Thursday, September 25, 2008

Aesop's Fables in the Bible

About five-hundred and fifty years before Yeshua was born, Aesop collected and/or created many fables, one of which was "The Fisherman and His Pipe":
There was once a fisherman who saw some fish in the sea and played on his pipe, expecting them to come out onto the land. When his hopes proved false, he took a net and used it instead, and in this way he was able to haul in a huge catch of fish. As the fish were all leaping about, the fisherman remarked, 'I say, enough of your dancing, since you refused to dance when I played my pipe for you before!'
Aesop lived for a while in the court of King Croesus of Lydia (modern-day Turkey, more or less), which under Croesus, beginning about 650 B.C., became arguably the richest and most powerful nation at that time. Within about ten years though, Croesus started becoming nervous about the growing power of the Medo-Persian empire to his East (under Cyrus, whom we read about in the Tanakh in 2 Chronicles and Ezra). So he went to the Oracles at Delphi to ask if he should attack the Medes, and the Oracles answered that if he did, he would destroy a great empire. So Croesus attacked Cyrus, and thus unwittingly began the destruction, not of Cyrus' great empire, but that of his own.
When Cyrus fought back against Croesus, he requested
of his own great empire.

When Cyrus fought back against Croesus, he requested help from the peoples neighboring Croesus, but they refused to help him. Cyrus defeated Croesus, but taking him alive, grew to respect the man.

Almost certainly, in their intimate king-to-former-king discussions, Croesus must have told Cyrus the fable he had learned from Aesop.

It wasn't long before the neighboring peoples who had refused to help Cyrus in his campaign against Croesus appealed to Cyrus to leave them alone, but his answer was that of the fisherman in Aesop's fable.
Cyrus listened attentively to their proposals, and answered them by a fable. "There was a certain piper," he said, "who was walking one day by the seaside, when he espied some fish; so he began to pipe to them, imagining they would come out to him upon the land. But as he found at last that his hope was vain, he took a net, and enclosing a great draught of fishes, drew them ashore. The fish then began to leap and dance; but the piper said, 'Cease your dancing now, as you did not choose to come and dance when I piped to you.'" Cyrus gave this answer to the Ionians and Aeolians, because, when he urged them by his messengers to revolt from Croesus, they refused; but now, when his work was done, they came to offer their allegiance. It was in anger, therefore, that he made them this reply.
- http://www.greektexts.com/library/Herodotus/Clio/eng/348.html
Nearly six hundred years later Yeshua makes reference to this same fable, having probably learned it as a child:
To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
"We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance...."
Luke 7:31-32
Jesus is warning us to dance while the music is still playing.

1 comment:

John said...

Great review of the use of Aesop's fables in scripture. A scholar by the name of Ray VanderLaan pointed this out in a seminar I attended this past weekend as well as Aesop's The Oak and the Reeds later in the same passage when He talks about a "reed swaying in the wind". I also came across Aesop's The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing which is likely referenced in Matthew 7:15. It is amazing how well Jeshua was able to weave together teachings from so many sources. Thanks for the post.