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Adam, Eve and the USA

January 15, 2010

Darrel Pursiful (aka Dr. Platypus) posted this video from on Myth Making in Genesis with N. T. Wright. In any given semester, I’m unsure to what extent I will be faced with the problem of the historicity of Genesis 1-3. Often I am forced to be an advocate for a text that students have rejected as nonsense rather than a proponent of the mythological in the text. Hopefully, this brief talk by N. T. Wright on Meaning and Myth will be helpful to either demographic.

  1. January 22, 2010 4:18 am

    I watched the Wright video. I agree that myth can be used to inform how to view ourselves without being literal and stuck on details. I get how one can look at the “thrust” of the Myth — as Wright says. In fact, I just posted about a Hindu myth in the Mahabharata.

    But Wright seems to want it both ways. He wants us not to judge his myth so that he can have it claiming “truths” that he wants it to say. He wants it “true” in many ways. So, he is willing to let the details go, just as long as he gets to decide what the “thrust” of the myth is.

    He tells us that he believes that Genesis tells us the truth when it says that something like “a primal pair getting it wrong did happen.” And that Genesis makes a true claim when it says this world was made to be God’s dwelling and he shared it with humans. [whatever that means?]

    Point is, Wright seems to me to want his Bible myths to be true in very strong ways. He wants to say, “Well, not literally true” which I get, but he does want to decide exactly what part we should hang on to as true.

    So if we get a list of true claims that Wright wants the Bible to say, then we can discuss it. I get how it is important to look for the “thrust” or themes of a text, but that doesn’t mean we can’t completely disagree with those meanings too. But unless one writes down the claims you think are made by the myths, conversations will slide all over the place as people keep moving the meaning to avoid detection. Instead they want to use it as a sacred tribal flag.

    • January 23, 2010 10:48 am

      I wonder if you’re asking a bit too much from a five minute clip. However, I do think the larger point is valid.

      If someone wants to say that a text is “true” without being “factual” (historically, scientifically, or in any other empirical sense) they need to define their meaning. Specifically I want intertextual exegesis or other forms of close-cultural explanations for the mythological in the text. That is to say, I don’t want folk pulling open the Golden Bough and talk about “world religious themes” — give me culturally-tied specifics.

      The same holds for ritual. Often times the same vague arguments for the “thrust” of a ritual is coupled with comparative evidence ripped from their original context.

      From a look at his wider writings, I’m not sure that Wright falls into the trap of using a mythological explanation of the Bible as a “sacred tribal flag,” but I can see how this explanation could be used by armchair apologists as a way of deflecting the Bible from any criticism.

  2. January 23, 2010 7:38 pm

    Thanks for the reply.
    It does sound like Wright has a list of things he wants this myth to say, which is fine. But if he wants them to be “true”, we enter into another realm — another epistemological playground.

    • September 25, 2011 5:36 am

      I much prefer informative arictels like this to that high brow literature.

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