Part 9. Canaanite/Christian Parallels
There seems to be many parallels between Baal and Christ, though most are superficial.
Christ calms the storm (Mk 5:35-41) much as Baal the god of storms could; Christ walks on water (Mk 7:45-52) while Baal conquered the sea god Yamm; both are "sons" of a father god whos will they obey; both are called "saviors"; both are referred to as being killed as/like a lamb; both have the title "lord"; there are divine banquets going on in heaven in both stories and both over come death and return to life.
It is interesting that the Pharisees revamped the name "Baalzebul" as the source of Christ's power (the original Greek uses the name correctly "Baal the prince", it is not until the Latin Vulgate translation that it is altered to "Baalzebub" or "lord of the flies") a form of Baal appearing only once in the Old Testament (II Kgs 1:2) as the god of Ekron, a false god but not specifically "Satan". Why should the Pharisees revive it -- was Jesus a practioner of some small surviving Canaanite cult?
When Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he is making a bid for power, he goes to the temple and throws the money changers out and announces the inauguration of his reign. Similarly, Baal had taken on all comers and set about building his house (dynasty). Both are rivaling their father by their assumptions of power, but it is the peripheral players who carry out their destruction, not the father.
In both cases, it is a woman (or women) who go to retrieve the corpses. At the empty tomb were Mary the mother of James, Mary Magdalene the former prostitute, and Salome a young girl (the three forms of women: mother, wife/sister, daughter) while Anath, Baals sister/consort seeks him.
Interestingly, in both accounts the next step is missing, both in the Baal Epic which is damaged and the original ending of the Gospel of Mark which is missing after Mk 16:8. Both are proclaimed as being alive by the women and their power is reasserted.
When the eleven remaining Apostles choose a successor to Judas Iscariot, they narrow it down to two and then cast lots to determine God's will (Acts 1:23-26) hearkening back to the Ephod and the yes-no Urim and Thummin.
The idea that the Messiah must suffer as foretold in scriptures (Mk 9:12; Lk 17:25) is probably retroactively placed into Christ's life, for there are few hints in the Old Testament that the Messiah must suffer -- unless one might be thinking about Baal's suffering and death in the Baal epic.
And lastly, one might wonder if the cross was somehow connected to the sacred poles dedicated to Asherah.
Probably none of these are true. The earlier accounts of Jesus in the New Testament seem to depict him as a mystical wonder worker of sorts whom God raised from the dead (Acts 2:22- 24. Rom 1:3-4). More of a religio-political revolutionary then some deity concerned only with the power struggles within an abstract pantheon.
To understand how the Canaanite religion effected the formation of Christianity we need to look at how the religion was affected during the Persian Period.
In my opinion, the Persian Zoroastrian religion had abstracted the Oedipal Conflict to its logical extreme. No longer a good father and a rebellious son, now we have a totally transcendent good deity and a totally transcendent evil deity locked in mortal conflict which ultimately the good deity will win. All other deities in the pantheon are denigrated into angels and demons lined up on either side.
The Persians were the only Gentiles the ancient Jews ever liked. During the Persian Period we see Judaism absorbing many Persian religious ideas. They correctly equated the Father with the Persian good god but did not equate Baal with the evil god. In the older parts of the Bible, Baal is only a worthless none existent false god, not a powerful active anti-god. The evil in worshiping Baal was that he was worthless and that doing so insulted the one true living God, a denial of the true faith. During the Persian Period we see for the first time the Satan figure ("Satan" means "Adversary"), a real, active being bent on evil.
The merger of these two different Oedipal scenarios left a gap where the son figure had been inside the Jewish system. This psychological void was naturally filled by the Christ figure.
One might say that Christianity was a re-alignment of the Jewish model of the Oedipal Conflict to its older Canaanite model after being unsatisfyingly altered according to the Persian model.
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(c) 1999 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.