Friday, October 14, 2011

Is Genesis Mythopoetic & Does it Matter? Part 2

I have taken note that my post entitled: Is Genesis Mythopoetic & Does is Matter? has enjoyed a great deal of hits and have decided to provide the response as composed by a man with much more training than I have received. His brief biography is as follows (according to him, from his own site):
  • Born in 1952 in a U.S. Air Force maternity ward near Panama City, Florida
  • Given my first "real" book by our landlady in San Bernardino, California for my 4th birthday
  • Given my first painting kit around 1960 by my family's Japanese landlady
  • Graduated Bay County High School, 1970
  • Graduated Bay County High School, 1970
  • Graduated Gulf Coast Community College, Panama City, FL, 1972
  • Graduated Mars Hill College, Mars Hill, NC, with a B.A. in religion, May, 1974
  • Graduated Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, TX, with a Master of Religious Education, May, 1977
  • Graduated George Peabody College for Teachers (now part of Vanderbilt University), Nashville, TN, with a Master of Library Science, May, 1981
  • Worked as Business Reference Librarian, Ekstrom Library, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, 1981-1984
  • Worked as Business & Legal Research Specialist, Green Library, Florida International University, Miami, FL, 1981-2010.
  • I have studied art for the most part on my own, through reading and visiting museums, although I had art classes in 7th and 9th grades.  (The one art course in college had a negative effect on my development.)  Due to my reading, I came to be influenced by Celtic art forms in the early 1980's.  A year or two later, I happened onto Jungian psychology and its broad yet deep understanding of symbols and their significance for normal, developmental human lives.
  •  I am now developing my art skills with the view of turning professional.

    Obviously, Steve Morris' observations regarding Symbols in scripture can be taken as authoritative. For supplemental readings and detailed information, see his Symbols & Symbolism page. All text that follows is from Brother Morris.

Symbolism and Myth

While Merriam-Webster has good, general definitions, talking of MYTH in a theological context needs something more specific, or, at the least, broader.

From the Glossary on my Symbolism site,  two definitions:
       Myth    —A myth is a symbolic image, usually a story or other narrative and without regard to whether it is fact or fiction, that points to a greater truth and gives us a deeper understanding of that truth.  Myths often are complexes of verbal images.
                     —Myth, generically, is any story, thing, or person which points to something greater than itself, in which it partakes or with which it has a common, inherent nature.  In this sense, the term is a substitute for "verbal symbol."

For those who would prefer a more recognized source (there are links to quotes from five authorities on my glossary page), here is a relevant quote from C. G. Jung:

      "Myth, says a Church Father, is "what is believed always, everywhere, by everybody."; hence the man who thinks he can live withoutmyth, or outside it, is an exception.  He is like one uprooted, having no true link either with the past, or with the ancestral life which continues within him, or yet with contemporary human society.  He...lives a life of his own, sunk in a subjective mania of his own devising, which he believes to be the newly discovered truth."   "Forward to the Fourth (Swiss) Edition,"     Symbols of Transformation, 2nd.  (Princeton University Press, 1967), p. xxiv.

One of the acute characteristics of all the definitions is that "fiction" is NOT a part of the definition.  Indeed, both Jung (and the theologian, Paul Tillich, in talking of symbols in general in his work, _Dynamics of Faith_) state that a story may be both factual historically and a myth.  The key is if the story contains truth (as opposed to fact), whether for today or for a different generation or culture.

So when Eric referred to the story of Adam & Eve as an "archetypal myth", a Jungian term, it does NOT carry the necessary connotation of "fictional story representing what the ignorant ancients believed," which, frankly, is how too many ill-educated persons mean by myth.

Sorry if I have stepped on anyone's toes.  But Chris does well to introduce an authoritative definition to the use of an often misused term.

Steve Morris
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