Why are some Bible stories so similar to stories from other cultures?

The naive answer:

Other cultures borrowed stories from the Jews and Christians, but they may have written their stories down before the Jews and Christians did.

The problem with the naive answer:

We have written records of stories that are nearly identical to stories in the Bible, yet these stories were written by non-Jewish and non-Christian societies long before the Jewish and Christian versions of the stories were created.

The scholar’s answer:

Writers of the books of the Bible adopted concepts and stories from other cultures to incorporate into the Bible because the stories were popular or helped to explain something in the world.

Here are a few examples of such stories:

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh - Written around 2100BC, tells of a man warned by God about a flood coming and that he should build a boat.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh - Written around 2100BC, tells of a man who lived in a paradise with a woman who tempts him and a snake steals a plant of immortality from him.
  • Proverbs 22 - Several verses in the book of Proverbs echo verses from the Egyptian Amenemope.
  • The word “paradise” comes directly from the Persian religion of Mithraism.
  • The word “Hell” derives from the Norse word Hel. Other words used for Hell in the New Testament such as “Hades” come from Greek mythos.
  • The concepts of angels and demons and Satan borrow those ideas from Zorastrians.
  • December 25th The birth date for Jesus was chosen to coincide and co-opt a pagan celebration on that date.
  • Dionysus a Greek god was born on December 25th, of a virgin. He is the son of a God. He turned water into wine.

Much of the old testament was written while the Jews were in Babylon and much of the old testament stories resemble Babylonian stories written before the Bible stories. Much of the new testament miracles of Jesus were miracles performed previously by Greek and Roman deities.

Logically, we can conclude that Christianity and Judaism borrowed stories and ideas from other cultures to include popular customs, festivals, and rituals into the Jewish and Christian faiths. Inclusion of popular ideas helped foster adoption of these new religions, and gave the religions their own stories to pass along.

Some references for further research: