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To What Effect Is Myth to Conveying Religious Truths

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 09:06 AM
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A biblical myth is defined by Burrows, (1946) as a symbolic, approximate expression of truth which the human mind cannot perceive sharply and completely, but can only glimpse vaguely, and therefore cannot adequately express. This is in contrast to the usual understanding of the word ‘myth’, which, when in reference to something non-biblical such as, Robin Hood, merely refers to a story which may or may not have happened and represents a higher truth. Good examples in the bible include:

-Jonah and the Whale

-Noah’s Ark

-The resurrection of Jesus

There are three senses in which the word ‘myth’ could be applied to religious texts and religious statements:

-The myth could be a story or fable that is not true, but which has another value. For example, Braithwaite argued that religious myths are inspirational to us, and they provide us with the motivation to lead a moral life.

-The myth could be a literary device that enables us to talk about things that are ineffable, beyond language. So myths help us speak of spiritual and supernatural events in understandable and natural terms.

-The myth could be a method of interpreting ‘ultimate reality’, as described by Tillich. So myths have symbolic meaning in the sense that they open up new levels of reality, or, as Randall argues, their purpose is to bind communities together and urge us into action.

The first advantage of using religious myth as a way of conveying religious truth is that it opens up a lot of boundaries between religion and science that are thus unbridgeable. Biblical stories, for example, might seem strange or absurd to the scientifically-minded modern believer, however, if they read the bible as a powerful piece of literature, which, although may not necessarily be absolutely true, they can still appreciate it as an excellent source of spiritual and moral guidance. This means that the Bible/Torah/Qur’an can all be read and understood by those who...

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