Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Bible as Sacred Myth

I believe the Bible to be myth… sacred myth. Before you get the wrong idea, read the following extract from Karen Armstrong’s “A Short History of Myth" (Edinburgh; Canongate Books 2005)

Today the word ‘myth’ is often used to describe something that is simply not true. A politician accused of a peccadillo will say that it is a myth, that it never happened. When we hear of gods walking the earth, of dead men striding out of tombs, or of seas miraculously parting to let a favoured people escape from their enemies, we dismiss these stories as incredible and demonstrably untrue. Since the eighteenth century, we have developed a scientific view of history; we are concerned above all with what actually happened. But in the pre-modern world, when people wrote about the past they were more concerned with what an event had meant. A myth was an event which, in some sense, had happened once, but which also happened all the time…mythology is an art form which points beyond history to what is timeless in human existence….a myth, therefore is true because it is effective, not because it gives us factual information….if it forces us to change our minds and hearts, gives us new hope, and compels us to live more fully, it is a valid myth.

I am totally frustrated with people who want to reduce the Bible to factual information. And then they try to ‘prove’ selected texts as historical fact. Much of the Bible was never written as fact. It was written as myth. It was intended to transform the lives of those who encountered its stories. I absolutely believe the Bible – as the sacred myths that guide my life. And in choosing to believe, I have found challenge, transformation, and new hope.


Gus said...

"I don't know if it really happened that way, but I know its true..."

Allan Storey likes to say this when he presents Manna and Mercy - he says its the sort of Indian American equivalent to "Once upon a time..."

And thtop being tho sexitht, what ever happened to mythter?

Gus said...

epic word verification....

'fuwolk' - noise you make when you stub your toe and momentarily forget that the peskiest society steward is in the room.

Murray & Gina UK said...

I realised whilst reading both Tutu and the bible in Europe (there's no hidden meaning there... thats just where I was at the time) that I meet God more in some modern people's writings than I ever have from the Bible.
I know that makes me a lousy Christian, but that is my truth.
When do we as the modern church look to reistablish what we believe to be useful as a text we use in discussion and exploration of God? I want to start a world-wide call for the canon of the bible to be revisited!

fwtww - trying to swear when stubbing one's toe (soc steward or not) with one's wife's hand promptly covering one's mouth ... true story

Wessel Bentley said...

Hi Pete. The rise of "Die nuwe Hervorming" is the extreme response to fundamentalism. A book with the similar title appeared recently and is worth looking at (R100 through Protea books). This "nuwe hervorming" rejects dogmatics and surprisingly follows in an extreme-Bultmannian demythologizing of the Bible. I am in now way implying that what you have written borders on this, to the contrary. I am just raising a point that is causing havoc here. The Nuwe Hervorming is not based on Pentecostal-Charismatic theology, in fact, it rejects these movements on the basis that they are "mere" psychological "crutches" (to use a Freudian analogy of religion).

If you are interested, I can send you a book.


Steve said...

Dig it.. I will be borrowing this and using it.... thanks!