Children/Stones

Once in a while in scripture there is an intersection between Greek mythology and the Old or New Testament writings.  The one that immediately springs to mind is Japheth, one of Noah’s sons.  I imagine his name comes from Iapetus of Greek myth – his story is here.  A more obvious connection is in Matthew 3:9b, where John the Baptist says “For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”  The quote contains a pun if you were to translate it into Hebrew – banim – sons – and ‘banim – stones.  In Greek the pun is not obvious – lithon and tekna – but in the myth of Deucalion’s Flood Deucalion throws stones that became men, with laas and laos being nearly the same word.   Jim Morrison, a devotee of esoteric knowledge and myth, used elements shared with these stories in his song The Soft Parade: “Catacombs, nursery bones, winter women growing stones, carrying babies to the river.”

Was there a myth floating around the eastern Mediterranean/Near East back in the day associating children and stones?  I have not come across anything similar in Assyrian or Egyptian mythology but I have only scraped the surface.  Any feedback here is appreciated.  Incidentally, I would at times clash with classmates at the seminary who thought it inappropriate to make connections between scripture and mythology or other religious traditions.  S.H. Hooke puts it nicely in Middle Eastern Mythology:

“To say, as we have done, that the gospel writers used the forms and language of myth to describe the events which had taken place before their eyes, is not to deny the reality of these events, but to affirm that they belonged to an order of reality transcending human modes of expression; belonging, indeed, to what Berdiaev has called ‘metahistory’. “

 

2 Comments

  1. Fr. Constantine Newman says:

    Pater mou, Interesting connection. The Deucalion story has strong Near Eastern connections, although there are probably some native Greek elements, since the first reference is in Pindar, although the full story does not appear until probably 1st century AD in Apollodorus. The Sumerian and Babylonian versions do not have the same connection, since, unlike the Hebrew and Greek stories, the emphasis is on the gods rather than on humans, and the outcome is (with one exception) that the hero figure becomes immortal. That would be impossible for both the Hebrew (where only God/Yahweh is immortal) and the Greek (where the main distinction between gods and men is the fact that men die and gods do not); so the heroes then receive a secondary immortality through the production of a new human race. It is interesting that the pun which works so well in Greek also works in Hebrew.

    I agree, too. We should not be afraid to look on Scripture in terms of myth. People need to strip their understanding of myth as something false. Myth is simply a good story with an important message. For the Christian community, that description fits the Gospels very well. They also did not grow up in a vacuum.

    Thanks for the insight!

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