A high school student in our church was required to read a book in her English class that claims the Bible is merely a myth. Apparently we can still teach religion in the public schools but only if the lessons attempt to discredit the Bible and destroy people’s Christian faith.
The book is a transcription of an interview with a man named Joe Campbell who asserted that all religions are myths and that all myths are essentially the same. Myths, of course, are fictional stories. So his book promotes the idea that the Bible is not an accurate historical record. According to him, those of us who take the Bible as a serious record about real people, places, and events are just being childish.
The writers of myths, the book says, are seeking to understand and express certain truths about the human experience. To do so, they create mythological accounts in which they personify natural forces. For instance, in the myths of ancient Israel’s neighbors, sea monsters often symbolized forces of cosmic evil.
In Babylonian mythology, Tiamat is the belligerent and monstrous ocean goddess. Another god, Marduk, defeats and kills her, then slits open her corpse lengthwise “like a shellfish.” From these two parts of her body, Marduk forms heaven and earth, and so forth.
But this is nothing like the Bible. Creation was not a battle between squabbling gods, or even between the one God and the forces of nature. God spoke into existence the sea, the land, the skies, and all the creatures dwelling in them and he supervises and maintains everything. Creation is not the carcass of some sea goddess, but the handiwork of the one and only God.
Comparisons between the Bible and mythology are only convincing if one uses very carefully selected portions of the Bible and certain myths. Surprisingly, Campbell’s book about mythology is honest enough to consistently point out the many differences between the Bible and mythology. But doesn’t that destroy his original premise that all myths are basically the same? He seems to be confused, or deceived.
Probably without realizing it, Campbell makes two important points that are true. First, ancient texts can be very relevant to modern people. Despite all the changes in science and technology, people remain essentially unchanged, still concerned about the same pressing issues and still seeking answers to the same fundamental questions.
The Bible is an ancient book that reveals God’s answers to the most important questions in our lives. Where did we come from? Why are we here? What went wrong? What is the solution? Where are we going? Since God is the Author of the Bible, not people, we can depend on the answers we discover in its pages.
Second, ancient and modern myths alike demonstrate people’s belief that there is something more than impersonal forces at work in the world around them. Instead of personifying the forces of nature they are searching for the intelligence they know is behind nature. When you pull back the curtain on eternity, people expect to find not principles, philosophies or forces. They expect to find a Person.
The search for a person behind nature should not surprise us. We are really searching for more than answers to questions. We are also searching for meaningful relationships. We want to love and to be loved. Why? Because we are hard-wired that way by our Maker, the personal God. He is love and he offers love, the greatest love of all through his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
May the Maker and Sustainer of heaven and earth continue revealing himself to us through his perfect Word,
Brother Richard Foster