5 Holy Books That Predate The Bible

Some people mistakenly believe The Bible to be the world’s first ever sacred holy text that survived to this day. While so many religious texts from pagan religions have unfortunately been lost forever, we managed to preserve and restore some texts that pre-date The Bible and you can find some examples below.


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Egyptian Book of the Dead

Sheet from a Book of the Dead, ca. 1075-945 B.C.E. Papyrus

Sheet from a Book of the Dead, ca. 1075-945 B.C.E. Papyrus, Credits: Wikimedia

Unfortunately, the Book of the Dead didn’t reach us in its entirety. From what we know of it, it was made up of several texts, written on papyrus and objects. In the most general terms, The Book of the Dead was a book of spells – both religious and magical. The theme of Death and the Afterlife was one of the most prominent ones in the texts. The Book of the Dead is believed to have influenced The Ten Commandments given to Moses – it reads exactly like them, except in the Negative Registry. For example, The Book of the Dead says “I have not stolen”, whereas the corresponding Commandment is “Thou shall not steal”. The first text of the Egyptian Book of the Dead can be traced back to as early as 3150 BC.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

This is a newly discovered partially broken tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The tablet dates back to the old Babylonian period

This is a newly discovered partially broken tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The tablet dates back to the old Babylonian period, Credits: Wikimedia

The Story of the Great Flood, the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, and many other Biblical stories are believed to be strongly influenced by this Epic Poem from Mesopotamia. The Epic of Gilgamesh is said to be written circa 2100 BC. It tells the story of King Gilgamesh and Enkidu, a man created by the gods to free Gilgamesh’s people from his oppression. The Epic of Gilgamesh predates Homer’s Odyssey and is believed to have heavily influenced the work.

Institution of Amenemope

The Funerary mask of king Amenemope of the 21st dynasty of Egypt in the Cairo Museum

The Funerary mask of king Amenemope of the 21st dynasty of Egypt in the Cairo Museum, Credits: Wikimedia

This particular Egyptian work is believed to have close ties with the Book of Proverbs and was written sometime between 1300-1075 BC – a few centuries after The Book of the Dead. Unfortunately, very little of the work from that period has survived and to date, there aren’t any coherent translations available.

The Rigveda of Hinduism

Gods of Hindu Mythology

Gods of Hindu Mythology, Credits: Wikimedia

The Rigveda is a collection of Hindu hymns that is considered to be one of the four Vedas – sacred canonical texts of Hinduism. The Rigveda is believed to have been created between 1500 and 1200 BC, although allegedly it was recorded in oral form only back then. The Rigveda is believed to have been written down for the first time around the early Middle Ages. Nonetheless, it is one of the oldest religious texts written in an Indo-European language. It is also the only text on the list that’s still in use – the hymns are dedicated to various deities and phenomena.

The Zoroastrian Texts

Faravahar symbol in a Fire Temple in Yazd, The Faravahar or Frawahr is one of the symbols of Zoroastrianism

Faravahar symbol in a Fire Temple in Yazd, The Faravahar or Frawahr is one of the symbols of Zoroastrianism, Credits: Wikimedia

Zoroastrian Texts depict one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions practiced in Iran around 600BC-650CE. The religion is believed to have influenced many of other world religions, including Christianity. For example, the story of creating the world in seven days is told in Avesta – one of the texts that predate The Bible. Several parallels can also be traced between another text called the Gathas of Zarathushtra Yasna and the Book of Isaiah. Zoroastrianism is also responsible for the angels and demons hierarchy and notions of Heaven and Hell.

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