1) Was St. Jerome Calling Genesis a Myth, and if so in what sense?, 2) And Mark Shea bungled Mythical with Allegorical ... *sigh* ... 3) History or Myth ... how do YOU describe a "story which really happened" but has "mythical" coherence and greatness?
- Link to CMI
- Is the Torah historical?
Published: 28 May 2016
- Timothy M, United States
- MODERN distinctions like “history” and “myth” didn’t seem to exist 3500 years ago. So why make the distinction NOW?
- Lita Cosner
- Of course ancient people did not define historiography the way we do today. That doesn’t mean, however, that they didn’t have categories for “things that happened” versus “things that didn’t really happen”.
- Hans Georg Lundahl
- But the stories we call myths were back then usually put in the category of things that did happen.
A Baal worshipper was as convinced (usually, until late sophistication crept in) that Baal had fought a monster and created the world and men from its carcasse as a Hebrew then or a Christian now that God had created Heaven and Earth in an instant and their embellishments in six days, reposing on seventh from creating new kinds of things, and as convinced as Oparin that molecules had come together and formed early life, while more complex life had developed from it.
The three stories contradict (or the mid one contradicts the others) but nevertheless each is putting his story (rather than those of the others) in the category of things which did in fact happen.
Later Greeks became ashamed of the behaviour of certain gods and explained THOSE myths away by saying they were only meant symbolically. But that starts with Plato. It is about as irrelevant to Homer as Anglican "Bishop of Woolwich" John A.T. Robinson, is to the Gospels.
- Lita Cosner
- I agree, the modern distinction of religion vs myth did not exist in the past the way it does today, perhaps partially because they didn’t have the distinction between religious vs secular.
- Hans Georg Lundahl
- The distinction exists since Plato.
Now, there is another reason.
Some things which moderns consider "mythical" in the sense of "did not happen and does not happen" are not really so and the ancients were not so ideological as to take them as such.
Baal creating world after killing a monster, using a carcasse? Sure, that is a "myth", that is, it is a fake Genesis account. Oparin is also a fake Genesis account, would you call his theory "a myth"?
But Greeks starting a war against Troy over Helen? No, I think the account of Homer is basically true.
It leaves out the reference to Hittite Empire which contemporaries to it could not have missed. It is perhaps the prequel to that Hittite Civil war which ends in a siege of Hattusha and both parties finally agreeing to dissolve the Empire.
Homer is a sequel of both events, including a deal probably made among Hittites to later identify as whatever else but not Hittites.
Or Hercules and Ulysses defeating giants? I think there too the accounts at least could be true. Though both men were prone to swagger of one kind of another.
So, if not true, at least a lie which could have been true.
People disagree on whether the account of Anne Frank's diary is true or a forgery. But no one is calling it a myth in the sense of what one does with the fake Genesis of Baal worshippers.
And that, controversial but possibly true autobiography is where I would place Ulysses telling his story to princess and king and queen of the Phaeacians or Hercules telling in Greece how he had fought Gerion between Gibraltar and A Coruña.
So, the "distinction" is in these days exaggerated, because moderns tend to throw in the wrong items into the category (ill defined on top of that) of "myth".
And, not seeing ancients make same exaggeration, moderns think ancients were unaware of it. In a sense they were, insofar as the imprecise categories used by Robinson are such that there is very little to be aware of, and the ancients were not too prone to strain gnats (before the Pharisees at least).
Hans Georg Lundahl
St Augustine of Canterbury