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).

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Fall, The

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

Fall, The. Although it is necessary to read with reserve some of the older writers on comparative mythology, like Doane (Bible Myths and their Parallels, 1882), who is on some points uncritically followed by "Philip Vivian" (The Churches and Modern Thought, 1906), the doctrine of the Fall, which seems to many distinctive of Christianity, is what we may call a natural myth of the human intelligence in a primitive stage of development. We find it in places as far apart as pre-Spanish America (Bancroft's Native Races, 1883, III, p. 105), Polynesia (Grey's Polynesian Mythology, 1857, p. 16), and India. Dr. MacCulloch gives a full and authoritative account of these legends in the Encyclopaedia of Ethics and Religion. One Hindu myth runs that Siva dropped a blossom of the sacred tree from heaven and the first man took it, thinking that it would make him immortal, and was severely punished. Another Hindu legend which the experts describe as pre-Christian says that men were at first happy and peaceful and they fell from grace by eating a sweet scum that exuded from the earth. From early Greece we have the myth of Prometheus, who was punished for stealing the fire of the gods to give to men, and the myth of Pandora, who let out all evils upon men by opening a forbidden box, together with the legend of a golden age of Kronos succeeded by ages of silver, bronze, and iron. Maspero (The Dawn of Civilization, 1896) traces a legend of a Fall in Egypt, and we now have the tablet of the Fall in Babylonia, whence the early Hebrews apparently derived it. Prof. S. Langdon describes its contents in his Sumerian Epic of Paradise, the Flood, and the Fall of Man (1915). The first race of men lived under the rule of the gods in sinlessness, perfect health, and peace with each other and the animals. For an unknown reason the gods were angry and destroyed them [see Flood]. The descendants of the surviving pair lived again in a Paradise without sin or sorrow, but they brought these upon the race by eating a forbidden fruit. Prof. Langdon tells us that this romance is at least a thousand years older than the earliest Hebrew settlement, and we may take it to be a priestly elaboration of the common myth: an attempt of pre-civilized man to explain why there is so much evil in a world made and controlled by the gods. We may assume that educated Babylonians and Egyptians, like educated Greeks and Romans, regarded the story in its proper light, and the elevation of it to the position of a fundamental doctrine after five centuries of Greek and Asiatic philosophy is a remarkable development. It is still more remarkable, or lamentable, that the four thousand years of cultural development of the ancient world should end in the domination of civilization by a religion which made this myth essential to its dogmatic structure, not only teaching a depressing doctrine of the paralysis of human nature by the curse of the gods, but extending the punishment, even in the case of babes, to an eternity of horror after death and making it the basis of its Christology. The sophistication of the Fall by theologians at the end of the last century had to be supplemented by a reinterpretation of the atonement [see], and most people can see in this only a confession that the world was most grievously led astray for fifteen centuries. For savage parallels see also Frazer's Folk-Lore in the Old Testament (1918, 1, 45-76).

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