8. Demythologizing Mythology

Demythologizing Mythology – Fragment

Contrary to popular and scholarly belief that genealogies in Genesis are just lists of names and of begats, their purpose is to prove that God’s whole enterprise with the creation of humans was a Lamech, that is, a failure. Just as God examined each part of the natural world after it was created in the first chapter and concluded that it was “very good,” he also examined humanity after it multiplied upon the earth and the conclusion could not have been more disappointing: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Gen 6:5‑6). If God wanted to create humans in his own image, they not only had no resemblance to God, but also were downright evil. And when you mess up something, after some grieving and some heart-aching, what do you do? Wipe the slate clean and start all over again, right? That seems to be a no-brainer and there is no wonder that that is exactly what God decided: “So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created ‑ people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them’” (Gen 6:7). And how was God going to wipe out the whole life? Again, for ancient people this was a no-brainer because just as modern people know that if you want to wipe out the whole population you should use nuclear bombs, ancient people knew from the vast literature of antiquity that the way to do it was through a flood: “For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen 6:17). When you have all the power, you can afford yourself to go wrong because you can fix anything really easy and start all over.

When it comes to the story about the flood, I imagine that the smart eyes of scholars start to roll again this time not because the author of Genesis tells some original stupidities but because he plagiarizes an ancient story no doubt, because he ran out of imagination and could not come up with something new. What makes scholars so dismissive about this story is not just the fact that it plagiarizes a popular ancient story but that that story was a patent myth which proves that the Bible not only does not offer any original ideas but is just second hand mythology that does not even rise to the level of genuine mythology.

Although scholars are sure that the Genesis flood is plagiarized mythology, when it comes to explaining what mythology itself is they are no longer so sure. They all agree that myths are stories concocted by ancient people by which they tried to provide explanations about the world as they understood it, stories that are strange and no longer make any sense because they were the product of simple minds that were completely unable to understand the world that they tried to explain. Although scholars agree that ancient people had different minds than theirs and mythology was their confused way of thinking, when it comes to explaining what mythological thinking itself is they themselves seem quite confused:

In spite of the great attention devoted to mythology in the ‎past two hundred years, nearly every student of this phenomenon ‎laments the difficulty of formulating a truly adequate definition of ‎myth. For example, Mircea Eliade, perhaps the 20th century’s leading ‎historian of religion, begins a volume devoted to myth with the ‎admission that “it would be hard to find a definition of myth that ‎would be acceptable to all scholars and at the same time intelligible to ‎nonspecialists.” Closer still to desperation is J. Rogerson’s ‎statement that “finding an adequate and all-purpose definition of ‎myth” remains ‎ an “impossible task”.

One of the earliest definitions of myth was offered by the Grimm brothers who defined myths as (….)

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