Mythical Truth or Historical Truth

Who was Joseph Campbell? What is a myth? What does "Follow Your Bliss" mean? If you are new to the work of Joseph Campbell, this forum is a good place to start.

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Post by onedone » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Pluralist thinkers such as Joseph Campbell have argued that all religions can be simultaneously true because all religions merely make mythical and/or poetical claims, not historical, factual truth-claims. This assertion of course means that the religions of the world are metaphorically true but literally false.27

However, again, this view flies in the face of historic orthodox Christianity. Whether one is inclined to accept them or not, the truth-claims of Christianity are historical and factual in nature. Jesus of Nazareth was born under the reign of Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, and He suffered and died at the hands of an equally real Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. The historic Christian faith consistently resists and defies all attempts to homogenize and mythologize its central truth-claims. The apostles saw Jesus' resurrection from the dead and reported it as an historical-factual event.

The apostle Peter proclaimed: "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16).28 According to the laws of logic and the historical veracity of Scripture, pluralism, no matter how popular, cannot be true.

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Post by Robert G. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I would tend to agree that the writers of the New Testament intended it to be read that way, although it's always tough to be sure of an author's intentions. But I consider that the most likely reading. And I personally choose to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was an historical character, but I see that as a choice I make for myself, not because I am overwhelmed by the historical evidence which I think is not conclusive but admits of several logical possibilities (the story is entirely fictional, the story is a mythologized history of a real person who was/was not crucified, the story is literally true as told, etc.)

It's always dangerous to invoke logic rules when addressing matters of faith. I think there's little doubt that the Campbellian view is more logically consistent and much more likely to be essentially correct than not, but that doesn't disturb my own faith one bit. I agree with Kant that reason cannot deal with objects that by definition transcend our knowledge, such as God. I have a personal relationship with and experience of God through Christ Jesus that does not depend upon the historicity of the New Testament texts. That's just my experience though, I understand that some people don't know God in that way.
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Post by Calaf » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

It is a very interesting issue that you raise, and thank you for bringing it up. In the first place, one has some doubts about the strength of your logic regarding "historical accuracy." While history has proven a Jesus of Nazareth (Joshua ben Joseph) lived, preached and was crucified, scientific historical inquiry has not uncovered evidence of any miracles, or confirmed the veracity of his claim that he was the Son of God. Bear in mind that all of the New Testament was written down about 30 years after Jesus' death, and it is quite possible that ardent disciples of his message of love "painted him up" to make him seem more impressive to the world.
In fact, your assertion is somewhat inaccurate on its own grounds. Islam makes similar claims about the factual history of everything it chronicles (including Quranic statements "proving" that Jesus was NOT the Son of God). Islam's claims have proven to be about as historically true as Christianity's: there was a Muhammad who taught in Arabia. He did unveil his teachings (the "Quran") to his disciples. He and his disciples did have a forced exodus from Meccah to Medinah.
Therefore, it is difficult to say that any historical basis can disprove all of Campbell's scholarly work and establish Christianity (or any other religion) as the "one true faith."
"Dharma is the best thing for people, both in this life and in the next."<br>-The Buddha, from the Agganna Sutra