can stories from a religious text-the Bible, the Koran, the sayings of Confucius-be treated as myths?can stories from a religious text-the Bible, the Koran, the sayings of Confucius-be treated as...

can stories from a religious text-the Bible, the Koran, the sayings of Confucius-be treated as myths?

can stories from a religious text-the Bible, the Koran, the sayings of Confucius-be treated as myths? Using a story from one of these sources, argue the case either for or against this view.

Expert Answers
timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although almost everything has been said, I would just add that "myth" does not mean "untrue" except in the factual sense.  Many myths explain truths in much the same way that the parables already mentioned contain a truth within a "story."  I know that there are people who believe the Bible (and perhaps the other sources, although I'm not that familiar with beliefs in these documents) to be literally true, I just tend to believe that it contains truth although not all the verses are true. 

For example, I believe that the myth of Adam and Eve intends to teach us that creation was/is good, that we are created by a benevolent intelligence, not by an evil God who created us for his/her own amusement.  In some manner, which is not clear from the story, evil entered the world through our choices (although this begs the question of why we would be created with this possibility). 

My favorite author for making sense of this is John Shelby Spong, retired Episcoal Archbishop of Newark.  He has written many books that have raised a great deal of ire among his flock, but I find his writing about Scripture to be excellent.


timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Something can be a myth (not factual) and yet be true in that they present a "truth" in keeping with someone's world view.  For example, the Adam and Eve story may or may not be factually true; but it does convey a truth that is central to a world view, that we were created by a benevolent God, not a malovelent force that created us just to toy with us.  You may or may not agree with this myth, but its purpose isn't to convince/prove.  There are myths about what is importnat or what we are supposed to be in every culture ... look at the myth of the ideal female figure in our present culture.

Just a comment on the post by prizzyperm:  the American Christians plotting to kill innocent people weren't acting as Christians, and there some doubts that they had any Christian affiliations.  The media is all too quick to jump on stereotypes.  I agree that we should not keep silent about view, but I think calling anyone's religious views "ridiculous" is different.  We can present evidence against unhistorical facts, but it is something else to call them ridiculous.


missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many of these stories or sayings can be considered a variety of literary elements.

In the bible, even Jesus explained that stories he used to illustrate a moral were parables. Thus, admitting their use was for instruction or illustration of a principle. I do think you must be careful with the bible, many archeological digs (Dead Sea Scrolls, for instance) give credible merit to the truth of the document.

I am not an expert on the Kuran, but I do believe it intends to offer principles and laws as well to it's followers. I'm not sure mythology fits it.

Confucius offered maxims or aphorisms, statements or generalizations that apply to all people. It is your choice to believe if they do indeed bear truth.

A myth is a story meant to explain something that we know to be true, whether the explanation itself is true is up for debate.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course such stories can be treated as myths.  Many stories, at least from the Christian Bible, can easily be seen as myths rather than as factual descriptions of what actually happened.

For example, in the creation story in Genesis, God only created the sun and the moon on the fourth day of creation.  This seems to contradict the idea that this is a factual account.  Similarly, Genesis claims that there was a flood that covered the whole Earth.  There is no widely accepted evidence that this happened.  In the New Testament, for example, there is the story of Jesus sending demons out of a man and into a herd of pigs.

All of these are stories that are not scientifically supported.  Any story that is not supported by science can be seen as a myth.

timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I guess we'll have to disagree on what makes one a Christian.  Calling yourself one certainly does not; you can call yourself anything you want, but you can't be a Christian and plan on killing anyone.  They may be crazy, but they're not Christians, just people spouting Christian language.  And they're certainly not Christians because you say that they are.

And God does not permit/forbid anything from happening ... if so He/She would have a lot more complicated and horrible things to answer for than one militia group.  This is a very complicated issue and depends a lot on your vision of the world, but it seems to me that God created the world and gave it to us to finish/redeem ... and that we doing a pretty miserable job of it.



besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the answer to this topic really depends on the persons belief system.

A good story from the Bible to use, that some say is reality and some say is a myth, is the story of Noah and his ark. Most Christians would say that this event did indeed happen. They believe it happened because the Bible says it did, they have faith. Some historians have even said that there is evidence that has proven that the great flood did happen. To take it a step further, some researchers think that Noah's ark has even been found.

For those who do not believe in the Bible would argue that this story is nothing more than a myth, perhaps symbols. Some would even say that the events that are described in the Bible are impossible.


coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This one is very tricky! We have to be careful of causing offence with concepts such as "myth" versus "miracle." For example, for some religions, belief systems can be so unlikely that it takes a genuine "leap of faith" to believe in them - yet those faithful who adhere to that take it very seriously indeed - in fact it can form the very core of their faith. Take ,for example, the Roman Catholic faith. Catholics hold the Virgin Mary very dearly in reverence so to suggest that the son Jesus could never have been a virgin birth without sin would be deeply insulting and offensive. Likewise the idea of Christ being present body and soul in the communion bread and wine. This part of the service of the Mass is central to catholic faith.

charcunning eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Such a good question!

That would depend on who your audience is!

Yes, all of those writings can be used as myths. I like to look at the creation myths--Biblical, Greek Mythology, Native American.

It's fascinating to see how the different cultures account for how the world and its residents were formed.

As always, be careful where/how you deliver this information. Bible camp is not the place to espouse that Greek Mythology has the same level of importance as the Bible--there goes that camp counselor job; however, if you are discussing what should be taught in the classroom (evolution vs. creationism), this is a relevant point--whose creationism theory do we use!!???

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just to add another angle to the discussion, I'll return to Noah's flood.  The Old Testament is not the only ancient text to contain a story of a massive flood that "cleaned house," so to speak.  Other ancient texts do as well. 

To some, this suggests that the writer of Genesis uses tales from other cultures to create his version of a flood myth.

To others, this might be used as evidence that a great flood must have occurred for a flood story to be present in multiple ancient texts.  How else can it be explained, it might be argued. 

As besure77 suggests, whether you consider holy texts as myth or not is largely dependent on your beliefs.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I absolutely believe many Bible tales are myths which have been passed on through time. Few Old Testament stories can be factually substantiated, and the writers of the various books certainly used a liberal interpretation of the stories they told. There are some people who treat every word of The Bible as literal, however.

frizzyperm | Student

We have to be careful of causing offence with concepts such as "myth" versus "miracle."... Take ,for example, the Roman Catholic faith. Catholics hold the Virgin Mary very dearly in reverence so to suggest that the son Jesus could never have been a virgin birth without sin would be deeply insulting and offensive. Coaching Corner

Yesterday, 9 American Christians were arrested for plotting to kill innocent people to start a religious revolution. I am outrageously offended by this.

For the last few years there have been waves of evidence that the Catholic church has knowlingly employed and shielded predatory peadophiles. I am outrageously offended by this.

Why should religious peoples' feelings be 'special'? Why are we not allowed to upset their feelings? Religions have tricked us into accepting that they must not be challenged.

A virgin birth? Rising from the dead? A boat full of all the animals? Parting the sea? etc. These are clearly pre-scientific myths, why should we keep quiet.

We don't keep quiet about ridiculous political views.

We don't keep quiet about ridiculous social views.

There is not a single reason why we should keep quiet about ridiculous religious views.

They are just old stories. Every piece of evidence points to it

krishna-agrawala | Student

This is a touchy issue as people have strong emotions about these matters. So I will not directly comment on the stories from religious texts being historical truths or just myths. But I do want to point out that utility and value of these stories in not based in any way on their historical reality. These stories do help us to learn how to improve ourselves and to lead fulfilling lives that lead to individual happiness as well as good of the society.

So why get into this debate about myth or reality. Why make most of what we have.