in both stories is so novel, and so far removed from the sphere of natural causes and possible events, that we are compelled to the conclusion that one is borrowed from the other, or both from a common original.
And as facts cited in other chapters prove beyond dispute that the Hindoo system, containing this story, extends in antiquity far beyond the time of Moses, the question is thus settled as to which system borrowed the story from the other.
Before closing the chapter, we wish to call the attention of the reader to the important fact that three out of four of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith are taught in the two heathen mythological stories of creation just presented, viz.: —
- Original sin.
- The fall of man caused by a serpent.
- The consequent corruption and depravity of the human race.
These doctrines, then, it must be admitted, are of heathen origin, and not, as Christians claim, “important truths revealed from heaven.” For a historical exposition of the other cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith, viz., man’s restoration by the atonement achieved through the crucifixion of a God, see Chapters XVI and XXI.