Did Christians borrow the altar and sacrifices from Hindus? Did God change? Did God have nose to smell?
Those sentences which are colored in orange are from Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati book Satyarth Prakash (The Light of Truth) and those which are colored in black are Jerry Thomas’s response.
"And Noah built an altar unto the Lord: and took of ever clean, beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for imaginations of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smile anymore everything living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." (8:20 – 22.)C. The mention of the building of an altar and the offering of burnt offerings on the altar shows that there things have been borrowed by the Bible from the Vedas. Hs God even got a nose wherewith he "smell a sweet savor'? is not the God of the Christians so like a man in the finiteness of His powers, knowledge and capacity that sometime He curses, then he repents of it, again he says he will not curse the ground any more. He has cursed before, and he will curse again. First He destroyed all living creatures, now he says; he will never do so again. All these things are like the doings of children not of God nor even of an educated man for even he is true to word and keeps his pledges.
Answer: Let me address the first part of the question. The audacity of Maharishi to argue for borrowing is amazing. If similarity is an argument for borrowing, then Hindus must have borrowed it from the Holy Bible.
Since we are discussing the story of Noah, let us properly study that story itself to see who could have borrowed from whom.
While chronology, essential similarities and differences etc have to be taken into account to examine who borrowed from whom, one of the indicators is mythologizing the story. A real story over a period of time (hundreds of years) could be mythologized. If so, there are many indicators that it was Hindus who borrowed from the Biblical faith. For example, let us examine the story of Noah himself.
In the Bible, the story is given with all details without mythologizing it. Noah seems to be the Manu of the Hindu scriptures. It is heavily mythologized in the Hindu scriptures.
I will first quote from the Rig Veda, a book which Maharishi accepts, and then quote other Hindu scriptures, which Maharishi may reject to examine who borrowed from whom.
Rig Veda 4: 26: 1-7
1. I WAS aforetime Manu, I was Sūrya: I am the sage Kakṣīvān, holy singer.Kutsa the son of Ārjuni I master. I am the sapient Uśanā behold me.
2 I have bestowed the earth upon the Ārya, and rain upon the man who brings oblation. I guided forth the loudly-roaring waters, and the Gods moved according to my pleasure.
3 In the wild joy of Soma I demolished Śambara's forts, ninety-and-nine, together;and, utterly, the hundredth habitation, when helping Divodāsa Atithigva.
4 Before all birds be ranked this Bird, O Maruts; supreme of falcons be this fleet-winged Falcon, because, strong- pinioned, with no car to bear him, he brought to Manu the Godloved oblation.
5 When the Bird brought it, hence in rapid motion sent on the wide path fleet as thought he hurried. Swift he returned with sweetness of the Soma, and hence the Falcon hath acquired his glory.
6 Bearing the stalk, the Falcon speeding onward, Bird bringing from afar the draught that gladdens, friend of the Gods, brought, grasping fast, the Soma which be bad taken from yon loftiest heaven.
7 The Falcon took and brought the Soma, bearing thousand libations with him, yea, ten thousand. The Bold One left Malignities behind him, wise, in wild joy of Soma, left the foolish.
In this Rig Vedic hymn Manu is supposed to have received God loved oblation from birds.
When and where did it happen? Rig Veda does not have much to say. It is incomplete in that sense.
Let us turn to Srimad Bhagavatam. One can read the complete story in the following chapter of the Canto. However, I am quoting only the relevant portion.
Srimad Bhagavatam 8: 24: 15-33
(15) Very pleased to show it his personal favor decided he, not knowing that he held the form of Matsya, to offer the fish protection. (16) The great ruler hearing its pitiable words mercifully put it in the water of a jug and took it home. (17) But expanding in the water of that pot could it one day not find itself comfortable anymore and said it thus to the great leader: (18) 'In this jug I have it difficult, I cannot live in a place like this, please consider a more spacious residence where I can live with pleasure.'
(19) He then took it out and placed it in a large well, but thrown in there grew it within a second out to the length of three cubits [2.10 meters]. (20) [It said:] 'This tank isn't suitable for Me to live happily in, please give Me, who took to your shelter, a place much bigger!'
(21) The king removing it from there threw it, o King, in a lake that was immediately covered by its body when He instantly grew out into a gigantic fish. (22) 'This water you put Me in does not accommodate Me, o King, I'm a large aquatic, better put Me somehow in an expanse of water that suits Me more permanently'.
(23) Thus requested brought he Matsya to bigger and bigger reservoirs until he finally threw the giant into the ocean. (24) Thrown there it said to the king: 'In this place there are dangerous aquatics that all too powerful will eat Me, o hero, therefore you shouldn't throw Me in here!'
(25) Thus perplexed by the fish addressing him with sweet words said he: 'Who are You in this fish-form bewildering us? (26) I've never seen or heard of such an energetic aquatic like You are: Your Lordship has in a day expanded to hundreds of miles! (27) You having assumed the form of a marine animal, must be the Supreme Lord in person, the inexhaustible Lord Nârâyana present here to show Your mercy to all living entities. (28) I offer You, the Most Excellent Personality of Maintenance, Creation and Destruction my obeisances; unto surrendered devotees like us are You indeed the Supreme Master, the Highest Destination, o Almighty One. (29) Everything You do in Your incarnations is the cause of the welfare of all living beings; I'd like to know for what purpose Your Lordship has assumed this form. (30) Never can the worship of the lotus feet of You, Lotuspetal-eyed One, run futile: You are the friend, the dearmost, the original soul namely of everyone, of all divinities differen
tly embodied and spiritually fixed and before our very eyes have You now manifested that so very wonderful body.'
(31) S'rî S'uka said: 'Speaking there thus was that master of man, Satyavrata, addressed by the Master of the Universe, the Lord who as the one love of the devotees at the end of the yuga, for the sake of enjoying His pastimes, in the water of the great flood had assumed the form of a fish. (32) The Supreme Lord said: 'From the seventh day from today onward will, o subduer of the enemies, this threefold creation of earth, ether and heaven be flooded by the all-devouring ocean. (33) When the three worlds are submerged in the waters of annihilation, can you at that time count on the appearance of a very big boat by Me sent to you. (34-35) To prepare for that time please with the [wisdom of the] seven sages collect all higher and lower kinds of herbs and seeds and surround yourself with all kinds of beings getting on that huge boat to travel undaunted the ocean of the flood with no other illumination but the effulgence of the rishis. (36) Attach with the great serpent [Vâsuki] that boat, being tossed about by the very powerful wind, to My horn, for I will be near you. (37) I will drag you, together with the sages on the boat, along over the waters throughout the night of Brahmâ, my best one. (38) By my support and counsel will in your heart in full the knowledge be revealed of My glory that is known as the Supreme Brahman [see also B.G. 5: 16, 10: 11].'
(39) After instructing the king thus disappeared the Lord from there. The king then awaited the time that the Master of the Senses spoke to him about. (40) Spreading kus'a grass with its tips to the east sat the saintly king facing northwards to meditate upon the feet of the Lord who had appeared in the form of a fish. (41) With huge incessantly showering clouds in the sky saw he how next the ocean overflowed on all sides and therewith more and more inundated the earth. (42) Remembering what the Lord had said saw he a boat coming near which he, taking the herbs and creepers with him, boarded with the learned of rule. (43) The wise very pleased said to him: 'O King meditate upon Kes'ava ['the Lord with the black curls'] for He is the one who will save us from the impending danger and will set things right.'
The point that I want to drive here is not whether Maharishi accepts Srimad Bhagavatam or not but on the question who borrows from whom.
One can see that this story of Manu which briefly appeared in Rig Veda and in detail in Bhagavatam is nothing but a mythologized version of the story of Prophet Noah.
Myths come later from an actual story. Is there any explanation required to state which is a mythical story and which is the actual story.
Now coming to the second part of the question. Maharishi’s conclusion that “All these things are like the doings of children not of God nor even of an educated man for even he is true to word and keeps his pledges” is quite laughable.
Maharishi seems to imply that anger, mercy and covenant of the God is as per His whims and fancies.
However, if one were to carefully read the text like an educated person, one would understand that God was angry with wickedness of man, pleased with the repentance of man, and pitiful with the state of man.
God’s nature remained unchanged and it was the human beings behavior that changed. According to the changing nature of human beings, the unchanging nature of the One True God of the Holy Bible responded.
Genesis 6: 5-6 “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
Now let us look at the behavior of human beings before God made the covenant. Noah offered a burnt offering which is an atonement offering.
Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
The meaning of the burnt offering is explained in Leviticus 1:1-17.
Leviticus 1: 1-9
Now the LORD called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying: "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of the livestock–of the herd and of the flock. 'If his offering [is] a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that [is by] the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire. Then the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat in order on the wood that [is] on the fire upon the altar; but he shall wash its entrails and its legs with water. And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.”
In other words, Noah, now the father of the rest of the humanity, came forward and accepted that human beings are indeed sinners and pleaded for atonement. At that time, God made a covenant with Noah and his descendants, practically the rest of the humanity.
Genesis 9: 8- 11 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: "And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants] after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
We thus see the Most Holy God who punishes the humanity for their wickedness and the most gracious God who makes covenant with people who voluntarily come forward for repentance.
Only a biased ignorant reader will call such nature as childish. Probably Maharishi wanted a god who is indifferent to the situations of humans and remain as a monolithic ice block.
As far as the necessity of having a nose to smell is the sign of carnal thinking. While the nose is necessary for the creation-human being to perceive the smell, the creator of the smell could perceive the smell without those.