Foreign Influences on the Development of Judaism and Christianity

This is controversial since it implies that the Bible drew on earlier, foreign sources for some of its texts and beliefs.

Pre-exilic Judaism (before 587 BC)

1. Egypt

A. Proverbs 22:17 - 23:14 draw from the "thirty chapters" in the Egyptian Instruction of Amen-em-opet.
B. Psalm 104 draws indirectly from the Atom hymn "to the Sun"
C. Akhenaten (Amenotep IV) is the first "monotheist" in recorded history. He lived about 100 years before Moses.
D. Moses was probably an Egyptian. "Mose" means "child" in Egyptian and appears joined with deity names in names such as "Amen-mose" (child of Amon), "Ptah-Mose" (child of Ptah) especially Pharaoh's names such as Ah-mose, Thut-mose and Ra-mose (Ramses). "Mose" alone as an abbreviation for such names is found on Egyptian monuments. Recall Biblical stories of Moses birth and how he came to be raised as an Egyptian prince by Pharaoh's daughter.

2. Canaanites

Early Judaism probably evolved directly out of the Canaanite religion. The Twelve Tribes of Israel were certainly a sub set of the Canaanite people.

3. Babylonians

A. Code of Hammurapi which King Hammurapi received on a mountain top from the goddess Ishtar contains some parallels with the Law of Moses which Moses received on Mount Sinai (Horeb) from Yahweh.
B. The Gilgamesh Epic depicting the creation of the world, the creation of the first man (Gilgamesh) and the great flood.
C. Possibly some influence on the Book of Ester, since "Ester" and "Mordeccai" appear to be Hebrewized forms of the names Ishtar and Marduk two Babylonian deities.

4. Hittites

The concept of a "Covenant" a written Contract or Charter between a ruler and his people listing past actions by the ruler on the people's behalf, promises of benefits to be had under his future rule and demands / responsibilties of the people toward him. The Ten Commandants are in the format of the Hittite Covenant with Yahweh as the ruler.

Persian Period (538 - 333 BC)

5. Persians (Zoroastrianism)

The Persian religion had a profound effect on Judaism and prepared the way for much of the Christian faith.

A. Pure monotheism: one true good god named Ahura Mazda
B. Duality: an evil anti-god named Ohriman (Satan figure)
C. Hosts of angelic/demonic beings lined up on each side
D. Ultimate triumph of the good god during the final age
E. Belief in a messianic figure who will appear at the end
F. Resurrection of the dead
G. Final Judgment for all men based on moral conduct
H. Apocalyptic Literature Hellenistic Period (333 - 63 BC)

6. Greeks (Schools of Philosophy and Mystery Religions)

A. Epicurean influence on Ecclesiastes
B. Stoic influence on St. Paul
C. Parallels with Greek Mystery Religions


Probable foreign ancient influences on the Bible have been discerned. The influence of three major groups, Canaanites, Persians and Greeks can account for the origins of most Jewish and Christian doctrines.


The three main movements in Judaism in the first century AD represent different levels of acceptance of these three main influences.

The Sadducees were oriented around the Temple in Jerusalem and represented a formal official Judaism. They absorbed less of the Persian and Greek influence than the other schools and died out when the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD.

The Pharisees were oriented around the synagogue and public reading of the Old Testament. They accepted some of the milder Persian and Greek influences and, generally speaking, evolved into Orthodox Judaism.

The Essenes absorbed much more from the Persians than the other schools, especially the apocalyptic and messianic aspects. They believed a gigantic battle between good and evil was imminent both in heaven and on earth which would set everything right. In practical terms they interpreted this as the ousting of the Romans and the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Israel. They were more politically radical and aggressive than the other groups and, generally speaking, evolved into Christianity.


It probably makes sense here to talk about a later movement which occurred in the Greco-Roman world outside of Palestine during the second century AD and that is the Gnostic Movement.

Gnosticism is predominately a mix of the same three influences but with a higher absorption of the Persian and Greek influence. The similarities with Christianity lead the Early Church to assume it was a Christian heresy, but in fact it is now know that there were non-Christian and non-Jewish forms of Gnosticism. In the early centuries there was a great deal of spillage between Judaism, Christianity and Gnosticism with Christianity ending up as the most dominant and Gnosticism being suppressed into the so called "occult".

Note: Generally speaking, the Jews suppressed the Canaanite and Zoroastrian religions pushing them underground into their "occult" as did Christianity with Gnosticism and the original pagan religion of the Northern Europe tribes. Modern analysis of the "occult", after removing several hundred years of distortions and commercializations, is able to discern the true sources and original meanings of many of the beliefs. Many of these religions were seen as serious threats to the religion that ultimately dominated them and therefore explain the vile recriminations they used against them. 

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