10/22/2012 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Michael Sherlock ~
4. Myths Are True.
Discussing this aspect of the definition of myth, Professor Vandiver says:
They (myths) present themselves within the society in which they develop, as factual accounts of how things actually happened in the past. It would be very rare for any culture to recognise its own mythology as mythology. Myth is only a category when you are outside a culture looking in. From within any culture, myths are accounts of the way things really are. It is only when we step outside the culture and look in, that we can say; these stories are myths.(1)
Such is the case not only with Christianity, but almost all religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, which have attempted to weave myth into the very fabric of history. Ask a true-believing Christian whether or not, they believe the Gospels describe real history and they may respond with any of the following remarks:
…"historicity, however, should be determined not by what we think possible or likely, but by the antiquity and reliability of the evidence. As we shall see, as far back as we can trace, Jesus was known and remembered as one who had extraordinary powers."(2) -- Father Raymond E. Brown (Catholic Bible Scholar)
"The Gospels follow no order in recording the acts and miracles of Jesus, and the matter is not, after all, of much importance. If a difficulty arises in regard to the Holy Scripture and we cannot solve it, we must just let it alone."(3) -- Martin Luther (Founder of the Protestant Church)
“We look at the New Testament documents and, yes, they have an agenda: they’re affirming that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. But they also make all kinds of statements that can be evaluated. Are they culturally accurate? Are they true to what we know from other historical sources? Were they written in a time and place that has proximity to Jesus’ life? The answers are yes.(4) -- Craig A. Evans (Bible Scholar – Professor of New Testament Studies)
Now, ask a non-Christian this same question and you will likely hear any of the following kinds of remarks:
The prominence, therefore, of the sun and stars in the Gospel story tends to show that Jesus is an astrological rather than a historical character. That the time of his birth, his death, and supposed resurrection is not verifiable is generally admitted. This uncertainty robs the story of Jesus, to an extent at least, of the atmosphere of reality.(5) -- M.M Mangasarian (Theologian turned Freethinker)
It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the Son of God. He was born when the heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story. Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods. It was not a new thing at that time to believe a man to have been celestially begotten; the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar opinion.(6) -- Thomas Paine (Philosopher)
The Jesus of the New Testament is the Christ of Christianity. The Jesus of the New Testament is a supernatural being. He is, like the Christ, a myth. He is the Christ myth.(7) -- John E. Remsburg (Rationalist)
It all comes down to whether a person believes it to be true, or not. In other words, it is all biased conjecture, occasioned by personal experience and subjective bias. Non-Christians call it myth, and in my biased opinion, should be forgiven for doing so, as people are not born of ghosts and virgins, they cannot walk on water, or even turn that water into wine. They do not return from the dead once 3 days has past and rigor mortis has set in, and they certainly do not float into outer-space, well not in my experience, or anyone else’s I know! Christians on the other hand, take it on faith, that these things happened in an isolated region, in a time long ago, and to a person who, was otherwise a “blip” on the radar! A figure whose remoteness has served to spawn justified criticism and the credulous defence of the intellectually remote believer!
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” -- ¯ Bertrand Russell
To be continued…
1. Professor Elizabeth Vandiver. Classical Mythology. Lecture 2: What is Myth? The Teaching Company. (2002).
2. Michael J. Wilkins & J. P. Moreland. Jesus Under Fire. Zondervan Publishing House. (1995). p. 5.
3. Albert Schweitzer. The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Adam and Charles Black. (1911). p. 13.
4. Lee Strobel. The Case for the Real Jesus. Zondervan. (2007). p. 33.
5. M.M. Mangasarian. The Truth About Jesus. Is He a Myth? Independent Religious Society. (1909). pp. 37-38.
6. Thomas Paine. The Age of Reason. (1796). p. 14-15.
7. John E. Remsburg. The Christ. The Truth Seeker Company. Preface p. 9.