Religious stories all over the world share similarities in structure and storyline. They are fantastical and speak of miracles and mythical happenings. Followers gather by the hundreds of thousands and spread these stories, gaining meaning, hope and purpose from them.
However, while the religious structure is a positive addition to any lifestyle, it can be fun and interesting to learn about the similarities between the ancient stories you are told and other religions’ stories.
Here are a couple of shared myths from Christianity:
The story of Noah’s ark is well known. The earth is flooding, and God warns the devout Noah of a flood, telling him to get his family and one male and one female of every species onto a boat. This allows them to live through incessant rain and flooding.
However, that is not the only flood story in religious scripture. We find similar stories in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Hindu mythology, Greek, Norse and Aztec mythology.
The first human
The Bible begins with the creation of Earth and man. The creation of Adam and Eve is believed to be the story of the creation of man. But other religious scriptures also have similar stories of the creation of man. For example, there is the Lif and Lifthrasir of Norse mythology and Fuxi and Nuwa of Chinese Mythology – to name a few.
Another recurrent creation theme is also the creation of man from mud or clay. The bible states God made man from the dust of the ground, Greek mythology states Prometheus crafted man from water and earth and in Chinese mythology, Nuwa moulded people from the earth.
The use of tools and fire was supposedly granted to humans by the fallen angels in the Bible. In Greek mythology, this is seen as Prometheus stealing fire to give to the humans. Another striking similarity.
The Virgin birth
The virgin birth of Jesus is a shared story, unfortunately. Nevertheless, Virgin births, or at least births because of some supernatural interference, are common in religious stories.
There is Horus, the son of virgin god Iris and Condom, the virgin-born Siamese god. Then Buddha, who was supposedly born of the virgin Maya and the Mexican god Huitzilopochtli, was born by a supposedly impregnated woman as she walked past a temple.
The star of Bethlehem
A bright north star is believed to have shone as Jesus was born, and it is referred to in modern parlance as the star of Bethlehem. However, ancient people were very superstitious, so there is no real novelty to the emergence of this star.
Similar stories were told in China at the birth of Yu, the founder of the first dynasty. Or in Mexico at the birth of Quetzalcoatl, where the ‘morning star’ appeared. Even further back in the Bible, we find the birth of Abraham heralded by a star.
Seemingly all the saviours in ancient literature come from some line of royal blood, and Jesus was no different. His ‘father’, Joseph, is canonically a descendant of the great King David.
Other examples of royal descent include Krishna and Buddha.
The slaughter of innocents
The story of Jesus’ birth is told with another story of the slaughter of children that Jesus has to be hidden from. There are many stories with similar threads. In the bible itself, we have the story of Moses who had to be sent away in a reed basket or Abraham, who was sought by Nimrod.
And then from other religions and myths we have, the stories of Perseus, Herakles, Jason, Bacchus and Romulus and Remus.
The story of the Tower of Babel
In the bible, we find the ancient story of the Tower of Babel, which is thought to be the birthplace of the multiplicity of language. Or rather the origin of different languages. We find similar myths in Sumeria, with the myth of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, and in Greek mythology, where we have the story of Gigantomachy.
In Mexico too there is the story of the great pyramid of Cholula.
The adoption of pagan rituals
Today, many Christian rituals, especially those revolving around dates, can trace their origins to ancient pagan rituals. This is because the conversion of the ancient peoples to Christianity was uneven and involved Pagan rituals.
For example, the name for Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess – Eostre. They also estimated the date for the birth of Jesus based on the Spring equinox. Eventually, the practice of the feasts of Christmas and the new year also held similarities to traditions from the widely popular pagan feast of Saturnalia.
Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld
Christianity believes in the division of life into Heaven, Hell and Earth. We know this as Biblical Cosmology.
It is also a belief shared by the Greeks, Romans and the Hebrew Bible.