Under the circumstances I have detailed, we can hardly doubt that the legend of the "fall" has been derived from a foreign source. That it could not be original to the Hebrews may, I think, be proved by several considerations. The position occupied in the legend by the serpent is quite inconsistent with the use of this animal symbol by Moses. 45 Like Satan himself even, as the Rev. Dunbar Heath has shown, 46 the serpent had not, indeed, a wholly evil character among the early Hebrews. In the second place, the condemnation of the act of generation was directly contrary to the central idea of patriarchal history. The promise to Abraham was that he should have seed "numerous as the stars of heaven for multitude;" and to support this notion, the descent of Abraham is traced up to the first created man, who is commanded to increase and multiply.
It is very probable, however, that when the legend was appropriated by the compiler of the Hebrew scriptures it had a moral significance as well as a merely figurative sense. The legend is divisible into two parts--the first of which is a mere statement of the imparting of wisdom by the serpent and by the eating of the fruit of a certain tree, these ideas being synonymous, or, at least, consistent, as appears by the attributes of the Chaldean Hea. 47 The nature of this wisdom may be found in the rites of the Hindu Sacti Puja. 48 The second part of the legend, which is probably of much later date, is the condemnation of the act referred to, as being in itself evil, and as leading to misery and even to death itself. The origin of this latter notion must be sought in the esoteric doctrine taught in the mysteries of Mithra, the fundamental ideas of which were the descent of the soul to earth and its re-ascent to the celestial abodes after it had overcome the temptations and debasing influences of the material life. 49 Lajard shows that these mysteries were really taken from the secret worship of the Chaldean Mylitta; but the reference to "the seed of the woman who shall bruise the serpent's head," is too Mithraic for us to seek for an earlier origin for the special form taken by the Hebrew myth. The object of the myth evidently was to explain the origin of death, 50 from which man was to be delivered by a coming Saviour, and the whole idea is strictly Mithraic, the Persian deity himself being a Saviour-God. 51 The importance attached to virginity by the early Christians sprang from the same source. The Avesta is full of references to "purity" of life; and there is reason to believe that, in the secret initiations, the followers of Mithra were taught to regard marriage itself as impure. 52
The religious ideas which found expression in the legend of the fall were undoubtedly of late development, 53 although derived from still earlier phases of religious thought. The simple worship in symbol of the organs of generation, and of the ancestral head of the family, prompted by the desire for offspring and the veneration for him who produced it, was extended to the generative force in nature. The bull, which, as we have seen, symbolized this force, was not restricted to earth, but was in course of time transferred to the heavens, and, as one of the zodiacal signs, was thought to have a peculiar relation to certain of the planetary bodies. This astral phase of the phallic superstition was not unknown to the Mosaic religion. A still earlier form of this superstition was, however, known to the Hebrews, probably forming a link between the worship of the symbol of personal generative power and that of the heavenly phallus; as the worship of the bull connected the veneration for the human generator with that for the universal father.