Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

Here's the full A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (about 1.3 MBytes; Word format; includes notes on some of its limits)

Babylon, Morals in Ancient & Babylonian Captivity

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

Babylon, Morals in Ancient. The legend of the particular viciousness of ancient Babylon, which modern research has completely discredited, is based upon libels in the Old Testament (especially the work of fiction with the title Daniel [see]) by Jews who naturally hated the city, upon epithets (Scarlet Woman, etc.) drawn from Revelation, and upon a story of sacred prostitution given by the Greek historian Herodotus. The first and second of these collections of libels are now negligible, and the story of Herodotus, though strangely accepted by Sir J. G. Frazer, is now regarded by all authorities on the history and life of Babylon as an error, or as at the most (some say) an absurd generalization from a possible survival of an ancient custom in some obscure old temple of the earth-goddess near Babylon. Herodotus, who does not seem to have visited Babylon, as he did Egypt, says that by law every Babylonian woman had to sell her virginity in the temple of Mylitta. There is not only no trace of such a goddess, but we have unearthed large numbers of marriage-tablets, and in these it is commonly stated that the bride is a virgin; which does not merely refute the fable, but testifies to some strictness of sex morals. The story is in itself ridiculous—it represents that some young women had to wait years to find a purchaser (for the smallest silver coin). In other passages Herodotus makes the Babylonians so sensitive about sex that even married folk have to spend the night in prayer after sexual commerce.
      In social-moral respects the Babylonian code was more than a thousand years in advance of that of the Hebrew prophets. The late Prof. Breasted, who was an authority on Egypt rather than Babylon, was remarkably far astray when he wrote that the Babylonian religion "never proclaimed the right of the poor and humble." The social history of Babylonia begins, nearly 4,000 years ago, with a code of law, the Hammurabi Code [see], which insisted more sternly and practically on justice to the workers and women than any code of law in the world until recent times; and this is said by experts to be a collection of much older laws and is expressly stated to be under the guardianship of the gods. The oldest prayers and hymns we have recovered often strike a high ethical note. See Sir E. A. W. Budge's Babylonian Life and History (1925 ed.) or any of the works of Jastrow, Pinches, Sayce, Langdon, etc. The archaeological research of the last fifty years has discredited the earlier belief that the Babylonians were less religious and less moral than the Egyptians. They did not believe in rewards and punishments after death - a man's shade passed into a dim, unknown world underground - but, like the Hebrews, they believed emphatically that sin is punished by the gods in this life, which is usually more effective. Hence men and women who suffered any affliction went to the court of the temple to confess to the priests, who read lists of sins to them, and gave a sort of absolution. It is not until the fourth century B.C. that we have serious charges of vice against the Babylonians; and not only are these brought by an embittered officer of Alexander's army, but they refer only to some such degenerate small groups as are found in the days of decay of every civilization.


Babylonian Captivity, The. Historical and archaeological work on the person and the great reign of Nebuchadrezzar on the one hand, and the chronological rearrangement of the books of the Old Testament on the other, have made the Babylonian Captivity a vital stage in the history of the Hebrews and destroyed the myth of their "genius for morality." Nebuchadrezzar was one of the great kings of antiquity, and he, though possibly himself sharing the widespread scepticism of his age (as reflected in Job, which is now believed to be a Babylonian production), restored the old moral and religious culture of Babylon, which was further improved by contact with the Persian religion, and made the city the richest and most cosmopolitan centre on earth. (See McCabe's Golden Ages of History, 1940, Ch. II.) The Hebrews went to school in Babylon, and nearly all the best ethical literature in the Old Testament is now recognized by the critics as Post-Exilic. It is a reasonable inference also that the wealth and power of the Babylonian priesthoods in large part inspired the Hebrew leaders to set about their vigorous organization of the cult of Jahveh and their fraudulent recasting of their literature for the purpose of tracing everything back to Moses. The audacity with which they wrought this, when they found Judaea in a state of appalling ignorance and demoralization, can be judged from their statement that, whereas only about 10,000 (3,320 men and their families) had been deported, 42,360, with a rich treasure, returned; and we read between the lines that most of the sons of the deportees preferred to remain in civilized Babylonia. [See Ezra School; Hebrews; Old Testament.]

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