Myth

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  • Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 17-04-14 13:30

Background

  • Burrows:
    • ‘Myth is a symbolic approximate expression of truth which the human mind cannot perceive sharply and completely, but can only glimpse vaguely, and therefore cannot adequately or accurately express’ (symbol and Stephens- only glimpse)
  • Mythological language inherited by Judaeo- Christian tradition tradition from the classical world (Greeks etc)
  • New testament incorporates elements of the Hellenistc world (medieval and 3 story heaven hell and purgatory)
  • Gunkel:
    • Old testament myths of creation, the fall, the flood and the tower of babel all present a revised version of Babylonian myth
    • Use of Hellenistic saviour/ redeemer myths are in the new testament through Jesus who comes to earth to enlighten man
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Biblical Examples

  • Genesis  2:
    • Suggests the world was set up around people for our use
    •  Adam= humanity/ Eve= life
    • Serpent- creature
    • Man is formed from the dust of the ground and God forms Eve out of his rib to accompany him
  • Revelation:
    • Dead being brought alive
    • Jesus descending
    • Mythical creatures- horns and devil etc
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Bultmann

  • ‘it is impossible to use electric light and the wireless and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries and at the same time to believe in the new testament world of demons and spirits’
  • Have to release the message from its mythological framework- demythologisation
  • His purpose was apologetic: he did not intend to destroy Christians message but tried to find the essence of the kerygma (kernel of religious truth) which had been overwhelmed by myth
  • Believed it is possible to re-experience and re-express the gospel in a way 20th century minds can grasp

 

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Bultmann Responses

  • Mythological language is so deeply engrained in theological discourse that it may be impossible to dispose (distribution of info) with it
  • Takes away the subjective/ personal nature of myths
  • Myths are traditional and have lasted the test of times
  • Essential elements of Christianity are taken away if myths are (beginning/end)
  • Older generation can relate to myths- how will they access kerygma?
  • Myths are accessible and relatable especially for younger generation

 

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Strauss

  • ‘myth’ covers all miraculous elements in the gospel
  • Shifted from ‘the story of a miraculous occurrence’ to ‘the story of a miraculous occurrence’
  • Myth is the expression/ embodiment of an idea not historical event
  • Myths are not something positive but something problematic once history was concerned
  • Religious truth embodied is being conveyed in story form which is not necessarily objectively true

 

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De Wette

  • Proposed a historical kernel of truth can be recovered from biblical myths
  • Myths reflect concerns of the people at the time the narratives were being compiled

 

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Ryle

  • Myth commits a category mistake by applying physical terms to a transcendent God
  • Risk of anthropomorphising

 

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Max Miller

  • Myths originally poetic description of natural phenomena
  • No ulterior motive only to describe

 

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Niebuhr

  • Myths should be taken seriously but not literally
  • Focus on story (Strauss)

 

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Rogerson

  • ‘Because myths have their birth not in logic but in intuitions (understand something instinctively), they are of value to traditions that seek to describe the action of the other worldly in the present world. However the term ‘myth’ must be a servant not a master’
  • We must understand how they should be interpreted rather than establish what ‘really happened’
  • Focus on ‘myth’ as servant= Strauss/ Niebuhr

 

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Strengths

  • Express claims that cannot be expressed in any other way, making use of symbol, metaphor and imagery in narrative context
  • Allow humans to gain an insight into cosmological and existential questions, difficult to understand in cognitive terms
  • Stories that provide insights into our own existence
  • Part of religious discourse
  • Reflect concerns of the people at the time the narratives were being compiled- De Wette
  • Religion accessible to larger audience
  • Religious truth embodied is being conveyed in story form which is not necessarily objectively true (personal)- Strauss
  • We must understand how they should be interpreted rather than establish what ‘really happened’ - Rogerson
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Weaknesses

  • Outdated
  • Subjective, could come to wrong conclusion
  • Proposed a historical kernel of truth can be recovered from biblical myths- De Wette
  • Demythologisation as myth overwhelms the kerygma- Bultmann
  • Myth commits a category mistake by applying physical terms to a transcendent God, risk of anthropomorphising – Ryle
  • Plotinus: No language that uses material images can describe God

 

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