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Old 05-30-2001, 09:54 AM   #1
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Post What is mythology?

There are different schools of thought on it of corse. Edith Hamilton adhered to the old Bullfinch style of analysis in which myth really served no higher purpose but was basically either good literature or, an explaination of how the world works at a basic physical level.

But since Karl Jung, many mythographers, such as Mrcea Elliade, Karl Karanye, and Joseph Campbell, assume that mythology is a psychological mean of conveying the truth contained in Archetypes. These are psychological archetypes that are rooted in the human unconscious. With this assumption Elliade identified "the mono myth" the same story told over and over again in many different forms with identifiable elements that remain constant from culutre to culture.

The point is to convey a sense of integration into the universe; to overcome human sense of alienation by understanding and informing the listeners about the stages that one will pass though as one progresses in age. These stanges include the journey of the hero, the toil and adventures of the hero, the return of the hero. For the woman, they ential the Kore (madien) and the Krone.

The Hero is initiated as he sets out on his journey. He leaves home and travels around having adventures and finally returns having triumphed over adversity. He is then wise and is ready to protect the community and to initiate younger heros who are just leaving on their journey's. This is a represetnation of all of us, every individual, as he gets older. The funcition of the woman in a mythological society, according to Cambell is to "re create the warrior." When she is no longer of child bearing age, the woman passes into the phase of Krone and becomes an initiater in her own right.

In his Toward a Science of Mythology Karl Keranye (who was really the best scholar of the three) sets out several ear marks of mythology:

1)Mythology is rooted in its own mythos. It has it's own version of the world at the ontological level. Floklore and legeond are distinguished from myth in that they barrow the mythos of another scheme. So King Author for example is not really myth, although it contians mythical hold overs from an earlier age, but it assumes a Christian mythos and tries to blend it with the older Celtic religion. So a Mythos has to be the original ontolgoical structure of a culture.

2) Set in mythological time. Myth is neve rooted in concrete terms. Like Star Wars, which was consciously laced with Mythical elements because Lucas was a friend of Cambell and his student; "in a time long ago in a galaxey far far away." Nothing concrete, we don't really know when or where it was. "in the begining God created the heavens and the earth" when? In the begining. That was mytholoigcal time.

3) Mythological place; myth is usually not very specific about where things happen. Usually a country or a general region is named but that's pretty much it. Some towns have mythological reputations, but when that happens anthropologists usually assume there is some basis in history. That's why Herclues is assumed to be based upon a real person.

4) Hieraphany and Theophanie. These are manifestations of sacred place and sacred time. They are disruption, the overlap between the higher realm and the mundane. Jacobs ladder in Genesis for example is a hiearphony, an object that emerges out of sacred space and marks the overlapping area in the mundane world as a sacred place.

5) Use of Archetypes. Mythology is based upon the transmission of archetypes. Mythological symbols are archetypical in many ways and can be seen to be so easily in many cases. The Krone, the maiden, the journey of the hero are just some of the archetypes that are important.

There are more, but these will do for now.

Now the Old Testament is clealry full of these elements espeicially in the early part. This answers the question "If we assume some of the Bible is myth and some is not how an we tell the difference?" We can tell because these ear marks of mythology are present, and if they are not present than we can assume we are not dealing with a mythological text. one way we know that Genssi is mythology is because it basically follows the same outline as the creation stories in Babylon and Sumeria. The same things happen in the same order, the first man first woman. order of creation of earth and animals and order of distruption of paradisal state and so on.

Now this introduces another element of mythology, Cosmogany. The ceation story is the cosmogany, the story of how the heavens and the earth came to be. The Genesis story is like a cleaned up version of the Sumerian cosmogany, because it is, it is latter version.

This is also how we know the NT is not mythology. Because it has none of the archetypes. Some lit crit people have tired to say that Jesus' family fleeing to Egypt in his infancy is the journey of the hero, but this cannot be. It may be embellished based upon it, but it is more likely that it is the fulfillment of Midrash based upon JOel and thus is not mythological but a hebrew thing. It can't be the journey of the hero because that is a coming of age initation thing, it is undertaken when the hero is ready to venture forth and learn about life, and it is taken alone; one is not spirited off as an infant by one's parents in the journey of the hero. Now you might say that Jesus' going out to fast in the desert for 40 days was the journey. That would be more like it, but it can't be either because there is no initiation to send him out, (usually initated by a Krone (an old woman) or an old man). And it didn' last long enough, there weren't enough adventures. But clealry it does mirror the archetype that heros are tested alone in the desert or in some remote area away from society.

But so what? We can expect to find some mythical elements in the NT because they are everywhere. They are part of our psyche and we cannot get away form them. We can find the journey of the hero in scientific labratories in Boyle's construction of paraganda to promote his experimental method. So we should find some elements of mythology, but the basic structure over all is devoid of any of the major ear marks of mythology.

This is another way we can know that there is an historical core. The text itself is communicated in such a way as to impart histoircal information. Now some of you will no doubt say "O Hemingway used real places in his writting so they could do that" but you are missing the point if you say that. First, they didn't have novels back then and no one thought about realitstic settings for stories. If it is grounded in concete place and time than it is communicating that this really happened. Such grounding is seen in Lukes Record of the census, Quarias being govener and so on. And place names are abundant in the Gospels. The Gospels are not mythology and the people who wrote them celary thought of them as reflecting real events.

They would not lace the accounts with historical palces and concrete names to foament the impression that it was real, but really made up, because no one thought like that back than and they would have to be major literary geniuses to think of doing that in a sustained narrative. But clearly they weren't literary geniniuses, since Mark and Matt and almost lilliterate.

So, it's just not mythology. I may be embellished, some aspecs may be legondary, and that legond clearly has a basis in historical fact. Jesus may not have healed the leppers we read about in Mark, but he probably did heal some leppers, or someone at some time and his followers probably claimed that he did from the begining because all of that is set in a concete framework which is cleary told in such a way as to convey the truth of the events.

"What we have seen from the begining, what our hand have handaled, what your eyes have beheld"

"And we testify that this is the beloved disciple and we know that his words are true"

It's attested to and concrete it is not mythological and they clearly believed it.
 
Old 05-30-2001, 02:45 PM   #2
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Meta: Historical fiction is the term you're looking for.

Also termed "fantasy" on occassion...
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Old 05-30-2001, 02:47 PM   #3
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An interesting piece of writing, metacrock. Who has said the NT is mythology?

Michael
 
Old 05-30-2001, 03:28 PM   #4
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I was with you until
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
. . This is also how we know the NT is not mythology. Because it has none of the archetypes. . .

This is another way we can know that there is an historical core. The text itself is communicated in such a way as to impart histoircal information. . .

First, they didn't have novels back then and no one thought about realitstic settings for stories. If it is grounded in concete place and time than it is communicating that this really happened. Such grounding is seen in Lukes Record of the census, Quarias being govener and so on. And place names are abundant in the Gospels. . . .

. . . because no one thought like that back than and they would have to be major literary geniuses to think of doing that in a sustained narrative. But clearly they weren't literary geniniuses, since Mark and Matt and almost lilliterate. [sic]
</font>
What evidence do you have that they didn't think that way? What about all of the texts that didn't make it into the canon, with their differing stories, like the gospel of Andrew? If they were just reporting the facts, why couldn't they get them straight, so that later people could figure out when Jesus was born? Why are so many of those geographical references wrong?

What about Mark's Jesus fitting the mold of the suffering savior?

Are you saying that being almost illiterate is a bar to being a literary genius?
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Old 05-30-2001, 03:33 PM   #5
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turtonm:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">An interesting piece of writing, metacrock. Who has said the NT is mythology?</font>
turtonm:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This is the usual apologist assumption that the gospelers were too dumb to create anything on their own. Opposite is true; as mythmakers, they were using their creativity to make things anew. </font>
turtonm:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">My position is clear. Doherty argues that there is enough evidence to prove Jesus a myth-construction. You presuppose that Jesus is real. I argue that there is not enough evidence to permit me to chose between those two views, since all the evidence we have, includin Q and L, are mythology and not history.</font>
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Old 05-30-2001, 04:00 PM   #6
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Originally posted by Metacrock:
[b]But since Karl Jung, many mythographers, such as Mrcea Elliade, Karl Karanye, and Joseph Campbell, assume that mythology is a psychological mean of conveying the truth contained in Archetypes. These are psychological archetypes that are rooted in the human unconscious. With this assumption Elliade identified "the mono myth" the same story told over and over again in many different forms with identifiable elements that remain constant from culutre to culture.

The point is to convey a sense of integration into the universe; to overcome human sense of alienation by understanding and informing the listeners about the stages that one will pass though as one progresses in age. These stanges include the journey of the hero, the toil and adventures of the hero, the return of the hero. For the woman, they ential the Kore (madien) and the Krone.

The Hero is initiated as he sets out on his journey. He leaves home and travels around having adventures and finally returns having triumphed over adversity. He is then wise and is ready to protect the community and to initiate younger heros who are just leaving on their journey's. This is a represetnation of all of us, every individual, as he gets older. The funcition of the woman in a mythological society, according to Cambell is to "re create the warrior." When she is no longer of child bearing age, the woman passes into the phase of Krone and becomes an initiater in her own right.

In his Toward a Science of Mythology Karl Keranye (who was really the best scholar of the three) sets out several ear marks of mythology:

1)Mythology is rooted in its own mythos. It has it's own version of the world at the ontological level. Floklore and legeond are distinguished from myth in that they barrow the mythos of another scheme. So King Author for example is not really myth, although it contians mythical hold overs from an earlier age, but it assumes a Christian mythos and tries to blend it with the older Celtic religion. So a Mythos has to be the original ontolgoical structure of a culture.

Could a serious scholar write something as dumb as this? Or have you misinterpreted him? The distinction between folklore and myth, as we have already seen, is a purely artificial one. I suppose, if you define "myth" in any way you like, then you can come up with a definition that will exclude the NT.

You undermine your own case. Arthur is certainly a myth, with roots in celtic, germanic, christian and other myths, and those in turn with roots beyond. There is no clean "original ontology" of a culture. The Greek, Roman, Near Eastern and South Asia myths all influenced each other. No culture starts out as a tabula rasa. All myth systems are blends of imagination, invention, existing ideas, borrowed ideas, and, no doubt, psychological concepts such as archetypes. Christianity borrowed some from the jews, the greeks, other near eastern cultures, and so on. The Incas got their mythology from the cultures around and before them, along with some invention of their own.

I don't understand how anyone define "myth" in such an impoverished and artificial way.....


2) Set in mythological time. Myth is neve rooted in concrete terms.

Yes, as we have seen, the gospels are rooted the way Robin Hood is rooted in concrete time, by reference to a specific reign (crucified under Pontius Pilate) and to a census that never happened. Quite a few myths are placed in time that way. For example, the Chinese gods are often set in very concrete times; some of them were real people whose flourit is known. Cai Lun, whom I referenced in the other post as the God of Paper, is one example. Many Daoist Immortals were real people who left books and have known dates, such as Wei Po-yang and Ge Hong.

I am sorry you chose a scholar whose views of mythology are so artificial.

3) Mythological place; myth is usually not very specific about where things happen. Usually a country or a general region is named but that's pretty much it. Some towns have mythological reputations, but when that happens anthropologists usually assume there is some basis in history. That's why Herclues is assumed to be based upon a real person.

I know you only have a paragraph to present these ideas, but again a little broader perspective than the Mediterranean littoral in antiquity is required. Geographic concreteness is part of many myths in China.... The god of the Kikuyus resides on top of Mt. Kenya (I looked for him when I was up there, but somehow missed him).... And of course, you can sit under a shoot from the tree in Bodthgaya where Buddha reached enlightenment (I have) and see the very spot where he first preached, at Sarnath. Since these events were not written down until a couple hundred years after this all happened, and there was no Church Militant to enforce the party line.....the ridge of Huanacauri outside of Cuzco was the spot wher Ayar Cachi hovered to point the original Incas to the Promised Land below...which brings me to another concrete location in myth, Mt. Pisgah, where Moses saw his promised land...

4) Hieraphany and Theophanie. These are manifestations of sacred place and sacred time. They are disruption, the overlap between the higher realm and the mundane. Jacobs ladder in Genesis for example is a hiearphony, an object that emerges out of sacred space and marks the overlapping area in the mundane world as a sacred place.

You mean like a Cross at Golgotha?

5) Use of Archetypes. Mythology is based upon the transmission of archetypes. Mythological symbols are archetypical in many ways and can be seen to be so easily in many cases. The Krone, the maiden, the journey of the hero are just some of the archetypes that are important.

Pretty much agreed here.....

[snipped remarks on OT, agree totally]

This is also how we know the NT is not mythology. Because it has none of the archetypes. Some lit crit people have tired to say that Jesus' family fleeing to Egypt in his infancy is the journey of the hero, but this cannot be. It may be embellished based upon it, but it is more likely that it is the fulfillment of Midrash based upon JOel and thus is not mythological but a hebrew thing. It can't be the journey of the hero because that is a coming of age initation thing, it is undertaken when the hero is ready to venture forth and learn about life, and it is taken alone; one is not spirited off as an infant by one's parents in the journey of the hero. Now you might say that Jesus' going out to fast in the desert for 40 days was the journey. That would be more like it, but it can't be either because there is no initiation to send him out, (usually initated by a Krone (an old woman) or an old man). And it didn' last long enough, there weren't enough adventures. But clealry it does mirror the archetype that heros are tested alone in the desert or in some remote area away from society.

I'm confused. Jesus is not an archetypal hero?

But so what? We can expect to find some mythical elements in the NT because they are everywhere. They are part of our psyche and we cannot get away form them. We can find the journey of the hero in scientific labratories in Boyle's construction of paraganda to promote his experimental method.

Aha! So you read Shaeffer and Shapin.

So we should find some elements of mythology, but the basic structure over all is devoid of any of the major ear marks of mythology.

C'mon? The hero dies, visits hell, is raised, redeems his world by his death, has a magical birth, is descended from gods/heroes, crosses magically between worlds (the Transfiguration)...as Campbell says.

We do not particularly care whether Rip Van Winkle, Kamar al-Zaman or Jesus Christ ever actually lived. Their stories are what concern us: and these stories are so widely distributed over the world -- attached to various heroes in various lands -- that the question of whether this or that local carrier of the universal theme may or may not have been a historical, living man can be of only secondary moment.

(Hero with a thousand faces, p. 230-1)

Campbell also writes, on p 30 of the same book, the "nuclear unit" of the hero myth:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.


This is another way we can know that there is an historical core. The text itself is communicated in such a way as to impart histoircal information. Now some of you will no doubt say "O Hemingway used real places in his writting so they could do that" but you are missing the point if you say that. First, they didn't have novels back then and no one thought about realitstic settings for stories.

Sweeping statements....

A five minute web search produced a number of novels from this period...
  • The Golden Ass -- the tale begins with
    Socrates being robbed on a business trip to Macedonia. Escaping to an inn run by a woman named Meroe.....Lucius stops at an inn near Hypata, a town in Thessaly.
  • Joseph and Asenath -- a JEWISH novel, for Pete's sake, dated 200BC to 200AD
  • The Satyricon -- "Unconventional and unique, the Satyricon stands almost alone in literature. It touches on everything,
    especially small-town life and ordinary people. Its characters are mostly of Greek or Near Eastern origin and are probably based on real people; Trimalchio's house has a lot in common with Nero's court."

I could list even more novels, from Greek Romantic novels to the biography of Apolloniu s of Tyana -- there are many, with real places, real people, and real events mixed in with fiction, religion, fantasy and magic. This is more of the insulting, ethnocentric horse manure one hears from apologists, another variation on the eternal theme of "those first-century gospel writers were too dumb to invent anything."

If it is grounded in concete place and time than it is communicating that this really happened.

Right. Like the way Robin Hood lives in concrete places and times, the way artificial gold is duly recorded in the Imperial Treasury Records of China, the way William Tell took place in 1296 in the reign of Gessler, the way... oh, never mind. Why bore readers with still more refutations of this idea that if it is concrete, it must be real? Next time you are in Columbine, you can visit the table under which Cassie Bernall never said she believed in god.

Such grounding is seen in Lukes Record of the census, Quarias being govener and so on. And place names are abundant in the Gospels.

And they are abundant in Genesis too. But you said that was myth. Augustus censused property, not people, and nobody was required to go to their home villages. So much for concreteness.

The Gospels are not mythology and the people who wrote them celary thought of them as reflecting real events.

The gospels are myth: a mixture of fact, invention, artifice, prophecy fulfillment-by invention, myth, archetype, and misunderstandings. They are not mythology (Christian mythology underwent, and is still undergoing, a long evolution and is much broader than the mere gospels.)

They would not lace the accounts with historical palces and concrete names to foament the impression that it was real, but really made up, because no one thought like that back than and they would have to be major literary geniuses to think of doing that in a sustained narrative.

Of course, nobody ever made up things in antiquity using real places. "&lt;hic&gt; Mawma, if you hadn't &lt;hic&gt; mahrried yur bruther, Ah woodna bin thees dumb. Ah wish ah'd bin born in the twenty-first century, when peepul finally lernt to imagine &lt;hic&gt; things. &lt;hic&gt;

Actually, nobody is saying that they deliberately set out to create a fiction utilizing a skeleton of real things. Nobody is accusing them of being malicious, just creative.

Further, we know they actually made up stories using real places to convey meaning or fulfill prophecy. The census requirement to return to one's place of birth did not exist, and was made up to get the Holy family back to Bethlehem. So yes, MC, it is easy to see that the gospelers invented
stories using real places.

But clearly they weren't literary geniniuses, since Mark and Matt and almost lilliterate.

Yes, they were so illiterate that they learned to read and write in a second language....Greek was probably Mark's second language. Do you actually function in a second language? Could you write a narrative in it? My Chinese is fabulous, my accent so good that over the phone I cannot be differentiated from a native speaker, but I would never compose a narrative in Chinese, because I'd sound like an idiot. Written language is ten times as hard as spoken. That was Mark's problem (and Josephus' too, he's a bit apologetic for his awful Greek, and did the first manuscript in Aramaic).

Here we have another version of the ridiculous argument: the gospelers were too dumb to invent anything.

So, it's just not mythology.

Nbdy said it was mythology .....it is myth, though, on its way to mythology.

I may be embellished, some aspecs may be legondary, and that legond clearly has a basis in historical fact. Jesus may not have healed the leppers we read about in Mark, but he probably did heal some leppers, or someone at some time and his followers probably claimed that he did from the begining because all of that is set in a concete framework which is cleary told in such a way as to convey the truth of the events.

I have no doubt that there is an early healing tradition, but most of the gospeler's details are obvious fictions.

"What we have seen from the begining, what our hand have handaled, what your eyes have beheld"

"And we testify that this is the beloved disciple and we know that his words are true"

It's attested to and concrete it is not mythological and they clearly believed it.


"But these things have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, by believing, you might have life in his name."

Lyin' for the Lord has a long and honorable pedigree.....

"They believed it...." is that a serious argument? Are you telling me that all other recorders of mythologies did not believe it? Why should their belief in it make it true? Do you know how many false affidavits are filed each year in the US? They attested to it....really Metacrock, that argument is beneath you. How can write so intelligently and thoughtfully about post-modernism, and then turn around and produce something as un-scholarly as that?

Michael
 
Old 05-30-2001, 04:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Metacrock:

This is another way we can know that there is an historical core. The text itself is communicated in such a way as to impart histoircal information. Now some of you will no doubt say "O Hemingway used real places in his writting so they could do that" but you are missing the point if you say that. First, they didn't have novels back then and no one thought about realitstic settings for stories. If it is grounded in concete place and time than it is communicating that this really happened. Such grounding is seen in Lukes Record of the census, Quarias being govener and so on. And place names are abundant in the Gospels. The Gospels are not mythology and the people who wrote them celary thought of them as reflecting real events.
</font>
er, uh, ever read Plato's "The Theban Plays"?

Ever heard the term 'Classic Greek Tragedy'?


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
So, it's just not mythology. I may be embellished, some aspecs may be legondary, and that legond clearly has a basis in historical fact. Jesus may not have healed the leppers we read about in Mark, but he probably did heal some leppers, or someone at some time and his followers probably claimed that he did from the begining because all of that is set in a concete framework which is cleary told in such a way as to convey the truth of the events.
</font>
OK, so it seems like you're trying to
escape claims of the NT being a myth
by redefining what a myth is.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">

"What we have seen from the begining, what our hand have handaled, what your eyes have beheld"

"And we testify that this is the beloved disciple and we know that his words are true"
</font>
OK, so if he didn't really
heal the leppers in Mark, then that statement
is NOT true. Ie, it is FALSE. And I guess that
this last quote means that we'll have to
redefine what "true" means?

Meta - can I ask what area of study
your degrees are in (your undergrad and the
masters you're working on?).

"So... if it weighs the same as a duck, then
it must be made of wood, and that means....
SHE'S A WITCH! Burn her!" - Monty Python and
the Holy Grail


 
Old 05-30-2001, 08:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">originally posted by MetacrockFirst, they didn't have novels back then and no one thought about realitstic settings for stories. If it is grounded in concete place and time than it is communicating that this really happened. Such grounding is seen in Lukes Record of the census, Quarias being govener and so on. And place names are abundant in the Gospels. The Gospels are not mythology and the people who wrote them celary thought of them as reflecting real events.

They would not lace the accounts with historical palces and concrete names to foament the impression that it was real, but really made up, because no one thought like that back than and they would have to be major literary geniuses to think of doing that in a sustained narrative. But clearly they weren't literary geniniuses, since Mark and Matt and almost lilliterate.
</font>
Metacrock, surely you must know that storytelling is one of the oldest artforms there is. One does not need to be a literary genius to make something up or to weave realistic, contemporary settings into stories. I might also add that the bible is not what I'd call a work of literary genius.
Also, no offense, but in reading your post, I got the feeling that maybe you don't really grasp the meaning of myth. Its really a vast subject that cannot be skimmed in passing if you want to understand it.



[This message has been edited by freemonkey (edited May 30, 2001).]
 
Old 05-31-2001, 03:41 AM   #9
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Lance:
Meta: Historical fiction is the term you're looking for.

Also termed "fantasy" on occassion...
</font>
Historical fiction is a very specific genre. That is not a lie either. There are people who write historical novels, and that did not exist in the first century. It would no more occur to a fist century writter to try and fool someone in that way that it would occurr to them to write in steam of consciousness.
 
Old 05-31-2001, 03:42 AM   #10
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:
An interesting piece of writing, metacrock. Who has said the NT is mythology?

Michael
</font>
You did Michael. You said "they were writting mythology." You said it several times.
 
 

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