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Re: [XTalk] Myths as Sacred Narratives

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  • LeeEdgarTyler@aol.com
    In a message dated 10/25/2000 10:38:37 PM Canada Central Standard Ti, ... Keep in mind that Dundes adds in their present form, too. So a myth would not be
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 26, 2000
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      In a message dated 10/25/2000 10:38:37 PM Canada Central Standard Ti,
      r_schacht@... writes:

      > My only quibble with Dundes' definition is that myths are not only about
      > origins, as his definition implies, but also about the human existential
      > condition (a la Bultmann). But perhaps Dundes' phrase "came to be" can be
      > construed in this sense as an existential statement.
      >

      Keep in mind that Dundes adds "in their present form," too. So a myth would
      not be only about origins but about "how things came to be the way they are."
      That would include universal origins, local origins (how Krishna and Radha
      made the mountain range, e.g.), and existential conditions such as alienation
      or separation from the divine.
    • Leon Albert
      Myth:10-28 Bob, Continuing our discussion re the concept of myth, its analytic utility and applicability to the gospel accounts of the HJ, in your 10/25 post
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 28, 2000
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        Myth:10-28

        Bob,

        Continuing our discussion re the concept of myth, its analytic utility
        and applicability to the gospel accounts of the HJ, in your 10/25 post
        you cite the definition I offered, *i.e.,* "traditional stories, usually
        viewed as sacred, of interactions between humans, gods/supernatural
        beings, and/or man-gods, often in a set-apart time and/or place." You
        then imply that because Alan Dundes, an "authority" to whom I had
        referred, gave a different definition, *i.e.,* "a myth is a sacred
        narrative explaining how the world and man came to be in their present
        form," this constituted a refutation of my definition. I disagree.
        First, I would contend that my definition can be incorporated into
        Dundes’ broader definition. Second, I would point out that Dundes is
        offering *a* definition, not *the* definition of myth. As he points out
        himself later in his introduction, " there are disagreements about what
        myth is and how it should be analyzed … it is essential that one become
        familiar with the rich variety of theoretical approaches to the
        subject," *Sacred Narrative,* 1984, pp. 2-3. I therefore continue to
        insist on the utility and applicability of my definition. I think Dundes
        would agree that it refers to a major genre of myth.

        Combining my definition of myth with that of Dundes, the term would
        certainly apply to the gospel accounts. They are certainly sacred
        narratives. The are set in a set-apart time and place (the life-time and
        life-place of Jesus). Jesus, a god-man, is described as interacting with
        men and supernatural beings, as well as with God. In terms of explaining
        how the world and man came to be in their present form, it can hardly be
        denied that Christianity looks to the NT for answers to these questions.

        You stress that Dundes "rejects the idea that myths are false by
        definition [and] that ‘myth’ may constitute the highest form of truth,
        albeit in metaphorical guise." I agree, but would direct your attention
        to the words "may" and "metaphorical" in the quoted passage. The word,
        "may," indicates that there are also myths that *do not* constitute the
        highest form of truth. In other words, a myth *may* contain elements,
        or, in fact, may as a whole deal with matters, that are mundane, far
        from "the highest form of truth," or even literally false or fictional.
        Likewise, the characterization of a myth as "metaphorical" means that
        it may not be literally true. As I have previously indicated, and as
        many others, including Mack, have noted, a work even of pure fiction
        may still contain very deep truths (*Hamlet,* and, for some reason, the
        film "Dr. Strangelove" spring to mind).

        This relates to your previously expressed concern (in your post of
        10/22) that some might use comparative-religious methodologies to "sow
        doubt and dissension, and to create the impression that the whole of the
        NT is ‘nothing but’ mythology and, therefore, not to be taken seriously
        by any Thinking Person." These assertions carry some troubling
        implications, not the least of which is that the phrase, "sow doubt and
        dissension" raises the image of protecting a body of knowledge that is
        uniform and certain, but under threat. Such a concern may be appropriate
        in those who see themselves as defending an absolutist thought system,
        but it is hardly a legitimate attitude in those who claim to value the
        methods of scientific and/or historical studies.

        The suggestion that I might be contending that the NT is "nothing but"
        mythology implies: 1) that mythology is not really significant (an
        assertion which I would totally reject), and/or, 2) that the NT is
        something much, much more than the *mere* mythology characteristic of
        other "lesser" cultures (this, of course, would be to fall into the trap
        of ethnocentrism, a high sin for an anthropologist). Am I reading you
        correctly?

        By the way, are you now contending, on the basis of your review of the
        literature on mythology, that the concept of myth, either as defined by
        Dundes or as represented in Segal’s treatment of Bultmann’s and Jung’s
        conceptions of it (re your 10/22 post), does indeed have analytic or
        cross-cultural utility, and applicability to NT studies? And, how would
        *you* evaluate B. L. Mack’s *A Myth of Innocence*? It struck me as being
        very much in the tradition of an anthropological approach.

        Regards,
        Leon
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