For some people, it is the absolute, incontrovertible truth that the world was created in 6 days by an omniscient, eternal creator god. Some say the 6 days is figurative, but agree that an omniscient, eternal creator God created the world. It is a basic tenet of their religion. Others call this story of creation a myth.
We Often Condemn Myth as a Pack of Lies
While myths are stories shared by a group that are a part of their cultural identity, there is no completely satisfactory definition of the term. People compare myth with science and religion. Usually, this comparison is unfavorable and myth is relegated to the area of lies. Sometimes religious beliefs are held in contempt, but as one small step up from myth.
Myth comes from the Greek word mythos. The Greek Lexicon Liddell and Scott defines mythos as:
- word and
A synonym to mythos from the lexicon is logos. "Logos" appears in the Greek for the Biblical passage "in the beginning was the word." So there appears to be a connection between the world-changing, powerful word "word" (logos) and the often maligned word "myth" (mythos).
The same lexicon search provides other predictable meanings for mythos, including:
- Tale or story
- Rumor or saying and
- Thing thought.
Like Bible stories, myths are often entertaining, morally instructive, and inspirational.
On this site, when I use the word myth as distinct from religion, it is to separate out descriptions of and stories about gods or legendary mortals from explicit tenets of belief, laws, or human actions. This is a very grey area:
- If the Son of God, Jesus, turned water into wine, should he be counted a supernatural being and therefore listed in myth?
According to this treatment, yes.
- If the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, Moses, understood the speech of a burning bush, is this not also a supernatural power?
- If Hercules, son of a mortal woman and the god Zeus, strangled snakes with his bare hands when he was newborn, doesn't that put him in the same category?
It is also called a myth if it appears magical to non-believers. On this site, the effects of Moses on the belief system of Ancient Semites are considered non-myth. He did it. Assuming he really lived, this did not involve magic or supernatural powers, but his physical presence and charisma, the oratory skills of his spokesman, or whatever. Burning bush -- non-fact. Killing the overseer -- fact, as far as we know. So also the attempt to draw up a chronology of the events in the life of Jesus is not a religious act. Almost everything else in this murky area -- like turning water to wine -- is myth(os), but this doesn't mean it's either true or untrue, believable or incredible.
Introduction to MythWho's Who In Greek Legend
What Is Myth FAQ | Myths vs. Legends | Gods in the Heroic Age - Bible vs Biblos | Creation Stories | Olympian Gods | Olympian Goddesses | Five Ages of Man | Philemon and Baucis | Prometheus | Trojan War | Myths & Religion |
Collected Myths RetoldBulfinch - Retold Tales From Mythology | Kingsley - Retold Tales From Mythology | Golden Fleece and the Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Elsewhere on the Web - What is Myth?What is Myth?
Myth in Art
What is Myth?
Classical Studies Supplement.
[URL = < www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/gretaham/Teaching/mythclass/mythreader/godsajaxdemeter.htm >] "Study Guide Two: Approaches to Mythology" lists 8 approaches to myth:
- Ritualist Approach
- Rationalist Approach
- Allegory Approach
- Psychoanalytic Approach
- Historical/Functionalist Approach