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Is it possible that the Jesus myth was assembled from mythical elements found in the Assyrian/Babylonian Bel Myth?
Here are two sets of answers, one from John G. Jackson, and another by me resulting from correspondence with an official, Christopher Walker, of The British Museum.
From Christianity Before Christ by John G. Jackson, American Atheist Press, PO Box 2117, Austin, TX 78768-2117, 1985, pp. 43-46.
Quick Book Report: Various myths are shown to be forerunners of the Jesus myth.
The immediate following chart from is my compilation of Jackson's report citing Arthur Findlay and George R. Goodman:
(A) Arthur Findlay's report of the translation by a Professor H. Zimmern, in German, of an ancient tablet which Jackson reports (citing Findlay) as Babylonian dating back to circa 2000 BC now in the British Museum in which the Babylonian myth of Bel (Baal in Hebrew) is described in a passion play in which (1) Bel is taken prisoner; (2) Bel is tried in a great hall; (3) Bel is smitten; (4) Bel is led away to the Mount (a sacred grove on a hilltop); (5) with Bel are taken two malefactors, one of whom is released; (6) After Bel has gone to the Mount and is executed, the city breaks into tumult; (7) Bel's clothes are carried away; (8) Bel goes down into the Mount and disappears from life; (9) weeping women seek Bel at the Tomb; (10) Bel is brought back to life.
(B) A Bel myth—Jesus myth parallel table created by George R. Goodman and presented in "Easter" in The Freethinker of May 14, 1965.
|The Bel (Baal) Myth||The Jesus Myth|
|(1) Bel is taken prisoner.||(1) Jesus is taken prisoner.|
|(2) Bel is tried in a great hall.||(2) Jesus is tried a great hall—the Hall of Justice.|
|(3) Bel is smitten.||(3) Jesus is scourged.|
|(4) Bel is led away to the Mount (a sacred grove on a hilltop).||(4) Jesus is led away to Golgotha.|
|(5) With Bel are taken two malefactors, one of whom is released.||(5) With Jesus two malefactors are led away; Barrabas is released.|
|(6) After Bel has gone to the Mount and is executed, the city breaks into tumult.||(6) After Jesus is executed, there is an earthquake, the veil of the Temple is rent, the dead rise from their graves and walk among the living.|
|(7) Bel's clothes are carried away.||(7) Jesus's clothes are carried away after soldiers cast dice for them.|
|(8) Bel goes down into the Mount and disappears from life.||(8) Jesus disappears from life into the tomb.|
|(9) Weeping women seek Bel at the Tomb.||(9) Weeping women seek Jesus at the Tomb.|
|(10) Bel is brought back to life.||(10) Jesus is resurrected—rises from the grave/Tomb.|
10/12/01: Update: The report by Jackson and the chart shown above has flaws which are addressed in the following report. The tablet referenced by Jackson, Findlay, and Goodman, does in fact exist, but according to Christopher Walker of The British Museum it is Assyrian, not Babylonian, was discovered in the town of Nineveh in Assyria, and dates from 700 B.C., not 2000 B.C., as reported by John Jackson citing Arthur Findlay.
The following report is based upon a photocopy provided to me by Christopher Walker of The British Museum of a translation of the Bel Myth Tablet by S. Langdon, published in 1923.
The Bel myth parallels to the Jesus myth are nevertheless present in the Langdon translation, clearly indicating that regardless of the discovery of the tablet in Nineveh in Assyria, not in Babylonia, and its dating as 700 B.C. and not 2000 B.C. The Bel myth does in fact have mythical elements including death and resurrection which parallel the Jesus myth and thus are forerunners of mythical elements in the Jesus myth.
In Babylonia, the god Bel is also called Marduk. In some writings the two names are linked as Bel-Marduk or Marduk-Bel.
In the Babylonian myth, The Epic of Creation, the god Marduk does not die and is not resurrected.
However, as S. Langdon stated, as shown below, the Bel myth presented in the writings inscribed upon the Assyrian Bel myth tablet found in Nineveh clearly describe a different Bel myth from the Bel (Bel-Marduk/Marduk-Bel) myth presented in The Epic of Creation. Thus, there are two Bel myths; (A) The Bel myth found in The Epic of Creation and (B) The Bel myth found in the Assyrian Bel myth tablet.
The fact that the Bel myth tablet exists and has writings translated by at least two translators, H. Zimmern, and S. Langdon, in which we find mythical elements which are different from the mythical elements found in The Epic of Creation refutes any claims that the Bel myth found on the Bel myth tablet is not authentic.