Jewish mythology is a major
literary elementA literary element, or narrative element, or element of literature is a constituent of all works of narrative fiction—a necessary feature of verbal storytelling that can be found in any written or spoken narrative. This distinguishes them from lite ...
of the body of
myths Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. These include oral traditions such as Narrative, tales, p ...
found in the sacred texts and in traditional narratives that help explain and symbolize
Jewish culture Jewish culture is the culture of the Jewish people, from its Return to Zion, formation in ancient times until the current age. Judaism itself is not a faith-based religion, but orthoprax, pertaining to deed and practice. Jewish culture covers m ...
Judaism Judaism ( he, יהדות, ''Yahadut''; originally from Hebrew , ''Yehudah'', "Kingdom of Judah, Judah", via Ancient Greek, Greek ''Ioudaismos''; the term itself is of Anglo-Latin origin c. 1400) is an Abrahamic primarily ethnic religion co ...
. Elements of Jewish
mythology Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, documentary, Travel literature, travelogue, etc ...
have had a profound influence on
Christian mythology Christian mythology is the body of myths associated with Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings ...
and on Islamic mythology, as well as on world culture in general. Christian mythology directly inherited many of the narratives from the Jewish people, sharing in common the narratives from the
Old Testament The Old Testament (often abbreviated OT) is the first division of the Christian biblical canon, which is based primarily upon the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical c ...
. Islamic mythology also shares many of the same stories; for instance, a creation-account spaced out over six periods, the legend of
Abraham Abraham, ''Ibrāhīm''; el, Ἀβραάμ, translit=Abraám, name=, group= (originally Abram) is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic ...

, the stories of
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, Hebrew romanization, romanized: ''Mōshé'', ISO 259#ISO 259-3, ISO 259-3: '; syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, '. (), also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe ...
and the
Israelites The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israel and Judah, tribal and monarchi ...
, and many more.


The writings of the biblical prophets, including
Isaiah Isaiah ''ˀēšaˁyā''; Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately ...

Ezekiel Ezekiel (; he, יְחֶזְקֵאל ''Yĕḥezqēʾl'' ; in the Septuagint The Greek Old Testament, or Septuagint (, ; from the la, septuaginta, lit=seventy; often abbreviated ''70''; in Roman numerals, LXX), is the earliest extant Koine ...

, and
Jeremiah Jeremiah, Modern:   , Tiberian: ; el, Ἰερεμίας, Ieremíās; meaning " Yah Exalts" (c. 650 – c. 570 BC), also called the "weeping prophet", was one of the major prophets of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; He ...
, express a concept of the divine that is distinct from the mythologies of its neighbors. Instead of seeing the god of Israel as just one national god, these writings describe Yahweh as the one god of the universe. The prophetic writings condemned Hebrew participation in nature worship, and did not completely identify the divine with natural forces. Through the prophets' influence, Jewish theology increasingly portrayed God as independent from nature and acting independently of natural forces. Instead of eternally repeating a seasonal cycle of acts,
Yahweh Yahweh was the national god of the kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah, with origins reaching at least to the early Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system, three-age division of the prehistory and protohi ...
stood outside nature and divine providence, intervened in it, producing new, historically unprecedented events; Eliade wrote: "That was theophany of a new type, hitherto unknown—''the intervention of Jahveh in history''. It was therefore something irreversible and unrepeatable. The Siege of Jerusalem (70 CE), fall of Jerusalem does not repeat the fall of Samaria: the ruin of Jerusalem presents a new historic theophany, another 'wrath' of Jahveh. […] Jahveh stands out from the world of abstractions, of symbols and generalities; he acts in history and enters into relations with actual historical beings."

Themes and narratives

Creation narrative

Two creation stories are found in the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis. In the first Elohim, the Hebrew generic word for God, creates the heavens and the earth in six days, then rests on, blesses and sanctifies the Biblical Sabbath, seventh. In the second story, God, now referred to by the personal name
Yahweh Yahweh was the national god of the kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah, with origins reaching at least to the early Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system, three-age division of the prehistory and protohi ...
, creates Adam, the first man, from dust and places him in the Garden of Eden, where he is given dominion over the animals. Eve, the first woman, is created from Adam and as his companion. God creates by spoken command and names the elements of the world as he creates them. Genesis 1:1–2:3 creation order: * Day 1 – Creation of light (and, by implication, time). * Day 2 – The firmament. In Genesis 1:17 the stars are set in the firmament. * Day 3 – Creating a ring of ocean surrounding a Flat Earth, single circular continent. God does not create or make trees and plants, but instead commands the earth to produce them. * Day 4 – God puts "lights" in the firmament to "rule over" the day and the night, referring to the "sun" and "moon". * Day 5 – Creation of the living creatures. * Day 6 – Creation of first man and woman. * Day 7 – Creation is followed by rest. In the second story (Genesis 2:4–2:25) the order is different; God created man, the Garden of Eden and planted trees, the living creatures and then the first woman.

The "combat myth"

Many of the Hebrews' neighbors had a "combat myth" about the good god battling the demon of Chaos (cosmogony), chaos; one example of this mytheme is the Babylonian ''Enûma Eliš''. A lesser known example is the very fragmentary myth of Labbu. According to historian Bernard McGinn (theologian), Bernard McGinn, the combat myth's imagery influenced Jewish mythology. The myth of God's triumph over Leviathan, a symbol of chaos, has the form of a combat myth.McGinn, p. 24 In addition, McGinn thinks the Hebrews applied the combat myth motif to the relationship between God and Satan. Originally a deputy in God's court, assigned to act as mankind's "accuser" (''satan'' means "to oppose" – Hebrew: שָּׂטָן ''satan'', meaning "adversary"), Satan evolved into a being with "an apparently independent realm of operation as a source of evil" – no longer God's deputy but his opponent in a cosmic struggle. Even the Exodus story shows combat-myth influence. McGinn believes the "Song of the sea", which the Hebrews sang after seeing God drown the Egyptian army in the Red Sea, includes "motifs and language from the combat myth used to emphasize the importance of the foundational event in Israel's religious identity: the crossing of the Red Sea and deliverance from the Pharaoh". Likewise, Armstrong notes the similarity between pagan myths in which gods "split the sea in half when they created the world" and the story of the Exodus from Egypt, in which Moses splits the Sea of Reeds (the Red Sea) – "though what is being brought into being in the Exodus, is not a cosmos but a people".Armstrong, p. 96 In any case, the motif of God as the "divine warrior" fighting on Israel's behalf is clearly evident in the Song of the Sea (Ex. 15). This motif recur in poetry throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (I Samuel 2; Zechariah 9:11–16;14:3-8). Some comparative mythology, comparative mythologists think Jewish mythology absorbed elements from pagan mythology. According to these scholars, even while resisting pagan ''worship'', the Jews willingly absorbed elements of pagan ''mythology''.

Origin myth

Adam and Eve

According to the Genesis creation narrative, creation narratives in Genesis, Adam and Eve were the first man and woman. In the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible, chapters one through five, there are two creation narratives with two distinct perspectives. In the first, Adam and Eve (though not referenced by name) were created together in image of God, God's image and jointly given instructions to multiply and to be Stewardship (theology), stewards over everything else that God had made. In the second narrative, God fashions Adam from dust and places him in the Garden of Eden where he is to have dominion over the plants and animals. God places Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, a tree in the garden which he prohibits Adam from eating the fruit of. Eve is later created from one of Adam's ribs to be Adam's companion.

Garden of Eden

The biblical story of Garden of Eden, most notably in the Book of Genesis chapters 2 and 3, and also in the Book of Ezekiel depicts Adam and Eve as walking around the Garden of Eden naked due to their innocence. The man was free to eat off of any tree in the garden, but forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Last of all, the God made a woman (Eve) from a rib of the man to be a companion to the man. However, the Serpent (Bible), serpent tricks Eve into eating fruit from the forbidden tree. Following Eve, Adam broke the commandment and ate of the forbidden fruit. God curses only the serpent and the ground. He prophetically tells the woman and the man what will be the consequences of their sin of disobeying God. Then he banishes "the man" from the Garden of Eden to prevent him from eating also of the Tree of life (biblical), tree of life, and thus living for ever. East of the garden there were placed Cherubim, "and a Flaming sword (mythology), flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life". (Gen.3:24) The story of the Garden of Eden makes theological use of mythological themes to explain human progression from a state of innocence and bliss to the present human condition of knowledge of sin, misery, and death. Joseph Campbell notes that the Garden of Eden narrative's Forbidden fruit, forbidden tree is an example of a motif "very popular in fairy tales, known to folklore students as the One Forbidden Thing". For another example of the One Forbidden Thing, see the Serbian fairy tale Bash Chelik, in which the hero is forbidden to open a certain door but he does anyway, thereby releasing the villain. Also see the classic story of Pandora's box in ancient Greek mythology.

Sodom and Gomorrah

The story of the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah is told in . Three men came to
Abraham Abraham, ''Ibrāhīm''; el, Ἀβραάμ, translit=Abraám, name=, group= (originally Abram) is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic ...

in the plains of Mamre. After the angels received the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, "the Lord" revealed to Abraham that he would confirm what he had heard against Sodom and Gomorrah, "and because their sin is very grievous". At this time, "the men of Sodom [were] wicked and sinners before the exceedingly". Sodom was ruled by King Bera (Bible), Bera while Gomorrah was ruled by King Birsha. In response, Abraham inquired of the Lord if he would spare the city if 50 righteous people were found in it, to which the Lord agreed he would not destroy it for the sake of the righteous yet dwelling therein. Abraham then inquired of God for mercy at lower numbers (first 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, and finally at 10), with the Lord agreeing each time. Two angels were sent to Sodom to investigate and were met by Abraham's nephew Lot (biblical person), Lot, who convinced the angels to lodge with him, and they ate with Lot. Before they lay down, the men of the city demanded lot to bring the guests out onto them so that they may "know them". Lot refused to give his guests to the inhabitants of Sodom and, instead, offered them his two almah, virgin daughters "which have not known man" and to "do ye to them as ''[is]'' good in your eyes". However, they refused this offer, complained about this alien, namely Lot, giving orders, and then came near to break down the door. Lot's angelic guests rescued him and struck the men with blindness and they informed Lot of their mission to destroy the city. Then (not having found even 10 righteous people in the city), they commanded Lot to gather his family and leave. As they made their escape, one angel commanded Lot to "look not behind thee" (singular "thee"). However, as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with fire and brimstone, brimstone and fire from the Lord, Lot's wife looked back at the city, and she became a pillar of salt. In Abrahamic religions, Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall with a proverbial manifestation of divine retribution.

Flood narrative

The Genesis flood narrative has similarities to ancient flood stories told worldwide. One of the closest parallels is the Mesopotamian myth of a world flood, recorded in ''The Epic of Gilgamesh''. In the Hebrew Bible flood story (Genesis 6:5–22), God decides to flood the world and start over, due to mankind's sinfulness. However, God sees that a man named Noah was righteous (because he walked with God) and blameless among the people. God instructs Noah to build an Noah's Ark, ark and directs him to bring at least two of every animal inside the boat, along with his family. The flood comes and covers the world. After 40 days, Noah sends a raven to check whether the waters have subsided, then a dove; after exiting the boat, Noah offers a sacrifice to God, who smells "the sweet savour" and promises never to destroy the earth by water again – making the Rainbows in mythology, rainbow a symbol of this promise. Similarly, in the Mesopotamian ''Epic of Gilgamesh'', the bustle of humanity disturbs the gods, who decide to send a flood. Warned by one of the gods, a man named Utnapishtim builds a boat and takes his family and animals inside. After the flood, Utnapishtim sends a dove, then a swallow, then a raven to check whether the waters have subsided. After exiting the boat, Utnapishtim offers a sacrifice to the gods, who smell "the sweet savour" and repent their choice to send the flood. Another ancient flood myth is the Hindu story of Matsya the fish. According to this story, the god Vishnu takes the form of a fish and warns the ancestor Manu (Hinduism), Manu about a coming flood. He tells Manu to put all the creatures of the earth into a boat. Unlike the biblical flood, however, this flood is not a unique event brought on by a divine choice; instead, it's one of the destructions and recreations of the universe that happen at regular intervals in Hindu mythology. This recurrence also happens in Mesopotamian floods or disasters, although is because of the discontent of the gods because of the noise made by humans, told in the Erra Epic.

National myth

The Patriarchs

The Patriarchs in Hebrew bible are
Abraham Abraham, ''Ibrāhīm''; el, Ἀβραάμ, translit=Abraám, name=, group= (originally Abram) is the common patriarch of the Abrahamic religions The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic ...

, his son Isaac, and Isaac's son Jacob, also named Israel, the ancestor of the
Israelites The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israel and Judah, tribal and monarchi ...
. These three figures are referred to collectively as the patriarchs of
Judaism Judaism ( he, יהדות, ''Yahadut''; originally from Hebrew , ''Yehudah'', "Kingdom of Judah, Judah", via Ancient Greek, Greek ''Ioudaismos''; the term itself is of Anglo-Latin origin c. 1400) is an Abrahamic primarily ethnic religion co ...
, and the period in which they lived is known as the patriarchal age. The narrative in Genesis revolves around the themes of posterity and land. Abraham is called by God to leave the house of his father Terah and settle in the land originally given to Canaan (biblical figure), Canaan but which God now promises to Abraham and his progeny. Various candidates are put forward who might inherit the land after Abraham; and, while promises are made to Ishmael about founding a great nation, Isaac, Abraham's son by his half-sister Sarah, inherits God's promises to Abraham. Jacob is the son of Isaac and Rebecca and regarded as a Patriarch of the
Israelites The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israel and Judah, tribal and monarchi ...
as his twelve sons became the progenitors of the "Tribes of Israel".

The Exodus

The story of the exodus is told in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The
Israelites The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israel and Judah, tribal and monarchi ...
had settled in the Land of Goshen in the time of Joseph (patriarch), Joseph and Jacob, but a new pharaoh arose who enslaved and oppressed the children of Israel. At this time Moses was born; the Pharaoh had commanded that all male Hebrew children born would be drowned in the river Nile, but Moses' mother placed him in an ark and concealed the ark in the bulrushes by the riverbank, where the baby was discovered and adopted by Pharaoh's daughter, and raised as an Egyptian. One day after Moses had reached adulthood he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. Moses, in order to escape the Pharaoh's death penalty, fled to Midian. There, on Mount Horeb, God appeared to Moses as a burning bush revealed to Moses his name Tetragrammaton, YHWH and commanded him to return to Egypt and bring his Jews as the chosen people, chosen people (Israel) out of bondage and into the Promised Land. During the journey, God tried to kill Moses, but Zipporah at the inn, Zipporah saved his life. Moses returned to carry out God's command, but God caused the Pharaoh to refuse, and only after God had subjected Egypt to plagues of Egypt, ten plagues did the Pharaoh relent. Moses led the Israelites to the border of Egypt, but there God hardened the Pharaoh's heart once more, so that he could destroy the Pharaoh and his army at the Crossing the Red Sea, Red Sea Crossing as a sign of his power to Israel and the nations. From Egypt, Moses The Exodus, led the Israelites to biblical Mount Sinai, where he was given the Ten Commandments from God, written on Stele, stone tablets. Later at Mount Sinai, Moses and the elders entered into a covenant, by which Israel would become the people of YHWH, obeying his laws, and YHWH would be their god. Moses delivered the laws of God to Israel, instituted Kohen, the priesthood under the sons of Moses' brother Aaron, and destroyed those Israelites who fell away from his worship. After the forty years had passed, Moses eventually led the Israelites into the Land of Canaan.

Heroic narratives


Gideon was a military leader, judge and prophet whose calling and victory over the Midianites was decisive. He went on to send out messengers to gather together men in order to meet an armed force of the people of Midian and the Amalek that had crossed the Jordan River, and they encamped at the Well of Harod in the Valley of Jezreel. But God informed Gideon that the men he had gathered were too many – with so many men, there would be reason for the Israelites to claim the victory as their own instead of acknowledging that God had saved them. At first Gideon sent home those men who were afraid and invited any man who wanted to leave, to do so; 22,000 men returned home and 10,000 remained. Yet with the number, God told Gideon they were still too many; Gideon brought his troops to the water, where all those who lap the water with their tongues, were put to one side; all those who kneel down to drink, putting their hands to their mouths, were put to the other side. The number of those that lapped was three hundred; but all the rest of the troops knelt down to drink water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, "With the three hundred that lapped I will deliver you, and give the Midianites into your hand. Let all the others go to their homes". (). During the night, God instructed Gideon to approach the Midianite camp. There, Gideon overheard a Midianite man tell a friend of a dream in which "a loaf of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian" (), causing their tent or camp to collapse. This was interpreted as meaning that God had given the Midianites over to Gideon. Gideon returned to the Israelite camp and gave each of his men a trumpet (''shofar'') and a clay jar with a torch hidden inside. Divided into three companies, Gideon and his 300 men marched on the enemy camp. He instructed them to blow the trumpet, give a battle cry and light torches, simulating an attack by a large force. As they did so, the Midianite army fled (). Later, their leaders were caught and killed.


Samson was the last of the Biblical judges, judges of the ancient
Israelites The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israel and Judah, tribal and monarchi ...
mentioned in the Book of Judges. The biblical account states that Samson was a Nazirite, and that he was given immense strength to aid him against his enemies and allow him to perform superhuman feats, however, if Samson's Long hair#In Jewish and Christian scriptures, long hair was cut, then his Nazirite vow would be violated and he would lose his strength. The first instance of this is seen when Samson was on his way to ask for the Philistine woman's hand in marriage, when he was attacked by a lion. He simply grabbed it and ripped it apart, as the spirit of God divinely empowered him. After the philistines burned Samson's wife and father-in-law to death, Samson, in revenge, slaughtered many more Philistines, saying, "I have done to them what they did to me". Samson then took refuge in a cave in the rock of Etam. An army of Philistines came to the Tribe of Judah and demanded that 3,000 men of Judah deliver them Samson. In order to avoid a war and with Samson's consent, they tied him with two new ropes and were about to hand him over to the Philistines when he broke free of the ropes. Using the jawbone of a donkey, he slew 1,000 Philistines. Samson falls in love with Delilah in the Nahal Sorek, valley of Sorek. The Philistines approach Delilah and induce her with 1,100 silver coins to find the secret of Samson's strength so that they can capture their enemy. While Samson refuses to reveal the secret and teases her with false answers, he is finally worn down and tells Delilah that God supplies his power because of his consecration to God as a Nazirite and that if his hair is cut off he will lose his strength. Delilah then woos him to sleep "in her lap" and calls for a servant to shave his hair. Samson loses his strength and he is captured by the Philistines who blind him by gouging out his eyes. They then take him to Gaza, imprison him, and put him to work turning a large millstone and grinding corn. One day, the Philistine leaders assemble in a temple for a religious sacrifice to Dagon, for having delivered Samson into their hands. They summon Samson so that people can watch him perform for them. The temple is so crowded and all the rulers of the entire government of Philistia have gathered there too, some 3,000 people in all. Samson is led into the temple, and he asks his captors to let him lean against the supporting pillars to rest. He prays for strength and God gives him strength to break the pillars, causing the temple to collapse, killing him and the people inside. Academics have interpreted Samson as a demigod (such as Heracles or Enkidu) enfolded into Jewish religious lore, or as an archetype, archetypical folk hero.

David and Goliath

According to the Book of Samuel, Saul and the
Israelites The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israel and Judah, tribal and monarchi ...
are facing the Philistines in the Valley of Elah. Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, comes out between the lines and challenges the Israelites to send out a champion of their own to decide the outcome in Single combat#Single combat, single combat, but Saul is afraid. David, bringing food for his elder brothers, hears that Goliath has defied the armies of God and of the reward from Saul to the one that defeats him, and accepts the challenge. Saul reluctantly agrees and offers his armor, which David declines, taking only his staff, Sling (weapon), sling ( ') and five stones from a brook. David and Goliath confront each other, Goliath with his armor and javelin, David with his staff and sling. David hurls a stone from his sling and hits Goliath in the center of his forehead, Goliath falls on his face to the ground, and David cuts off his head. The Philistines flee and are pursued by the Israelites "as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron". David puts the armor of Goliath in his own tent and takes the head to Jerusalem, and Saul sends Abner to bring the boy to him. The king asks whose son he is, and David answers, "I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite."

Architectural myth

Tower of Babel

The story of the Tower of Babel explains the origin of different human languages. According to the story, which is recorded in , everyone on earth spoke the same language. As people migrated from the east, they settled in the land of Shinar (Mesopotamia). People there sought to make bricks and build a city and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for themselves, so that they not be scattered over the world. God came down to look at the city and tower, and remarked that as one people with one language, nothing that they sought would be out of their reach. God went down and confounded their speech, so that they could not understand each other, and scattered them over the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city. Thus the city was called Babel.


Also possibly derived from pagan mythology is the story of the "Watchers" (Genesis 6:1–4). According to this story, heavenly beings once descended to earth, intermarried with humans, and produced the ''nephilim'', "the heroes of old, men of renown". Jewish tradition regards those heavenly beings as wicked angels, but the myth may represent a fragment of pagan mythology about gods interbreeding with humans to produce heroes.

Zoroastrian influence

R. C. Zaehner, a professor of Eastern religions, argues for Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrianism's direct influence on Jewish Jewish eschatology, eschatological myths, especially the resurrection of the dead with rewards and punishments.

Linear history

The mythologist Joseph Campbell believes the Judeo-Christian idea of Philosophy of history#Cyclical and linear history, linear history originated with the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. In the mythologies of India and the Far East, "the world was not to be reformed, but only known, revered, and its laws obeyed".Campbell, p. 191 In contrast, in Zoroastrianism, the current world is "corrupt [...] and to be reformed by human action". According to Campbell, this "progressive view of cosmic history" "can be heard echoed and re-echoed, in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Aramaean, Arabic, and every tongue of the West". Other traditional cultures limited mythical events to the beginning of time, and saw important historical events as repetitions of those mythical events. According to Mircea Eliade, the Hebrew prophets "valorized" history, seeing historical events as episodes in a continual divine revelation. This doesn't mean that ''all'' historical events have significance in Judaism; however, in Jewish mythology, significant events happen throughout history, and they are not merely repetitions of each other; each significant event is a new act of God: By portraying time as a linear progression of events, rather than an Eternal return, eternal repetition, Jewish mythology suggested the possibility for Progress (history), progress. Inherited by Christianity, this view of history has deeply influenced Western philosophy and culture. Even supposedly secular or political Western movements have worked within the world-view of progress and linear history inherited from Judaism. Because of this legacy, the religious historian Mircea Eliade argues that "Judaeo-Christianity makes an innovation of the first importance" in mythology. Eliade believes that the Hebrews had a sense of linear time before their contact with Zoroastrianism,Eliade, ''A History of Religious Ideas'', vol. 1, p. 302 but agrees with Zaehner that Judaism elaborated its mythology of linear time with eschatological elements that originated in Zoroastrianism. According to Eliade, these elements include Dualistic cosmology#Moral dualism, ethical dualism, the myth of a Messiah, savior, and "an optimistic eschatology, proclaiming the final triumph of Good".


The Jewish people's tendency to adopt the neighboring pagan practices, denounced as it had been by the Jewish prophets, returned with force during the Talmudic period. However, almost no mythology was borrowed until the Midrashic and Talmudic periods, when what can be described as mysticism emerged in the Kabbalah, kabbalistic schools.


One such aspect was the appearance of the ''shedim''; these became ubiquitous to the ordinary Jews with the increased access to the study of the Talmud after the invention of the printing press.


The classical rabbis themselves were at times not free from sharing in the popular beliefs. Thus, while there is a whole catalog of prognostications by means of dreams in Ber. 55 et seq., and Rabbi Johanan claimed that those dreams are true which come in the morning or are dreamed about us by others, or are repeated, Rabbi Meïr declares that dreams help not and injure not. Dream interpretation is not however a factor in considering mythologyfication of Talmud knowledge since it was at the time a part of the wider nascent development of what later became the discipline of Psychology, and also incorporated Astrology, and effect of digestion on behaviour.

The ''Keresh'' and the ''Tigris'' of the ''Bei Ilai''

An example of typical mythology in the Talmud exists as a discussion about a Deer in mythology, giant deer and a Lion#Cultural depictions, giant lion which both originated in a mythical forest called "Bei Ilai". ('Bei' means house in Aramaic) The deer is called "Keresh", it has one horn, and its skin measures 15 cubits in length. The lion, called "Tigris", is said to be so big that there is a space of 9 cubits between its ears. The Roman emperor Hadrian once asked Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah to show him this lion, since every lion can be killed, but the Rabbi refused and pointed out that this is not a normal lion. The emperor insisted, so the Rabbi reluctantly called for the lion of "Bei Ilai". He roared once from a distance of 400 Biblical and Talmudic units of measurement#Length and distance, parasangs, and all pregnant women Miscarriage, miscarried and all the city walls of Rome tumbled down. Then he came to 300 parasangs and roared again, and the front teeth and molars of Roman men fell out, and even the emperor himself fell from his throne. He begged the Rabbi to send it back. The Rabbi prayed, and it returned to its place.

Traditional folk beliefs

The authorities of the Talmud seem to be particularly influenced by popular conception in the direction of folk medicine. A belief in the Evil eye was also prevalent in Talmudic times, and occasionally omens were taken seriously, though in some cases recognized as being merely popular beliefs. Thus, while it is declared to be unlucky to do things twice, as eating, drinking, or washing, Rabbi Dunai recognized that this was an old tradition.

Planting ''huppah'' trees

A remarkable custom mentioned in the Talmud is that of planting trees when children are born and intertwining them to form the huppah when they marry. Yet this idea may be originally Iranian and is also found in India.

Mythological components of Haggadic exegesis

It may be possible to distinguish in the haggadic legends of biblical character those portions that probably formed part of the original accounts from those that have been developed by the exegetic principles of the haggadists. The uniqueness of the Talmudic style of both recording meaning and deriving it using exegesis places the many seemingly mythological components of the much larger halachic content into a content very unlike the purely story-telling corpus of other cultures.

In popular culture

In the past century to modern day, there have been many retellings of Jewish myths (mostly from the Torah), and adaptations for the modern public. They have mostly been in the regions of science fiction, as Isaac Asimov noted in his introduction to ''More Wandering Stars'': He goes on to show parallels between biblical stories and modern science fiction Fantasy tropes and conventions, tropes: * Let there be light was an example of advanced scientific mechanisms * God is an extraterrestrial life, extraterrestrial * Adam and Eve as colonists on a new planet * The serpent was an alien, as Earth snakes don't speak or show any intelligence * The flood was a story of a world catastrophe, and the survivors * The Tower of Babel (like ''Metropolis (1927 film), Metropolis'', which it inspired in part) *
Moses Moses he, מֹשֶׁה, Hebrew romanization, romanized: ''Mōshé'', ISO 259#ISO 259-3, ISO 259-3: '; syr, ܡܘܫܐ, ''Mūše''; ar, موسى '; el, Mωϋσῆς, '. (), also known as Moshe Rabbenu ( he, מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ "Moshe ...
vs. the Egyptian magicians is advanced technological warfare * Samson as sword and sorcery * The first chapter of Book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel is a UFO account. The Hugo Awards, one of the highest distinctions for science fiction writers, have been awarded to biblically derived stories. For instance Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream", Larry Niven's "Inconstant Moon" and Harlan Ellison's "The Deathbird". Another example is Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, which uses kabbalah elements while narrating a reinterpretation of events surrounding Adam, Eve and Lilith in a futuristic and apocalyptic way. Edward M. Erdelac's weird western series Merkabah Rider features a Hasidic mystic gunslinger and draws heavily from Jewish myth and folklore. It is often suggested that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the two Jewish creators of Superman, essentially the beginning of superhero comics and comic books, were partly inspired by the story of the Golem of Prague.For a sample discussion of this subject se
"Superman and the Golem"

See also

* Arabic mythology * Culture of Asia * Documentary hypothesis * Merkabah mysticism * Nimrod * Oral Torah * Oriental studies * Panbabylonism * Religion and mythology * Samson * Tahash * Tower of Babel




* ''Jewish Encyclopedia''. Ed. Cyrus Adler, et al. 22 May 200
* Armstrong, Karen. ''A Short History of Myth''. NY: Canongate, 2005. * Ausubel, Nathan, ed. ''A Treasury of Jewish Folklore: The Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, and Wisdom of the Jewish People'' NY: Crown Publishers, 1990. * Hillel Bakis, '' Jewish tales and stories from North Africa, Vol. 1- The thread of time. Traditions and everyday life '', Ed. A.J. Presse, 2000, 288 p., 2000 ; '' Jewish tales and stories from North Africa, Vol. 2- The paths of Heaven. Miracles, Supernatural, Strange …'', Ed. A.J. Presse, 288 p., 2005 * Joseph Campbell, Campbell, Joseph. ''The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology''. NY: Penguin Compass, 1991. * Dennis, Geoffrey. ''The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism''. MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007. * Mircea Eliade, Eliade, Mircea. ** ''A History of Religious Ideas''. Vol. 1. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978. ** ''Myth and Reality''. New York: Harper & Row, 1968. ** ''Myths, Dreams and Mysteries''. New York: Harper & Row, 1967. * Irwin, William A. "The Hebrews". (Frankfort et al. ''The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977. pp. 221–360.) * ''Mimekor Yisrael: Classical Jewish Folktales'', Micha Josef Berdyczewski, Micha Joseph bin Gorion, translated by I. M. Lask, Trans. Three volumes. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1976 * ''Mimekor Yisrael: Classical Jewish Folktales Abridged and Annotated Edition'' Micha Josef Berdyczewski, Micha Joseph bin Gorion. This is a one volume abridged and annotated version, with an introduction and headnotes, by Dan Ben-Amos. Indiana University Press, 1990. . *''Folktales of Israel'' Ed. Dov Noy, with the assistance of Dan Ben-Amos. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1963 * ''Jewish Folktales from Morocco'', Ed. Dov Noy, Jerusalem, 1964. * ''Jewish Folktales from Tunisia'', Ed. Dov Noy, Jerusalem, 1964. * "Hebrew Parallels to Indian Folktales," Journal of the Assam Research Society, 15 (1963), pp. 37–45. * Magoulick, Mary. "What is Myth?" ''Folklore Connections''
Georgia College State University
22 May 2008 . * McGinn, Bernard. ''Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil''. NY: HarperCollins, 1994. * Mintz, Jerome R. ''Legends of the Hasidim: An Introduction to Hasidic Culture and Oral Tradition in the New World'' Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1968 * ''Four Master Folklorists And Their Major Contributions'' Peninnah Schram, from ''Opening Worlds of Words'', Peninnah Schram and Cherie Karo Schwartz * Segal, Robert A. ''Myth: A Very Short Introduction''. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. * Zong In-Sob. ''Folk Tales From Korea''. Elizabeth: Hollym International, 1982. * Graves, Robert, "Introduction," ''New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology'' (trans. Richard Aldington and Delano Ames), London: Hamlyn, 1968, pp. v–viii. * ''The Epic of Gilgamesh''. Trans. N.K. Sandars. NY: Penguin, 1960. * ''Classical Hindu Mythology''. Ed. and trans. Cornelia Dimmitt and J.A.B. van Buitenen. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978. * ''New American Bible''. St Joseph Edition. NY: Catholic Publishing Co. (Used as a source for some scholarly information on comparative mythology found in its footnotes.) * Harris, Robert
Virtual Salt: A Glossary of Literary Terms
2002. * ''Leaves from the Garden of Eden: One Hundred Classic Jewish Tales''. Edited by Howard Schwartz. New York, OUP USA, 2008, 540 pp. * R. C. Zaehner, ''The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism'', New York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1961.

Further reading


External links

Elyonim veTachtonim
'. An on-line database of angels, demons and ghosts in the early Rabbinic Literature. {{DEFAULTSORT:Jewish Mythology Jewish mythology, Middle Eastern mythology Asian mythology