Myth and Fiction Are Not the Same

BetteTheRed

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So as not to further derail the Luke thread, I thought I'd bring up a conversation that @unsafe and @Mendalla are having there.

I think a good definition of myth is "story that contains truth". One of Aesop's fables might come to mind. There were never a hare and a tortoise having a foot race. But it's a good way to teach the truth that "slow and steady wins the race".

Unsafe, though, seems to confuse myth with fiction, and thinks that when we look for meaning in myth, that we're somehow avoiding facts.
 

Redbaron

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It took me a long time to learn this. I was brought up with the concept that WE have 'TRUTH', and THEY (whosoever 'they' may be) have MYTHS. I took me a while to catch on that 'myths' were able to speak a more profound truth than a simple literal reading did. Just for example, the two different birth stories of Jesus in Matthew and Luke... They could not both be literally true, as they bump into and stumble over each other, if you try to take them both for literal truth. But read metaphorically, they speak volumes.
 

Mendalla

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I think, though, that myth and fiction are not totally separate. Myths are fictitious in literal terms. Hercules did not kill the hydra. The Trojan War did not happen as written in the Iliad. Isis did not save Osiris from the underworld. And so on.

What is different between a myth and a straight piece of fiction is that a myth carries a truth in symbolic or metaphorical form. It isn't literally true, but it contains truth.

So the Birth Narratives are not literally true, but they do convey truth and meaning about Jesus and the notion of Incarnation.
 

Luce NDs

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It took me a long time to learn this. I was brought up with the concept that WE have 'TRUTH', and THEY (whosoever 'they' may be) have MYTHS. I took me a while to catch on that 'myths' were able to speak a more profound truth than a simple literal reading did. Just for example, the two different birth stories of Jesus in Matthew and Luke... They could not both be literally true, as they bump into and stumble over each other, if you try to take them both for literal truth. But read metaphorically, they speak volumes.
This can create volumes of questions to clear the Eire! Almost biblical the way everyone rejects questioning as myth ... even Trump doesn't like to be questioned!
 

Luce NDs

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I think, though, that myth and fiction are not totally separate. Myths are fictitious in literal terms. Hercules did not kill the hydra. The Trojan War did not happen as written in the Iliad. Isis did not save Osiris from the underworld. And so on.

What is different between a myth and a straight piece of fiction is that a myth carries a truth in symbolic or metaphorical form. It isn't literally true, but it contains truth.

So the Birth Narratives are not literally true, but they do convey truth and meaning about Jesus and the notion of Incarnation.
That could cause sparks among the staunched ... powder kegs?
 

paradox3

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What is different between a myth and a straight piece of fiction is that a myth carries a truth in symbolic or metaphorical form. It isn't literally true, but it contains truth
There are fictional stories which contain truth as well. It can also be argued that symbolism and metaphor feature in fiction. Even in comic strips. ;)

I always thought that myths contained truth about God or the divine, by definition. Hence the difference from legend which features mere humans.

Do myths and legends need to persist over time to be considered more than fiction?

Notice how often we use the word "narrative" these days. It kind of gets around the question of what kind of story we are discussing.
 

Redbaron

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Time need not be all that long-- I can recall a book called 'Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus', or something like that, using the premise to explain differences between genders, and how that causes friction in relationships. Whether or not the book was helpful, the idea was sort of mythic-- a story meant to try to explain ourselves to ourselves.
 

Mendalla

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I always thought that myths contained truth about God or the divine, by definition. Hence the difference from legend which features mere humans.
Myth and legend overlap. The above mentioned Heracles for instance, often reads like legend, but his divine parentage and struggles with Hera generally put his stories into myth.

And I don't think a myth has to be about the divine specifically so much as about the world, its origins, and our relationship to it. I once preached on the Big Bang as a modern creation myth. It is not literally true (the universe did not begin with an actual explosion, but with a rapid expansion) but represents the truth in a simple, symbolic way.
 

Hermann

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Myth, in colloquial English, sometimes means lie, false truth or untruth, as in "myth or truth?" questions. That's why I prefer to use the word "mythology," which is less ambiguous.

In my thinking, mythology metaphorically expresses something that is deeply felt but can't be explained literally. Fiction, in the form of prose, can be more or less metaphorical, but can also contain sheer fantasy and does not usually claim to express deeply felt truths. Poetry can be profoundly meaningful and express deeply felt truths, similar to mythology.

To take mythology literally is, in my view, a big mistake. Mythology taken literally can and does become absurdity. But it is also wrong to regard it as a totally invented fantasy fiction.

Jesus probably became a legend already in his lifetime. the legend grew after his death, elements of mythology were added, and also some outright fantasy fiction. What the historical Jesus really was like can only be imagined. The Jesus Christ that many of us imagine today probably is an archetype rather than a historical personage, the archetype that stands for love and peace, for everything that is good and great and noble in us humans. I regard myself as a follower of this archetype.
 

ninjafaery

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Myth, in colloquial English, sometimes means lie, false truth or untruth, as in "myth or truth?" questions. That's why I prefer to use the word "mythology," which is less ambiguous.

In my thinking, mythology metaphorically expresses something that is deeply felt but can't be explained literally. Fiction, in the form of prose, can be more or less metaphorical, but can also contain sheer fantasy and does not usually claim to express deeply felt truths. Poetry can be profoundly meaningful and express deeply felt truths, similar to mythology.

To take mythology literally is, in my view, a big mistake. Mythology taken literally can and does become absurdity. But it is also wrong to regard it as a totally invented fantasy fiction.

Jesus probably became a legend already in his lifetime. the legend grew after his death, elements of mythology were added, and also some outright fantasy fiction. What the historical Jesus really was like can only be imagined. The Jesus Christ that many of us imagine today probably is an archetype rather than a historical personage, the archetype that stands for love and peace, for everything that is good and great and noble in us humans. I regard myself as a follower of this archetype.
Naturally our thoughts are similar...great to see you posting!
 

revjohn

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BetteTheRed said:
I think a good definition of myth is "story that contains truth". One of Aesop's fables might come to mind. There were never a hare and a tortoise having a foot race. But it's a good way to teach the truth that "slow and steady wins the race".
Fables aren't myths though. So the comparison may not be helpful.

BetteTheRed said:
Unsafe, though, seems to confuse myth with fiction, and thinks that when we look for meaning in myth, that we're somehow avoiding facts.
To be fair that is a common understanding and most of us are taught to think that way early in our formal education. That specific disciplines (literature and ancient studies) use the term more specifically rather than generally is going to be difficult for folks who have not progressed very far in the study of literature or the ancients.

There is, in some Christian corners, a fair deal of suspicion attached to higher study in any discipline. Not sure where the anti-intellectualism comes from because most, if not all, of the Reformers were thoroughly and rigidly intellectual. Which explains why some of the Reformers are treated with so much disrespect from folk who are generally suspicious of their educated neighbours.
 

GeoFee

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"In the beginning was the word." John

"Language is the house of being." Heidegger

"We are wise to avoid the conflation of form and substance." GeoFee
 

Luce NDs

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Is it darth or dearth of darker Eire? Still casts a shadow like the first few words of that Long Dark Veil ...
 

GeoFee

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In the beginning all was oral. Capitalization only became an issue with the emergence of writing. With blackbelt and others, I get and appreciate your notice of the distinction between a capital W and a lower case w in our textual heritage. Have you read Plato on the place of the written word? He notices that text allows people to imagine that they understand something because they can discuss what they have read. For me this is akin to folk who can talk religion but make manifest little experiential evidence of knowing what they talk about. Plato also suggested that reliance on text would diminish our capacity for memory. From an ancient Hebrew perspective, memory is a key element in the health and vitality of any community.
 

BetteTheRed

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From an ancient Hebrew perspective, memory is a key element in the health and vitality of any community.
In which case, we are totally screwed. The advent of the computer/smart phone age has 'ruined' human capacity for memorization, it appears. May have started with text, but it was finished with electronic text.
 
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