Tuesday, 10 May 2011


Notes on Myth - Videos found below

What is myth?
Myth is a story designed to resolve philosophical and religious problems. It is not factual and it is not to be confused with legends and fairytales. 


Jesus feed 5000
Genesis Story 
What type of language does myth employ?
  1. Symbolic
  2. Metaphors
  3. Poetry
  4. Narrative framework
  5. Equivocal
  6. Non-cognitive 
Rudolf Bultmann 
  • Bultmann describes myth as the use of imagery from the physical world to discuss and communicate information about the metaphysical.
  • He says we need to ‘demythologize’ myth meaning that we must take out the ‘mythical’ elements in order to arrive that the true meaning of Christianity and particularly Jesus’ teachings. 
  • His liberal approach is popular among some scholars because can be used to counter argue Form Criticism. However, other scholars reject his approach saying the supernatural elements aren’t just later additions they are what happens and gives meaning to the stories. Furthermore, Christianity rests on the assumption that the resurrection occurred and if the resurrection is more than a symbolic story used to show God’s power then where does religion stand?
  • Bultmann comes from an anti-realist stance arguing that taking a myth literally can be disproved by science, it is the message which is important. There are not out to make objective facts but rather convey religious ideas
  • For Bultmann the rising of Jesus doesn't matter, what matters is that we gather that human beings owe their existence to God.
David Jenkins
  • Bishop of Durham who agreed with Bultmann and supported an anti-realist stance.
  • He was removed from the Church institution for asserting that the resurrection was ‘more than just a conjuring trick with bones’ implying that in actual fact the resurrection is a myth with a deeper meaning.
  • For him nothing is physical everything is metaphysical
  • However, one of the reasons why this resulted in him being banned was because it implies that Jesus is not the Son of God he is merely a Hasjid which means an ordinary man.
  • For Rogerson myth should be a slave to our understanding not our master.
  • It is a mere aid, the meaning lies in the metaphor not words.

  • She was originally a nun.
  • Again like Bultmann she states that a myth is a factual event - ‘Mythology is not an early attempt at history and does not claim its fact are objective fact’
  • Acts as a guide to help us develop our lives at a deeper level of meaning.
  • She says that humans have two parts the logos and myth. The logos is our logical, scientific and pragmatic self and myth our spiritual. When myth came about in about the stone age when humans were hunter gatherers. Logos allowed them to hunt and myth to deal with the emotions and spiritual side of hunting an animal.
  • For a myth to be properly understood it needs rituals hence why it is a guide or otherwise it is like reading the lyrics to opera without the music.
  • An example she gives of an occurrence in a myth. She says in all cultures myths include flight and ascent and this expresses a universal desire of transcendence and liberation from the human condition it is not to be taken literally. Does this means Jesus ascending to heaven is not to be taken literally?

1. Effective means for resolving philosophical and theological problems.
1. It is anachronistic, belongs to a pre-scientific age which we cannot empathize with.
2. Does not result in anthropomorphic descriptions of God.
2. No factual evidence or explanation seems illogical to take it seriously.
3. Does not claim to be fact.
3. Difficult to distinguish between truth and fact.
4. Preserves oral tradition -  making things easy and interesting to remember.
4. Trivializes religion
5. Fun for children.
5. Very often it is confused with legends and fairytales.
6. Provides commentary for discussing the metaphysical world alongside the physical

7. Can convey a meaning which can be conveyed in no other manner.

8. Cathartic mechanism for coping with death as Armstrong says it has therapeutic elements and must be used with ritual e.g. Requim Mass.

9. According to Armstrong without myth you lose a key part of yourself - it is not a holistic approach to life.

10. The alternative to understanding the Bible in a mythological fashion is a literal one and that is far more problematic.

11. Responds to claims made by the logical positivists by arguing that you cannot assess religious claims with your principles as they are purely mythological.

Video on Myth + Evaluation

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