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The Bible as seen through the eyes of . . .

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Robert Minto

I've read the quotation from Bruce Lincoln at least twice on your blog now, with interest. Could you tell me where he expounds it? Thanks!

Simon Holloway

I don't think I like your definition of "epic", which is a bit broad for my taste. I would have considered "epic" to speak less for the details of the narrative and more for the form in which the narrative is conveyed. Job strikes me as an epic (perhaps an abridged Canaanite epic given an Israelite frame). It may not detail, outside of the first two chapters and the final chapter, the interaction between God and people but the narrative style is... well, "epic". A bit lost for alternative terms, I'm afraid, so I'm hardly doing my case justice :)

That said, do you really advocate calling "myth" and "epic" by different names if your views on the biblical literature are too entrenched to admit evidence to the contrary? That strikes me as grossly dishonest on the part of those who would do such a thing.

JohnFH

Robert,

The famous Bruce Lincoln quote,

"[i]f mythology is ideology in narrative form, then scholarship is myth with footnotes"

is on p. 209 of his Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship.

For an overview of the book, try:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_go2081/is_3_121/ai_n28875370/

written by an ANE scholar, Gary Beckman, a specialist in Hittite mythology.

JohnFH

Hi Simon,

I agree with you that Job is an example of epic.

I'm not wedded to a particular definition of epic. I am interested in working out the generic difference between myths in a usual sense the term is used by ANE scholars, and the way it crops up among biblical scholars in reference to the creation narratives, the flood narrative, and the Tower of Babel narrative.

The goal: interlocking content-oriented definitions of myth, epic, and history. But I like function-oriented definitions as well. They crisscross and are mutually illuminating.

As for terminology, no, I had in mind other factors. I want people to get these genres right. They will get a lot more out of the texts if they do.

But the term "myth" is hard to use in some setting without making mile-long explanations. That's true in my church context. Maybe not in your synagogue context.

The question is: which will help them more to take the text seriously, to wrestle with it deeply? To be told that Gen 2-3 is absolute truth, or that it is a subcategory of epic in the sense I'm suggesting, a protological narrative with various etiologies attached?

I like to tell people that the text intends to convey absolute truth (the word "absolute" gets their attention), and then I exegete the text as a protological narrative.

As you know, I'm a reasonably happy-go-lucky theist, so to do so requires a minimum of gymnastics on my part.

Jim Getz over at Ketuvim touched on the problem of terminology in the university context at least once. Secularized no less than conservative students dismiss a text when they find out it's myth. So he has to push back to get them to take the texts seriously.

Alan Lenzi

Robert, Read Lincoln's first two chapters in Discourse and the Construction of Society (pp. 15-37). He lays his ideas out there very nicely. I checked Google Books. Both chapters are available in full there.

Robert Minto

Thankyou John, and Alan.

Pete Enns

John,

If I may, I think you are making some very sober and helpful points here. I largely agree with your approach, and I think popularizing this way of thinking may help those who most need to address these issues.That includes not only church contexts, as you mention, but generally evangelical colleges and especially seminaries. "What is Genesis?" is still a pressing issue for people, and the default answers often given lack explanatory power when one considers the ANE evidence. Thanks for the post.

Brooke

In the "credit where it's due" department, reading COS in a year was Charles' big idea in the first place.

One more place I'd locate myth—and the place where I usually introduce it to my students—is in the Davidic royal theology. The preponderance of creation language suggests that God's choice of David and of Jerusalem is woven into eternity from the creation of the cosmos. The Davidic king participates in God's holding back of Chaos (e.g., Psa 89:9, 25). That the king is adopted as the begotten son, and that God's blessings are mediated through the king (e.g., Psa 72:6-7), add to the mythic quality of the Davidic kingship.

I think "myth" in the royal theology began to get dismissed when the pan-babylonianists, with their idea of an annual enthronement festival, fell out of favor. But I don't think you need an "annual cycle" in opposition to "linear history" to have *myth.*

By "mythic" in the royal theology, I mean the idea that events happen "outside" of an historical timeline: God's choice of David and Jerusalem is presented, in the royal theology, not simply as something that will last forever once established, but as an essential fixture of the creation and its creator. (If this gets us into "epic," that's fine, too.)

Thanks for a great post, John!

Jonathan Bartlett

Interestingly, there was an interesting use of Chaoskampf in biochemistry a few years ago, in a European journal, Cellular and Molecular Biology. The paper was called "The State of Water in Living Systems: From the Liquid to the Jellyfish". Anyway, it was the first time I've seen in the scientific literature a review of ancient theological/philosophical concepts:

"Focusing on the immaterial attributes of liquid water (ability to flow) instead of its material composition (H2O) allows unraveling the deep wisdom contained in antique writings in deep coherence with other creation myths met around the world."

I thought it was great because it goes beyond the presumptuousness in which scientists often ignore the great foundational philosophical work that precedes them, and assume that they can learn nothing from them. This author, however, attempts to find the deep continuity between his work in the structure of water (which is extensive) and the ancient views of water.

Anyway, thought you might be interested.

JohnFH

Robert,

I look forward to your future ruminations on these matters.

Pete,

Thank you for your brave and honest discussion of these topics in a number of venues.

Brooke,

That's a fertile nexus you bring up, myth and cyclical time. I would want to work back from the philosophical and theological reflections of Franz Rosenzweig in his Star of Redemption on Jewish and Christian conceptions, and reinvigorate the discussion of ancient texts on that basis.

Perhaps I am a congenital Platonist, but it seems to me to be almost self-evidently true that, as the Sages have it, things like the people of Israel, the Torah, and the Messiah (= the ideal David) pre-exist creation. The logic of idealist understandings is compelling. It's not the only way to conceptualize things, but it is one, very productive way of doing so.

Pete Enns

Thanks, John.

Brooke and John, maybe a way of putting the David/myth issue is that the psalmists present David's reign as an "instantiation" of the cosmic battle motif, which is very much like how exodus is presented. How do any of you feel about describing all this as "mythicized history?"

JohnFH

Jonathan,

That's a hoot. Scientists get tired of sticking to their subject and begin to muse about things as armchair mythologues and (a)theists. I prefer the resources the Jewish and Christian traditions provide, beginning with Genesis 1-3, Psalms 8, 19, and 104, etc.

Pete,

It drives some of my European friends nuts, but through the discourse of civil religion, from John Winthrop to Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama, history continues to be mythicized across the political spectrum, with the possible exception of the far left and the far right, in "New England" -> US politics (not to mention China in another fashion, and in countless other contexts).

Myth in this sense is a metanarrative that anchors a polity in a transcendent reality and invests the leadership of that polity with world-making responsibilities. It's a realistic way of conceptualizing things. In the interaction of those who govern with the governed, in the interaction of those who govern on behalf of those governed with peers and opponents beyond the realm, *worlds are made.*

I remark in this fashion in order to offer a point of entry for understanding texts like Psalm 2 and 72 on the one hand and Pss 93-99 on the other. The doctrine of election is key. The theological and political concepts are intertwined. Seth Sanders' recent book, The Invention of Hebrew, got me thinking about these things again. For more, go here:

http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/files/invention-of-hebrew-review.pdf

Scott Jones

For what it's worth, I have found David Damrosch's discussion of "historicized myth" and "mythicized history" in his Narrative Covenant: Transformations of Genre in the Growth of Biblical Literature (Ithaca: Cornell, 1987) quite helpful. If I remember correctly, he treats several corpora of biblical literature as confluences of things like myth, chronicle, and epic. I think he treats Gen 1-11 as historicized myth, while the narrative of David's rise is mythicized history, etc., etc.

As for the Book of Job as we have it as epic: I'm not sure about that myself. I don't have a problem with Sarna's thesis about the frame narrative, but that does not account for the complex of genres that it is now. In my view, Job 28:1-11 is an echo of the "epic journey" theme one finds in Gilgamesh, for example, but that poem as a whole is an anthology of typically distinguished generic types.

Actually more intriguing to me is the early patristic reading of Job as "spiritual epic" that lasts through Milton and beyond. Barbara Lewalski's work is very good on that. It is hardly an indigenous category for the Book of Job, but I find it fascinating.

JohnFH

Scott,

Thanks for bringing Damrosch, Sarna, and Lewalski into the discussion.

I like the notion of Job as "spiritual" epic. "Spiritual" in the sense of "geistliche" - it is a literary work, a cerebral composition in the best sense of the world, to the same extent that it is a gut-filled composition.

There is a protean quality to much of biblical literature that makes genre identifications reductive almost by definition.

To read the Bible for all it's worth can be exhausting, since the truth claims it puts forward, and those that it challenges, are so comprehensive.

True Grit 3

Going through confirmation in high school, there were things that puzzled me and I had several questions about things that seemed "unreal" to me. I just automatically believed in everything because that's how I was raised but when I came to the age where I understood more of the Bible, I felt that some of the things might be myths, or over exagerated I guess you could say. For example, when I had read the little passage from the Hittite literature, that made me question a few things.

Dead Man Walking 2

While I found that this post was very interesting in the way that you rolled out the difference between myths, epics and history in the bible I would like to question one part that was said. You at one point state “the prologue of the Primary History is anchored within an overarching historical framework”. I question the validity of this statement because I was taught in a history course that the Old Testament was written as much as 300 years after the events it are said to have occurred. This is the same as if I were to write a history of the Revolutionary War and then expect people to take what I have written as a historical document. So how can one really call it a historical frame work? With the amount of time separating the events and writing of the Old Testament there is without a doubt the great possibility that stories have been greatly added to and exaggerated to give them the epic quality that one would expect from a god.

JohnFH

Hi DMW 3,

Part of the Primary History (Genesis-2 Kings) recounts events in the life time of the compiler (see the last chapters of 2 Kings). As you note, most of it reworks traditions which recount events hundreds of years past.

But it is not the chronological gap that separates the historian and the period he or she is writing about that matters. It is the quality and type of sources available.

The Primary History begins with protological accounts, transitions into epic, and moves on to history in a stricter sense of the word. The whole is arranged chronologically and tied together by way of stated cause and effect relations. In that sense all pieces are fitted into a historical framework.

It is possible to write history and conceive of its structure as reflective of the intersection between the ways of man and the ways of God. Tolstoy thought this through in his historical novel, War and Peace. A historian who thought these things through was Arnold Toynbee; many more might be mentioned, beginning with Eusebius and including Dawson, Collingwood, and Voegelin.

As for stylized numbers, garbling of details, and speeches composed by the author of the history and put in the mouth of chief protagonists, one expects those things in ancient historiography. None of these things is a strike against the Bible.

Furthermore, ancient and modern historiography fictionalize left and right, but they do so according to different conventions. On this the research of Hayden White is helpful.

Shawshank Redemption 3

I like the comparison between the gods in myths and epics and soap operas. I have read a couple epics and that is pretty much how it is. The gods are always fighting and sleeping with each other just like the characters in a soap opera. I think a good way to show the difference between an epic and the Bible is to compare the story of Noah and the flood to the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh is searching for immortality and he finds the old man who survived the great flood (Noah). In Gilgamesh, the flood is caused by the gods being angry and the old man survives because on god went behind the others and secretly told him about what was going to happen, because she did not agree that all of humankind should be wiped out. In the Bible, there is only one god, and there is no arguing or deceiving, like in a soap opera.

True Grit 4

I don’t believe that the Bible is or contains any form of myth in it. I have always been taught and believed that the Bible is truth. I look at the Bible as all non fiction.

It says in the Bible I do not know the passage but I do know what it says. It says that, “All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking and training in righteousness.” I believe that since the Bible does all come from God that it all is true and that everything in it is exactly as it sounds.

The Truman Show 5

I liked the way you compared myths, epics, and history, I thought it laid out your point more directly. Like everything else in the world what people believe about the Bible is their opinion, but in my views you cannot really compare myth and epics to the Bible.

For example myths are stereotypically about gods and goddess are usually doing things that are against the ten commandments without any persecution because after all they are gods/goddesses, where as our God would never be portrayed in that manner. He would not contradict himself and go against the ten commandments. And epics are usually about gods and goddesses who just seem to get angry at someone for a particular reason, yet never really seem to "get them." Where as in the Bible God has a reason why he wants to "pick" on someone, and he has no intention of hurting them, he just wants to teach them a lesson.

JohnFH

Very good comments here. Now it's time to argue for your positions. Here are a couple of questions.

@SR 3,

Compare Genesis 6:5-8 and 8:20-21.The texts pose at least two difficulties for those who expect the God of the Bible to equal the God of latter-day theologians - Judaism and Christianity in diverse ways adapted their thinking about God over time such that there is tension and sometimes even contradiction between the nature of God as taught by theologians and the nature of God as described in the Bible. (1) God changes his mind, not what you might expect from an omniscient God; (2) after the flood, nothing has changed, as if it didn't solve anything. Not what you might expect from an omnipotent God. Any thoughts?

@TG 4 and TS 5,

I see your point. If the Bible were full of falsehoods, that would mean it is worse than a poor resource for faith and ethics and a persuasive view of the world. It would be a scam. Since you think of myth and epic as forms of falsehood, you can't have even a drop of one or the other in the Bible, or the entire house of cards comes crashing to the ground.

But here's the thing: what if there are true myths and false myths, with the myth retold in Psalm 74 being a true myth (if you think Leviathan is not a mythological creature, please say so)?

What if there is epic that succeeds in collapsing in the life story of a single individual the life story of a people, with much of Genesis fitting into this category?

Beyond this, I imagine you are aware that the Bible contains fiction designed to convey truth. The parables of Jesus for example.

The Mission 4

In my learning of faith I was taught that many stories in the Old Testament were stories to teach a greater lesson on life and morals. Rather than a dry cut approach of this is what happened, we look for a deeper understanding of how our lives relate to the scripture. However I find that there is a lot of stories used by Jesus in Luke that are used the same way as stories in the Old Testament. there is nothing wrong with believing that the bible is true in its entirety, by I am more concerned with the message being delivered.

Dead Man Walking 3

In my beliefs I follow what Mission 4 said. The stories are written down as a message. If they happened or not is up to you what you want to think. I’m just glad they are here to help people get by in life. The Bible is a mix of stories, events, songs and morals. Maybe some stories seem like a myth in how extravagant God’s work was in the story, but there is no way of truly telling.

Like Genesis’s Creation story, and Noah’s Ark’s tale, or even the splitting of the Red Sea there are many different views on if these are really considered myths because they don’t have multiple gods or goddesses in the tale. I just see them as stories even though one theory on Noah’s Ark story is that the Ice caps flooded the Mediterranean sea breaking the Bosporus Strait into the Black sea at the same time Noah’s Ark supposedly took place in history. That is just one theory though.

JohnFH

The reason why "creation science" (the theory that the universe came into existence over 6 24-hour days; that life did not evolve from simpler to more complex forms, but rather, that once upon a time, trilobites, puppies, humans, dinosaurs, and woolly mammoths coexisted; that Noah's flood corresponds somehow to the end of one of the Ice Ages) is not taught in universities is that the evidence on multiple levels points in another direction.

Astronomy, physics, geology, chemistry, genetics, and biology all make sense of the data they study on assumptions that contradict "creation science."

Science as taught in universities contradicts "creation science," but does science contradict the creation and flood accounts in the Bible? Not if those accounts are to be read as polemical responses and re-writes of accounts of creation and the flood the people of Israel were familiar with.

If one reads Gen 1-11 in its ancient context, "creation science" is revealed to be a form of creative anachronism. It assumes that Gen 1-11, written thousands of years ago, was nonetheless meant to set modern scientists straight. It seems more likely that Gen 1-11 was meant to set ancient people straight, to teach them about a single Purpose that created everything, whose mercy is always stronger than his judgement.

I would also point out that "creation science," even if it is not good science, makes excellent sense on other levels. Creation science did not exist until very recently: in ancient times, church theologians and leaders like Augustine and Luther warned people not to read Genesis as if it were a manual of astronomy or physics. "Creation science" contradicts the approach of Augustine and Luther, but that is because it is a response to challenges Augustine and Luther did not face.

"Creation science" came into existence in order to counter the notion that life is a drama of the survival of the fittest in which altruism (cooperating with others) is a means to an end (one's own interests), not an end in itself.

Neither Jews nor Christians, not to mention Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, accept this view of life. For all of the world's great religions, life is a battle between good and evil in which we must take sides. As soon as science is harnessed in order to justify amoral and immoral behavior, it is almost inevitable that science itself will be attacked, not just the myths that have been devised and justified on the basis of an interpretation of science.

For example, "the survival of the fittest" is not only a myth (ideology in narrative form), it is a false and pernicious myth. On that basis, the Nazis "euthanized" individuals with special needs because they were not fit, and exploited before killing inferior races (fit only to be slaves; in the case of the Jews, too dangerous to be allowed to live).

If you wish, Leviticus 19:14 (look it up) is also based on a myth, that those with special needs are not children of a lesser god, but children of the same God as those with no special needs. If one defines myth as does an anthropologist like Lincoln, ideology in narrative form, fine. Jews and Christians and many others will simply point out that some myths are true and others false; the myth behind Lev 19:14 is true.

Since there have been a number of high profile scientists who have claimed that science describes for us a world of "brutal indifference" with "no evil, no good, no purpose" (Dawkins), the easiest thing to do is to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The view that the Bible and science are both right is a harder path to take, a path less traveled by, but it may very well be the more interesting path, and the one that contains more truth.

Nell 2

Growing up in a catholic environment my entire life I have learned most of the many passages inquired within the text of the Bible. With the knowledge of what I was told, yes I believed every word that was spoken to me.

I still in fact do believe everything that was told to me, but with a more knowledgable understanding. Every story that I am aware of included in the sacred scripture has a deeper meaning to it then I was before aware of. That is, the passages found through books written are not just for our historical knowledge but to actually use the morals we are taught through them.

God intends for us to live a life in respects of the nature he showed through Jesus Christ. Beside the great work Jesus performed on Earth, and the guidance he started us off with, God has chose different people to continue how he wants us to survive. For example, the Lord chose Moses to distribute the 10 commandments. Those statements are magnificent in the human life if it is followed by God. It is the morals we live with day by day.

I understand that many people do not believe in every parable they hear from the Bible. I do feel that as long as the word of the Lord has been passed along, the individuals who do not chose not to believe the story happened can receive some message God is trying to indulge within us.

The Mission 3

I personally could not agree with "The Mission 4" any more. I believe that it is almost a waste of time to argue over whether the many stories of the Bible actually took place. I believe the true discussion needs to occur over the message or lesson that God wishes us to pull from the story.

However the one piece of the Bible that will always remain in deep discussion is the existence of Jesus as the son of God. This discussion must remain in place because the existence of Jesus as everything he is claimed to be is what Christianity is centered around.

The Mission 3

CORRECTION: I could not agree more with "The Mission 4".

Not sure how I missed that mistake. My apologies.

Dead Man Walking 2

This has taken a bit of time but I would like to respond to your comment John. I don’t seem to understand what you are trying to get at first you call the primary history a framework, which with your explanation I can kind of understand, but I still take problem with the use of the term historiography. Historiography is defined, in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, as the writing of history; especially : the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particulars from the authentic materials, and the synthesis of particulars into a narrative that will stand the test of critical methods. Following with the defined use of historiography you cannot call the Bible history, in my opinion because it does not survive the critical examination of sources and stand the test of critical methods. An example of this is that when the church of England broke ties with the Roman Catholic Church it is well recorded that the Bible was changed and debated by the ruling party. Therefore the Bible has been changed and altered over time and that would eliminate the Bible as being called historiography according the definition.

JohnFH

The definition of historiography I am working with is attuned to ancient historiography, not modern.

You can't expect the Bible to conform to the definition of modern historiography. No work of history from the ancient world does. An obvious example: ancient works of history abound in examples of speeches put in the mouths of the main protagonists which had to seem right, but were not based on transcripts (there were none). No one thought this was amiss. That was the expectation.

Furthermore, your dictionary's definition of historiography, even if referred to modern historiography alone, is misleading. For a more accurate understanding of how modern historiography works in practice, check out Hayden White, summary here:

http://www.lehigh.edu/~ineng/syll/syll-metahistory.html

I hope these clarifications help. I can offer more if you like.

Lior A

After studying a handful of Middle-Eastern literature, it is obvious to see how many correlations there are between the Bible and other texts of the time period including myths and epics such as the Epic of Gilgamesh. To say that the Bible is a myth is most definitely not something that I would agree with, however, there are parts of scripture that are written in a way that is quite similar to a myth (as mentioned in the post). Perhaps those certain verses or chapters are written in that way because of the heavy influence of polytheistic literature at the time?

JohnFH

That's one way of putting it, Lior A.

A lot depends on what your definition of "myth" is.

If you believe that some myths are true and others false, that some epic accurately collapses the life of a whole people into the life of an individual, and some epic does not, what reason is there to oppose the idea that the Bible includes not only a short examples of fiction like parables in order to convey truth, but also myth and epic?

Corey Schmitz

I'd like to add to Lior's comment. It is also interesting to note that even some Native American religions have stories that have an uncanny relation to stories in the Bible. Some have stories depicting a great flood, while other stories mention the "mother" of all humans which could be related to Eve.

Nell 5

I am a confirmed Lutheran and have been a constant church goer for as long as I can remember. I have been taught the Bible as if every word of it was true. I was taught never to doubt the Bible, but just have faith that it was true. As I am older, and am learning and understanding more about the Bible, I’m starting to have doubts that some things are true. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in most things, but there are some stories that are questionable. In an earlier blog, I brought up the fact that it’s amazing that in the Old Testament how people lived to be hundreds of years old. I don’t understand how that is possible, especially knowing that disease and other things were not prevented then. Another story that I recall is when one fish and loaf of bread fed thousands of people. I want to believe that this was one of God’s many miracles, but I still have my doubts about it. It’s hard for me to say this, but I think that there are some myths to this great book.

Nell 5

I am a confirmed Lutheran and have been a constant church goer for as long as I can remember. I have been taught the Bible as if every word of it was true. I was taught never to doubt the Bible, but just have faith that it was true. As I am older, and am learning and understanding more about the Bible, I’m starting to have doubts that some things are true. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in most things, but there are some stories that are questionable. In an earlier blog, I brought up the fact that it’s amazing that in the Old Testament how people lived to be hundreds of years old. I don’t understand how that is possible, especially knowing that disease and other things were not prevented then. Another story that I recall is when one fish and loaf of bread fed thousands of people. I want to believe that this was one of God’s many miracles, but I still have my doubts about it. It’s hard for me to say this, but I think that there are some myths to this great book.

Truman 1

Truman 1,

There are many stories in the bible that contain some amazing things happening and many times people question if that was possible. I think it is important to realize first that the individuals that wrote the Bible truly believed the information that they contributed to it. Therefore it had meaning to them to write about these stories so I have to believe that there is truth in the stories of the Bible. Sometimes it is not easy to believe many of these stories that seem so impossible, however that is why it is called having faith.

The Mission 4

Nell 5

I would not be afraid of having doubts about your religion. You, having doubt I think shows that you care about you religion and that it is still a large part of who you are. I would actually be concerned if you never had questions because it could mean several things. One is that you are no longer interested in your faith, or that you are just going through the motions of you faith and are not active in you beliefs. I believe that everyone goes through a period of doubt but how they emerge out of this confusing labyrinth is what defies their faith and it makes all of our views unique.

True Grit 2

I agree with Mission 4. Having doubts is normal human nature, especially when you are being tested. That’s why faith goes hand in hand with religion. I would also like to add that questioning is good because in the end it brings you closer.

Shawshank Redemption 4

I also have found that as I grow older, I am questioning my religion. The stories we were told in confirmation class seemed like one thing, maybe because we were taught the more kid version of the story, but by taking this bible class, I have learned to read the bible in much more depth because there is a lot of things that I missed while in confirmation class and in attending church as a child.

Chariots Of Fire 1

I have to say this, just by looking at the topic, of course there are (no) myths in the Bible. If you read from the beginning of the bible to about a little more than half of the bible, everything came true. Just think about what would happen if the bible was near revelations and things are becoming true.

Truman Show 2

Growing up I used to believe everything I was told in Sunday school and never questioned anything written in the bible. In high school I started to question how things happened not because I thought that the bible contained myths but because I never saw frogs fall from the sky or a man given great strength so long as he didn’t cut his hair. As well as in Isaiah 51.9 when it says that the Lord pierced the dragon. What grabbed my attention in this post was when you explained that in the form of literature with mythical gods and goddesses mortals made guest appearances only. How odd that is but true. It is sometimes hard to find the hidden differences of myths and epic in the history of the bible, but this post did a great job of highlighting the existence.

Nell 4

I do have to agree with Chariots of Fire on this. By looking at the topic of course there are (no) myths in the Bible, but we're all going to have our doubts. Especially if the events that took place in the Bible actually happened.

I know growing up I also believed everything I was told in Sunday school and never once questioned anything from the Bible. As I got older and matured a little, I started to question if certain events actually happened. I think everyone goes through that phase sometime in their life; it's not a bad thing. Just don't end up losing your faith over questioning yourself if these events actually really took place because for one the Bible clearly says it all happened and two we will never be there to know if it did. So really it comes down to having faith in God

JohnFH

At a certain age, it is natural to take everything literally. As one grows older, a literalistic mindset has to be set aside.

It is not necessarily a question of something being either true or false. Rather, it becomes clear that something can be true in more than one way. Something can even be true in a deeper way.

For example, I have no doubt that Genesis 2-3 is full of truth. Nor do have I any doubt that it describes realities that existed long ago and exist to this day. However, all of that is seen best if the text is taken as a figurative representation of things. If it is understood literally, it is misunderstood.

It is fine that in Sunday school not everything is explained. At that age, it is common not to explain Santa Claus as well.

It is always possible to reject the truth-claims of a text like Genesis 2 and 3. But it would be foolish to reject it because it fails to live up to false expectations.

To expect a text like Genesis 2-3 to be non-figurative is like expecting a Chagall painting to resemble a photograph. That would be absurd. Unfortunately, some interpretation of the Bible is childish.

Nell 3

In our world today there are many different religions and belief systems out there. There is no one thing that can be considered the truth, rather you must look at what YOU believe and commit to it 100% regardless of what other people may say. That being said of course there are people who object to the Bible and say it is full of myth and say how we can’t believe this stuff that is written in here so long ago.
From my readings in other books I have come across much proof of the Bible's validity. First hand witnesses or people who knew first hand witnesses wrote the Bible. Also many of the prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled thousands of years after they were written and even ones that occurred during the life of Jesus. Everyone has their own beliefs, but if you take the time to look for proof of the validity of the Bible here is a plethora of evidence out there.

Shawshank Redemption 4

Nell 3, I agree with your saying of, "There is no one thing that can be considered the truth, rather you must look at what YOU believe and commit to it 100% regardless of what other people may say." This is absolutely correct in the sense that so many people are just doing what others are doing these days and they aren't taking the time to listen to themselves and follow what they believe. I believe a lot of people would understand themselves and their beliefs more if they just stop following the crowd and start doing what they believe in hopes of finding their way in life.

Dead Man Walking 5

I agree with The Mission 4, of course everyone has doubts about their religion at some point in their lives. Growing up, I attended a catholic school and went mass every Sunday. My parents would always make me go to bed early Saturday night so that I could go to church, bright and early, at 7 on Sunday. However, when I got into high school I stopped going to church because I didn't understand why I was doing it. All I would do every Sunday was "go through the motions" and not really understand what was going on. Then after about a year of not going, my friend took me to church one Sunday and I started understanding why we do what we do. I then started going with my parents again and started to regain my faith. I took the time to understand what I was doing instead of just "going through the motions". I think that not going to church for a while was the questioning point in my life and now I feel I am stronger in my faith. I still have some doubts about my faith, but I try to find answers to those so that I can further understand it.

Chariots Of Fire 1

They even showed a video of Chinese people searching for Noah's ark and they found it. It's on top of the mountain frozen in ice! How can you explain that? It even says in the bible that the ark crashed on the mountain. Now that's not a myth.

Pulp Fiction 2

I have always been interested in the origins of the stories that appear pre-Abraham in the Bible. Many of these stories (such as the story of creation and Noah and the flood) run an uncanny parallel with documented Sumerian myths. This makes sense when one considers that Abraham lived much of his life, before seeing God in a vision and heading west to the Promised Land, in ancient Samaria, right in the shadow of the Temple of Ur. He would have grown up with these Sumerian stories, such as the Enuma Elish and the Atra-Hasis (specifically the third part). When Abraham would have left Samaria with his family and began his travels to the Promised Land, he would have taken these stories with him and passed them down to his children. Over time they would have slightly changed just as when one played the telephone game in elementary school. Some of these changes might have been by accident; while others may have been for religious reasons (for example it could be the snake in the Garden of Eden is representative not of the Jewish/Christian devil but of the Sumerian snake god, Nirah). I find all these similarities very intriguing and thought this post to be a decent introduction to the similarities.

Nell 6

I like how you discuss how history, myth and epic are different. This is interesting to think that there is no myth in the Bible about God doing any of these things. I guess I never really thought about this. And now that I have read this post it actually makes sense. The things that you say would be myths are things that would now be sins for us to do. Saying that there is no myth shows that God is great and that he does nothing wrong. I like how you talk about the epics as being like soap operas full of drama and other outrageous events. This is exactly how I would view epics now that I think about it, but the Bible is nothing like this it is just stories about people’s lives and there is not tons of drama between people or outrageous sexual things happening.

breaker morant 2

I find this comment to be completely true: "There is no one thing that can be considered the truth, rather you must look at what YOU believe and commit to it 100% regardless of what other people may say." In general, people do this all the time. They find something they believe in, and follow it whole-heartely and once someone from the opposing side says what they believe, the other person crumbles and starts believing what the other person believes. One must stand up for what we believe, but first, figure out what you believe, then you can argue.

Breaker Morant 2

When it comes to the idea of myths, its history should be taken into account. Stories of what the gods did from Greek, Roman, Egyptian and other cultures comes from the idea that they had nothing to base how the world worked on, so they created ideas and stories to explain the unexplainable. This being said, I believe that this is a perfect explanation of what is being talked about in Genesis. The first myth is how the world is created. This has been an ongoing debate, and this story from Genesis, just like the creation stories from Native American tribes are just one way of defining what could/did happen in the eyes of that culture. To say that there is no myths in the Bible would be a gross understatement, because there is no way to prove that any of the stories are true. You either believe in what Jesus and the Bible is telling you or you don't. That is the watered-down version, but essentially, that is all there is to it.

Pulp Fiction 5

I would agree that there are no myths in the bible, as long as you define the myth as stated in the article. I think the reason that myths are so present in Greek and Roman culture is because the gods were worshipped differently than Christians worship God. It seems to me that the story of the gods was presented in the form of many myths and perhaps only myths. In my studies I have found that only myths are presented to tell the story of what the gods want from their people.

Christians have a book of stories and experience of God and Jesus to be read and interpreted for each individual. Now this is not to say that the Greeks are wrong in learning how to be better people by reading myths, as I think the general goal of being spiritual is to become better people in the eyes of God or the gods. It is interesting to see the different sides of each religion. Myths as told by the Greek gods are almost like bedtime stories and seem almost unbelievable whereas the bible seems like a journal of the day to day experience of God, Jesus, and several of their followers.

Chariots of Fire 1

The Bible is a very unique book; it stands out from the rest of the ancient stories and books written. This blog shows that by saying there are hardly any myths in the Bible. Now, if we go by the definition of “myth” that most people know, I would say there are zero myths. The whole Bible is true, not just bits and pieces. It’s not just a story; it’s an account of what happened and what God wants us to learn. It’s meant to change our lives, not just to be read.

Dead Man Walking 6

Does the Bible contain any form of myth in it? It is a hard question to answer because there are so many different religions and belief systems in the world. Some religion like Catholicism believes that the word of the Bible all comes from God, so therefore it must be all truth. But in my learning of Buddhism I was taught when I was young, many stories are not true at all times. My view is maybe it was considered truth at the time when the authors wished to convey an idea to the people. I agree that all Bibles are written to teach a greater lesson on life and morals. Our ancestors learned their experiences from time to time, so they wanted to pass this to future generations. However, everyone has their own beliefs about the Bible. I believe, we have to look for a deeper understanding of how our lives may relate to the scripture, if indeed the Bible is one’s chosen path of spiritual direction.

The Truman Show 3

When talking about Myths I think it is very important to look at your own interpretations and ideas. This article not only got me to look at the bible in a new light but also forced me to examine how I interpret the word "Myth." I do believe that the Bible shouldn't be read like any other book that you would read. The Bible forces you to bend your mind and look at things differently, make assumptions, form new ideas, and open your mind to suggestions.

Pulp Fiction 1

I don't believe that there are any myths in the bible. You could say that there are precautions or things that you question, but then again you're told not to question anything from the bible. It's a touchy situation and at the same time something that has been programmed for us to see as always true. I am a recent Christian and used to read the Bible and say well what about this story. It may seem confusing, but it's suppose too. We can't ask God or we would. You learn more as you read more and realize there are not any myths, just questions.

True Grit 1

I don't think the Bible has myth, because I think the Bible has worked in some peoples life. By reading and apply the message in the Bible to their lives. The reason why I said the Bible is not a myth because there are some passage in there that are truly strong to others and that some passages can relate to them as well. As for me the Bible had worked in my life before that's why I said it is not a myth. It worked in my life by leading me on to a new start of a new chapter in my life and helped me relax myself when I'm emotional. When I read the Bible it makes me very happy and helps me think that I am safe because God is there with me. Overall I think there are no myth in the Bible.

True Grit 4

I agree with you Pulp Fiction 1, that there really aren't, in my eyes, any myths in the Bible. If there were, why would we always accept them as truth? We are always taught in Church that God is the ultimate truth, there are no mistakes, so why would there be something that wasn't exactly as it happened? It's something to ponder, because there certainly are many out there who believe that there is no God, the Bible is a myth, etc. Another thing to question, if something we're ever proven to be myth in the bible, would we still accept it as truth?

True Grit 5

To me it depends on how you take the bible. It seems as though some people think of myths as these lies that are not true so it might take offense hearing the biblical stories might be myths. But if you take myths as stories passed on to people to tell history of their nation then yes the bible is a myth. I take it in the sense as a history, a learning process to help what I believe and the stories (myths) that I know and put into use to life. I could be wrong in describing it but if you take Jesus and his parables, you could consider myths as stories to tell a greater story and it’s meaning.

Praying with Loir 5

My definition of myth is more literal then most. To me a myth is from Greeks and Romans. I'm not sure if the Bible was written for our entertainment or our salvation, but trying to interpret it doesn't seem to be up to me. It doesn't matter how I read it, but how someone else reads it. The Bible is a group of stories passed down verbally for centuries. Then it was written down in a bunch of different languages, interoperated and re-interoperated over the last 2000+ years. Now we have the Book that everyone wants to get justification from. Myths aren't bad things. They are used for explanations. Some things should be believed for what they are. That’s why its is called faith.

Nell 5

I agree with True Grit 5 on this one. However, you have to see it from the side of someone who was not really raised on church or the Bible. The thing is that sometimes the stories in the Bible can be a little bit hard to believe at times. For instance, that a snake had told Eve to eat the apple in the book of Genesis. However, who's not to say that maybe the snake is a metaphor in the grand scheme of things. The point is that you have to go with what you feel or believe. If you believe in your heart that the Bible is true, than it is true. It just takes a little bit of faith.

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