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January 28, 2011

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An excellent point Melinda.

A great observation! I wish I had thought of that.

But I can't help but to ask, is it the epistles people are referring to when they claim "it's a myth"? I get the impression that it is the Gospel accounts which are claimed to be myth. And at most the epistles are just that, letters from people who believed the myth. Am I wrong on this?

The resurrection is a myth.
Romans is a letter.

Are these somehow incompatible?

Ron

RonH

"The resurrection is a myth.
Romans is a letter.

Are these somehow incompatible?"

The argument that is being addressed is against scriptures, which Romans is considered to be, being the type of writing that is consistent with mythological genre. It is not a question of compatibility, but a question of fitting into what would generally be accepted as a mythological niche in literature. It would be highly unusual, to say the least, to find mythology couched in the form of personal letters to specific individuals or groups of individuals in history. Since such a form would be a wide departure from accepted literary norms, it becomes much less likely that any portion of a book that is devoted to mythology, rather than historical accounting, would follow the pattern of personal letters. This departure, undercuts the credibility of the argument that such a book should be filed under the mythology section of a library branch.

"Myth"? What in the world are you talking about? Apparently you are addressing a select few who are in on your commentary because this post just isn't accessible to the casual reader.

Never assume that your readers are familiar with YOUR frame of reference, ALWAYS begin with a brief explanation for your argument.

Then again, if this post is meant to be for the cognoscenti then I guess I'm out of luck.

Good old Paul, willing to suffer and die for what he knew was a myth.

Funny, though, at times he reads like he had an encounter with the risen Christ.

Louis,

I doubt anybody means Romans is a myth. They mean Romans contains expression of belief in myth - like the resurrection.

I guess you and the OP are saying Romans fits into the genre 'letter' therefore it doesn't fit 'myth'. That's fine.

But since, as the OP admits, this doesn't support the historicity of the resurrection: So what? Is Christianity about the orthodox classification of the canon in to genres?

If myth is a genre then myth is special among genres. Myth is not like fantasy, science fiction, or sonnet because myths are believed. Also, a believer in myth doesn't read a myth, put it down, and pick up another - at least not one that conflicts with the first.

(Well I guess these days in the USA some myth believers do drift from myth to incompatible myth. But most myth believers stick with one myth.)

Also, it is hard to picture someone waking up one day and saying Today, I shall write another myth like my other myth, but different. It's the genre I write in..

It is easier to picture myth as folklore. The story is passed around and changes in the process.

RonH

Bruce,

What evidence do you have that Paul suffered and died for what he knew was a myth?

I'm particularly interested in your knowledge of Paul's motives.

RonH

RonH

"If myth is a genre then myth is special among genres. Myth is not like fantasy, science fiction, or sonnet because myths are believed."

Perhaps it should be mirth rather than myth as those who share mythology often do it tongue-in-cheek. At least they did in my country, where such stories are handed down often.


"Also, a believer in myth doesn't read a myth, put it down, and pick up another - at least not one that conflicts with the first. "

Actually, this is very likely to be the case. Folks who subscribe to mythology, are likely to be inconsistent and latch on to other mythology that may well conflict with the first. Folks who hold to mythology, in my experience, are not careful thinkers, but in my country, many are heavy drinkers. :)

"But most myth believers stick with one myth"

Not from the examples I've seen.

"It is easier to picture myth as folklore."

I think that this is more what a genuine myth looks like. It is mainly folklore that no one really takes all that seriously and certainly, no one would die to defend its claims to veracity. That is another reason that the accounts of miracles in the new testament fail to fit into the snug suit of mythological garb.

Louis,

You said myth believers are likely to be inconsistent and latch on to other mythology that may well conflict with the first.

I agree. I said some people do that in the USA today. They might even embrace multiple incompatible beliefs (and think they are all good).

The ancients believed their myths and that mythic times were over: You would not run directly into the stuff of myths anymore*. But they also believed the myths still 'explained' things you would run into*. Love, nature, the form of ritual practice...

When the ancients got the opportunity to switch or accumulate myths they were probably just as willing as the people who do this today. The idea that this is a problem leads to two kinds of people. Some are like you and some are like me.

But none of this gets to my main problem with the OP.

The OP claims that 'some contend' that Paul's letters should be classified in the genre 'myth'. I'd like to know who 'some' are.

And supposing that there are 'some' who claim Paul's letters are myth, I'd like to know how the fact that they are incorrect in that claim makes any difference to my claim that the resurrection is likely a myth - meaning simply that it probably never happened.

RonH

* Reminds me of "How do you explain the transcendental laws of logic?"

RonH

"And supposing that there are 'some' who claim Paul's letters are myth, I'd like to know how the fact that they are incorrect in that claim makes any difference to my claim that the resurrection is likely a myth - meaning simply that it probably never happened."

For the answer to the veracity of statements made by a particular individual, we must look to the character of the individual making it. If we find flaws in his character that would lead to distortion, of which we have clear examples, then we are justified in our suspicions about the truthfulness of the written accounts. The flaws that would lead to that have a particular kinds of motivational characteristic. That is, they tend to have a selfish nature in that the individual making the distortion would in some way gain something from this. While Paul could be considered a zealot prior to his conversion, I doubt that we can find any evidence as to his sincerity and dedication to the belief that the new Christianity was an abomination that should be branded as heretical and eradicated on that basis. In this particular way, he remained consistent with his fundamental character after his conversion by being equally zealous, committed and sincere in his commitment to this new movement. Since he was opposed to the distortion of what he viewed as the one living God prior to conversion, he would be equally opposed to any distortion of what he was firmly convinced was the truth about Jesus. It is easy to see the threads of consistency running throughout the fabric of Paul's life and ministry. If anything, this acts as testimony to the obvious fact that Paul did not consider the accounts of Jesus' life, with all the miraculous events surrounding it, as mythology(distortion which he consistently fought against). The letters themselves not fitting the mold of mythology is but one piece of evidence, the other is the life of Paul himself that both run in the same direction and that direction is clearly away from fabricated myths.

Hi Louis,

Thanks for your time responding.

I've been served up some major surprises by people I thought I knew far better than I know Paul. Certain public figures and persons I knew.

So I have to admit that I'm in no position to comment on Paul's character. I haven't met the man. I don't know what to think of the things written about him. I don't know what to think of the things written by him.

I take it you think Paul believed the resurrection happened. I have no idea one way of the other. Suppose he did believe it. Does that make it true?

People believe all kinds of crazy things - some believe they have been abducted by space aliens. Most of these people are not incapacitated. They are often a bit odd. Eccentric. They are prone to magical thinking. But most have normal lives too: jobs, etc.

Maybe Paul was like that. Maybe he had ptsd. I have no idea why he'd believe the Damascus story (if he did). But, there are lots of possibilities.

RonH


RonH

"So I have to admit that I'm in no position to comment on Paul's character. I haven't met the man. I don't know what to think of the things written about him. I don't know what to think of the things written by him. "

You surprise me. I never met Robert Duffy, the lieutenant governor of New York state. He was the mayor of Rochester NY where I reside and have read an article written by him. I gleaned all kinds of information regarding this man's character and abilities through that article. I never met the man, but I know exactly what to think of him and the things he wrote. Sizing up someone is a skill well worth learning.


"I take it you think Paul believed the resurrection happened. I have no idea one way of the other. Suppose he did believe it. Does that make it true? "

Considering that he gave his life in defense of that position, it seems reasonable to think that he believed it. Does that alone make it true. Of course not. But that is not the only consideration to take into account. We must make other things into consideration along with that. We must consider if he had access to evidence of one form or another that made it possible for him to confirm that the resurrection happened. His historical proximity to the event in question would certainly make it more likely than not that he was able to. Some would argue that his encounter with the risen Christ on the road was sufficiently convincing, but other evidence was available to him that would either confirm or deny the event. That being the case and the importance of this event, I should think that Paul did not take it lightly, being the zealot that he had shown himself to be. Unless of course you are denying that Paul persecuted early Christians....In which case I would have to ask for some kind of evidence that this is a false report. I'm sure you understand that I need credible evidence from credible sources for that.


"People believe all kinds of crazy things - some believe they have been abducted by space aliens. Most of these people are not incapacitated. They are often a bit odd. Eccentric. They are prone to magical thinking. But most have normal lives too: jobs, etc. "

They may also be publicity hounds. Or in some cases something actually did happen, but maybe not what they think. For all I know, it could have been a genuine demonic encounter of the third kind that they fail to understand the true nature of. Some have suggested that the preoccupation of these "aliens" in reproductive aspects of humanity points to some kind of angels or maybe fallen angels who lack reproductive ability, but this is mere speculation and to be taken with a grain of salt. There could certainly be problems that are linked to physical disorders that can cause these false experiences. As you said, they tend to be eccentric and it takes a considerable amount of effort and financial resources to work through these eccentricities to get to the bottom of it. Since the health care system is, by many accounts, so broken that we can't even take care of the basics, how can we drill down to solutions of more esoteric medical problems like this, if they are medical problems that is?


RonH

I should add to this that the eccentricities that you point to, are not evident in the accounts of Paul's life. If I were to write an account of one of the abductees, they would certainly be obvious, assuming I relayed an honest accounting.

The very visions were talking about might qualify him as eccentric.

RonH

"The very visions were talking about might qualify him as eccentric."

If he were to fit the model of those you pointed to in our time, he would have to have other oddities and no such are apparent. It is not just the question of being able to function on the job or society, but there is a gravitation on the part of the individual toward many odd things, not just a single one. At least that has been my observation of those I have encountered who exhibited examples of eccentric beliefs and behaviors. It is not a narrow range, but tends to be a broad one that seems to sway them into all kinds of strange directions with many conflicting with each-other. I have, in the past, pointed out these conflicting ideas to them which resulted in a surprised (I've never thought of that) response on their part. Again, there has to be a pronounced inability on the part of the eccentric individual to follow a logical line of reasoning that would disqualify his testimony. I don't think that we see that in Paul. I can see no reason other than the label of "miraculous" that you are disqualifying Paul's "vision"(I prefer "encounter"). Of course if you are willing to offer some other reason, I am willing to give it careful consideration.

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