• The Bible: An Exposé: Superstition and Myth in the Bible


    I recall when I read the bible for the very first time I was shocked by what I read. I had always heard that the bible was the inspired word of god but what I read sounded more like stories from groups of very primitive peoples. I’ve heard it said that nothing will get you to atheism faster than reading the bible, and doing this is what first began to put dents in my belief about the Christian god. Reading the many unbelievable stories, particularly about how the patriarchs supposedly lived for hundreds of years, made me laugh and question the bible.

    Picking up where the last post in this series left off, I am going to discuss the many instances of mythological elements in the bible, such as Jesus’ alleged resurrection, the immensely long life spans of the people in the bible, and talking donkeys.

    The Creation Story

    I’ve decided to begin this piece where the bible also begins: with the creation story.

    It has long been known that the famous creation story is based upon older creation myths from nearby civilizations, such as Egypt and Babylonia. [1] It’s also apparent that the borrowed creation story originally featured multiple gods and was simply changed to reflect Israel’s emerging belief in monotheism as opposed to polytheism since it says in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” (NKJV) The very beginning of the bible is replete with fictional narratives that were changed over time.

    The Great Flood

    The next subject under discussion is the well-known flood in Genesis. In this story god is so disgusted by his creation that he believes that redemption is out of the question and must kill all the creatures on the earth, with the exception of a selection of animals and Noah and his family. It is known that this story emerged from an Egyptian creation myth. There are many parallels between the Hermoplitan Creation myth and this story in Genesis. [2] This is another example of myth in the bible. There is also not a single shred of scientific evidence that a global flood ever took place, but I will leave that for a future post on science and the bible.

    Talking Animals?!

    In the bible the appearance of talking animals occasionally takes place. Probably the most famous of examples is the snake in the Garden of Eden that tempts Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3:1-5). Another example is Numbers 22:28-30 when Balaam talks to his donkey.

    These stories are unbelievable, and yet for so long I had always heard that everything in the bible is said to have actually taken place, but the more I read it the less I took it seriously.

    Other Mythical Creatures

    Not only are there talking snakes but dragons (Job 26:7-14; Isaiah 51:9, etc.) and sea monsters (Job 3:8; Psalm 104:26). Leviathan is said to have been a “great, mythological monster” and one of the “primeval sea monsters who battles Baal.” [3]

    Magical Tales

    Tales of magic are also told in the bible. Some biblical characters are said to have used some form of supernatural power to perform certain feats. For example, in Genesis Rachel used mandrake plants to seemingly help her bear a child (Genesis 30:14-24); it was believed that physical contact with “holy men” who were close to god could impart a portion of their power to others (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:31-37; Matthew 8:14-15); and finally there is a story when Samuel poured out water in order to induce a storm (1 Samuel 7:6).

    Long Life Spans

    There are some Christian apologists who argue that the ages of Adam and others in the bible are accurate. Adam was said to have lived to 930 years, while Noah was said to have lived to 950 years. Enoch is said to have lived to 365 years. The average life span of those in the bible was roughly 857 years. The facts, however, tell a different story. The average life expectancy for people in the ancient world was 47, a drastically shorter time frame, and much more believable to say the least. When I read of the ages that some of these biblical figures died my first thought was disbelief. I thought to myself that in today’s modern world of better nutrition, better health care, and fewer daily dangers to life and limb, people obviously live longer today than people in the past. This is just common sense but studies on the ages of people in the ancient world have put this absurd idea to bed. [4]


    I’ve finally come to the final, and I think most important, supernatural event that occurred in the bible: Jesus’ alleged resurrection. It is significant because even the bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:14: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”

    While this supernatural story is not really any different than any of the other far-fetched examples of magic and myth in the bible (including other resurrection narratives in John 11:1-45; Acts 20:9-20; and Matthew 27:52 among many other examples), it is the most discussed example of the supernatural because it is a necessary justification for the foundation of Christianity. I also find it ironic that despite the bible recalling tales of dragons, magic, and other obviously false creatures, most Christians in this day and age reject those stories and put them in the same category as other myths but accept the resurrection story without hesitation.

    The first issue with the resurrection is the enormous unlikelihood of supernatural phenomenon. To date there has never been any scientific evidence of any supernatural occurrences. If they do not occur now, why should we believe they did occur in the past? If supernatural phenomenon occurs at all surely it’s on-going and does not just occur in certain time periods, especially not with all of the stories of supernatural phenomenon occurring throughout all periods of history. This is proof people believed in the supernatural throughout the past also, but due to our more advanced technology we are better able now then they were to determine whether or not these experiences were true representations of reality. All evidence to date shows they are not. [5]

    The second issue is the discrepancy between the earlier stories about the resurrection in Paul’s letters, specifically 1 Corinthians 15. In 1 Corinthians 15: 50 Paul argues that Jesus’ resurrection was a spiritual one, while the gospels clearly argue for a bodily resurrection. Apologists have unsuccessfully explained these differences. [6]

    The third issue is the historical evidence for the empty tomb. The only evidence for this claim available is the bible (and as I explained in the third installment of this series the reliability of the gospels are questionable due to the multiple and contradictory gospels) and the historical arguments themselves are also on shaky ground. [7]


    There are many mythical and superstitious stories in the bible that most Christians discount today. This creates a very contradictory state of affairs for Christians since they seem to pick and choose which supernatural events they want to believe even though all of these stories come from the same bible they claim is either inerrant, or very reliable despite a few inaccuracies. The very fact that there has never been a confirmed supernatural event in this modern age makes it highly doubtful the gospels are reporting anything that is remotely accurate regarding these many stories of monsters and the like.

    1. 101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History, by Gary Greenberg, Sourcebooks, Inc., 2000; 3, 22

    2. Ibid.; 73-75

    3. Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity, by John W. Loftus, Prometheus Books, 2008; 131-132

    4. Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?, by Richard Carrier, Chapter 7, Footnote # 31 – accessed 1-28-12

    5. Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, by Terence Hines, Prometheus Books, 2003

    6. Price, Robert M.. By This Time He Sinketh: The Attempts of William Lane Craig to Exhume Jesus. The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, Edited by Robert M. Price & Jeffery Jay Lowder, Prometheus Books, 2005. 427

    7. Lowder, Jeffery Jay. Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story: A Reply to William Lane Craig. The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, Edited by Robert M. Price & Jeffery Jay Lowder, Prometheus Books, 2005. 261-306

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist