The Various Definitions of Myth and their Application to Biblical Material Essay

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The Various Definitions of Myth and their Application to Biblical Material Myths have played an important role in the material covered in class. Authors like Paul Tillich and Norman Perrin have used their own definition of a myth in their views of faith and the bible. Their application of myths to biblical material has similarities and differences. Myths can also be used to explain the differences in Genesis 1- 3 and the resurrection stories. There are several different kinds of myths and understandings as seen through Tillich, Perrin, and the definition used in class that will be discussed throughout the paper along with their similarities and differences, and how they can be applied to Genesis, the resurrection stories, and the Gospels.
A myth, as defined in class, is a story about God(s) designed to convey a truth, it is neither true nor false, and it either works or it does not work. This is different from the common understanding of myth because most people think that a myth is a made up story that has no factual evidence and is therefore false. It can also be interpreted as a false belief used to justify a specific situation. A common example of a myth is that cracking ones knuckles will lead to arthritis later in life when in fact, when knuckles are cracked it is just a gas bubble bursting and arthritis is more complex. This is a myth that can be disproven and when compared to the definitions of myths according to Tillich, Perrin, and the one defined in class, it is the opposite. It can be seen then, that many people have a misunderstanding of myths, at least when it comes to faith and the bible.
According to Paul Tillich, a myth is a story that helps to convey the ultimate concern. Ultimate concern as defined by Tillich is, “the state of being grasped by the power of being itself, by an unconditional concern or by that which concerns one unconditionally”(Tillich 17). Put more simply, ultimate concern is formed by the dynamics of one’s faith. Myths help to bring about ultimate concern in a person. Myths are, “Man’s ultimate concern symbolized in divine figures and actions’ (Tillich 56). They are symbols of faith that result from divine-human encounters. Tillich also says that myths are present in every act of faith because the myth is the language of faith. Consequently, they cannot be removed from a person’s spiritual life, only replaced with more because the myth is what makes up one’s ultimate concern. There are two understandings of myth, the first being an unbroken myth that deals with taking the myth literally. Secondly there is the broken myth, which Tillich advocates. This type of myth is recognized as symbolic and it is turned into something finite. Christianity is also an advocate of the broken myth because of the first commandment, which deals with rejecting idolatry. Tillich says that all elements of the bible should remain as mythological elements and should not be replaced with scientific substitutes since there is no substitute for a myth (Tillich 58). He goes on to assert that some people criticize broken myths because they are deprived of trueness and convincing power while people who believe in unbroken myths feel safe and secure. Followers of unbroken myths have an explanation for everything including the creation story. They believe that it was a magic act. There are also scientific explanations for other biblical events. Basically the idea of unbroken myths is that God is a being that is acting at a specific time in a specific place changing the course of events and is also affected by them (Tillich 60). These types of myths put God at the same level as everyone else and make him not ultimate.
Norman Perrin also defines a myth. He says that myths are ideas that people live by and are prepared to suffer, kill, and be killed for. More specifically, he declares, “myths are the narrative expression of the deepest realities of human experience” (Perrin 9). Myths are formed from mythicized