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Transcript
Cultural Interchange Through The Ages
QOHELETH 1:9 "What has been will be again, what has been
done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
There are only 3 basic causes for the similarities found in human
cultures around the world: 1) Descent from a common source, 2)
Adoption from an outside source, and 3) Independent, multiple
origins.
When speaking of similarities that have existed from ancient times,
while #3 is certainly not negligible, it is my contention that the first
two causes are much more important that is often recognized.
Example of #1: Ancient Flood Myths
(http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_myth_flood.htm)
A wide variety of ancient cultures have their
own versions of a Great Flood; many of these
tales contain the following similarities:
• Humans are guilty of transgression.
• God (or gods) send a flood as punishment.
• Instructions are sent to an individual to build a
craft.
• The instructions include ensuring the survival of
all species.
• The flood destroys the old race. After the flood, a
new, less sinful race emerges to repopulate the
earth.
• A summary of a couple of examples that show amazing
similarity to the story of Noah:
Aztec
In the Valley of Mexico there lived a pious man named Tapi. The
Creator told him to build a boat to live in, to take his wife and a
pair of every animal that existed. Neighbors thought he was
crazy. As soon as he finished, it began to rain. The valley
flooded; men and animals went to mountains, but they were
submerged. The rain ended, waters receded, etc. Tapi realized
that the floodwaters had receded after having sent a dove that
did not return. Tapi rejoiced.
Hawaiian
A Hawaiian legend tells of a flood in which all beings were
killed except for Nuu and his family who repopulated the earth
when their boat landed on top of Mauna Kea.
China
While specific flood legends exist in China, I want to
briefly look at some circumstantial evidence in the origin
of Chinese characters.
Ship 船 "Eight 'mouths' on a boat".
Flood 洪
Two primary ways of explaining these
similarities:
Coincidence.
Practically every culture faces
disastrous floods at one time or another and these
are explained by mythology.
Common source. DNA studies conclude that all
humans emerged from a common ancestral pair on
the order of 50,000 years ago. If such a flood took
place in prehistory, then it's logical that its distant
memory would be preserved in ancient stories.
Example of #2:
The Spread of Christian Concepts Along "The
Silk Road" As Far As Japan
Premise: All religious systems have borrowed and adapted concepts
and traditions from others.
A Few Pertinent Facts:
 St. Thomas in South India by 52 A.D.
 Recent discovery of Christian artifacts in tombs near Shanghai
dating from 86 A.D.
 The "Assyrian Church of the East" (Nestorians) well established
in China during T'ang Dynasty (618-907 AD).
 "Jingjiao" ( 景 教 Luminous Teachings, "Keikyo" in Japanese
pronunciation) entered Japan in a big way with mass immigration
of the Hata clan. These people had an enormous influence in
ancient Japan.
Japan is thought of as having been a Shinto and
Buddhist culture from ancient times. Christianity is
said to have first entered Japan in 1549 with
Xavier. But this standard view needs to be
modified.
It is true that Western Christianity first came with
Xavier, but "Keikyo" (="Nestorianism") was here
long before, leaving its legacy in the form of many
adopted ideas.
 Important Buddhist figures such as Honen, Kuukai and Shinran
were exposed to Keikyo teachings in China and clearly adopted
important concepts into their own thinking.
 The Shingon sect founded by Kuukai readily admits (and even
takes pride in) having its roots in Keikyo.
 Later generations turned Prince Shotoku into a messianic figure
that clearly paralleled the stories of Christ.
 Historic Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples connected with the
Hata clan still contain numerous clues pointing to their Keikyo
origins.
Conclusion: Many aspects of Japanese Buddhism were adopted and
adapted from Keikyo Christianity. This is a clear example of how
concepts and forms that show similarities and that are usually
thought of as having arisen independently have actually been
borrowed.
The Christ motif of a savior entering human
history from outside appears to have found its
way into many stories. For instance, "Momo
Taro", an ancient Japanese fairy tale of a boy
that is born from a giant peach that floats up to
a farmhouse. He is raised by the farmer and
becomes a kind of savior who vanquishes evil
with his power. In modern terms, it's very
much like the story of "Superman". The
common motif would seem to have been
derived from the Christ story.