From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Saint George. Painting by Gustave Moreau
Christian mythology is the body of myths associated with Christianity. In the study of mythology, the term "myth" refers to a traditional story, often one which is regarded as sacred and which explains how the world and its inhabitants came to have their present form.[n 1]
[hide]1 Christian attitudes toward myth
2 Historical development
2.1 Old Testament
2.2 New Testament and early Christianity
2.3 Middle Ages
2.4 Renaissance and Reformation
2.6 Modern period
3 Mythical themes and types
3.1 Ascending the mountain
3.2 Axis mundi
3.3 Combat myth
3.4Descent to the underworld
3.5 Dying god
3.6 Flood myths
3.7 Founding myths
3.8 Hero myths
4 Attitudes toward time
5.1 Concepts of progress
5.2 Political and philosophical ideas
5.3 Christmas stories in popular culture
Christian attitudes toward myth
In ancient Greek, muthos, from which the English word "myth" derives, meant "story, narrative." By the time of Christianity, muthos had started to take on the connotations of "fable, fiction, lie". Early Christians contrasted their sacred stories with "myths", by which they meant false and pagan stories.
Within contemporary Christianity, theappropriateness of describing Christian narratives as “myth” is a matter of disagreement. George Every claims that the existence of "myths in the Bible would now be admitted by nearly everyone", including "probably all Roman Catholics and a majority of Protestants". As examples of Biblical myths, Every cites the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 and the story of Eve's temptation. A number ofmodern Christian writers, such as C.S. Lewis, have described elements of Christianity, particularly the story of Christ, as "myth" which is also "true". However, other Christian authors assert that Christian narratives should not be categorized as "myth". Opposition to the term "myth" stems from a variety of sources: the association of the term "myth" with polytheism, the useof the term "myth" to indicate falsehood or non-historicity, and the lack of an agreed-upon definition of "myth".
 Historical development
 Old Testament
Destruction of Leviathan. 1865 engraving by Gustave Doré
According to Bernard McGinn, "mythic patterns" such as "the primordial struggle between good and evil" appear in passages throughout the HebrewBible, including passages that describe historical events. Citing Paul Ricoeur, McGinn argues that a distinctive characteristic of the Hebrew Bible is its "reinterpretation of myth on the basis of history". As an example, McGinn cites the apocalyse in the Book of Daniel, which he sees as a record of historical events[n 2] presented as a prophecy of future events and expressed in terms of"mythic structures", with "the Hellenistic kingdom figured as a terrifying monster that cannot but recall [the Near Eastern pagan myth of] the dragon of chaos".
Mircea Eliade argues that the imagery used in some parts of the Hebrew Bible reflects a "transfiguration of history into myth". For example, Eliade says, the portrayal of Nebuchadnezzar as a dragon in Jeremiah 51:34 is a case inwhich the Hebrews "interpreted contemporary events by means of the very ancient cosmogonico-heroic myth" of a battle between a hero and a dragon.
A number of scholars argue that the Old Testament incorporates stories, or fragments of stories, from extra-biblical mythology. According to the New American Bible, a Catholic Bible translation produced by the Confraternity of Christian...