The Myth of the Birth of the Hero, by Otto Rank, , at sacred-texts.com
The Gospel according to Luke (1:26-35) relates the prophecy of the birth of Jesus, as follows:
This report is supplemented by the Gospel according to Matthew (1:18-25), in the narrative of the birth and childhood of Jesus: 1
Here we interpolate the detailed account of the birth of Jesus, from Gospel of Luke (2:4-20):
We now continue the account after Matthew, in the second chapter:
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. . . .
But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his. mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard Archelaus did reign in Judæa in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. 1
Similar birth legends to those of Jesus have also been transmitted of other founders of religions, such as Zoroaster, who is said to have lived about the year 1000 B.C. His mother, Dughda, dreams, in the sixth month of her pregnancy, that the wicked and the good spirits are fighting for the embryonic Zoroaster; a monster tears the future Zoroaster from the mother's womb; but a light god fights the monster with his horn of light, re-encloses the embryo in the mother's womb, blows upon Dughda, and she becomes pregnant again. On awakening, she hurries in her fear to a wise dream-interpreter, who is unable to explain the wonderful dream before the end of three days. He then declares that the child she is carrying is destined to become a man of great importance; the dark cloud and the mountain of light signify that she and her son will at first have to undergo numerous trials, through tyrants and other enemies, but at last they will overcome all perils. Dughda at once returns to her home and informs Pourushacpa, her husband, of everything that has happened. Immediately after his birth, the boy was seen to laugh; this was the first miracle through which he drew attention to himself. The magicians announce the birth of the child as a portent of disaster to the prince of the realm, Durânsarûn, who betakes himself without delay to the dwelling of Pourushacpa, in order to stab the child. But his hand falls paralyzed, and he must leave with his errand undone; this was the second miracle. Soon after, the wicked demons steal the child from his mother and carry him into the desert, in order to kill him; but Dughda finds the unharmed child, calmly sleeping. This is the third miracle. Later on, Zoroaster was to be trampled upon, in a narrow passageway,
by a herd of oxen, by command of the king. 1 But the largest of the cattle took the child between his feet and preserved it from harm. This was the fourth miracle. The fifth is merely a repetition of the preceding: what the cattle had refused to do, was to be accomplished by horses. But again the child was protected by a horse from the hoofs of the other horses. Durânsurûn thereupon had the cubs in a wolf's den killed during the absence of the old wolves, and Zoroaster was laid down in their place. But a god closed the jaws of the furious wolves, so that they could not harm the child. Two divine cows arrived instead and presented their udders to the child, giving it to drink. This was the sixth miracle through which Zoroaster's life was preserved. 2
Related themes are also encountered in the history of Buddha (sixth century before Christ), such as the long sterility of the parents, the dream, the birth of the boy under the open sky, the death of the mother and her substitution by a foster mother, the announcing of the birth to the ruler of the realm, and later on the losing of the boy in the temple. 3
50:1 After Preller, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 123.
51:1 For the formal demonstration of the entire identity with the other hero myths of the birth story and early history of Jesus, the author has presumed to rearrange the corresponding paragraphs from the different versions in the Gospels, irrespective of the traditional sequence and the originality of the individual parts. The age, origin, and genuineness of these parts are briefly summarized and discussed in W. Soltan: Birth History of Jesus Christ (Leipzig, 1902). The transmitted versions of the several Gospels--which according to Usener: "The Birth and Childhood of Christ," in Lectures and Essays (Leipzig, 1907), contradict and even exclude each other--have been placed, or left, in juxtaposition, precisely for the reason that the apparently contradictory elements in these birth myths are to be elucidated in the present research, no matter if these contradictions be encountered within a single uniform saga, or in its different versions (as, for example, in the Cyrus myth).
52:1 Concerning the birth of Jesus in a cave, and the furnishing of the birthplace with the typical animals (ox and ass), compare Jeremias: Babylonisches im Neuen Testament (Leipzig, 1905), p. 56; and Preuschen, "Jesu Geburt in einer Höhle," Zeitschrift für die Neutest. Wissenschaften, 1902, p. 359.
54:1 According to recent investigations, the birth history of Christ is said have the greatest resemblance with the royal Egyptian myth, over five thousand years old, which relates the birth of Amenophis III. Here again recurs the divine prophecy of the birth of a son, to the waiting queen; p. 55 her fertilization by the breath of heavenly fire; the divine cows, which nurse the newborn child; the homage of the kings; and so forth. In this connection, compare A. Malvert: Wissenschaft und Religion (Frankfort, 1904), pp. 49 ff.; also the suggestion of Professor Idleib of Bonn (Feuilleton of Frankfurter Zeitung, November 8, 1908).