Having read many of your interesting and enlightening articles on this site I am tempted to ask whether there is anything at all in the Bible that you do actually consider to be true? As you seem to dismiss so much of it as mere mythology I am left wondering exactly what you do believe, and why you do so.
Hi John. I really appreciate this question for it affords me the opportunity to answer some criticism that I have also received from fellow believers.
Yes, you are correct that I believe that there is mythology in the Bible but that doesn’t mean that it’s all mythology. By mythology I mean pre-scientific beliefs that do not correspond with what contemporary science informs us about the universe (see the early Jewish conception of the universe). It also means that certain historical narratives are mostly not historical at all (the conquest narratives for example). However, it would clearly be going too far to argue that the Bible is all mythology for the simple reason that within the biblical texts we have solid historical data. For example, that the Genesis flood is a product of prior mythological flood stories retold to make a powerful theological point doesn’t mean that David didn’t rise to power as king over Judah and Israel (2 Samuel 1). That the conquest narratives in Joshua did not (mostly) happen does not mean that the biblical Tower of Babel or that Sodom and Gomorrah aren’t based upon historical fact (although how embellished I would consider an open question). That Jesus, more probably than not, did not flee into Egypt with his parents (which is a clear theological motif for Matthew’s author to remind his readers of Moses) does not mean that Jesus was not a well-known, well-affirmed miracle worker or was not resurrected from the dead.
From the Bible we get solid historical evidence for Old Testament Judaism as well as for Jesus’ ministry and 1st century Christianity. However, what I am very critical of is the biblical inerrantist’s position that the Bible has to get scientific and historical fact spot on in order to be God’s inspired word. As I have shown I don’t accept that presupposition for its not biblical, it imposes an unwarranted standard on the Bible and, if it really is the standard by which we judge the Bible’s inspiration, then it falls flat.
Then, as I’ve tried to show before, that mythology is taken to means valueless or worthless is a modern conception. Mythology, to the ancient authors (say of Genesis), is a category that has much value to them and it is how ancients communicated. I think it is quite clear that God adopted this way of thought and revealed himself through mythology in a way that the authors, as well as all readers through all generations, would be able to understand. This is a view persuasively argued by Peter Enns and Randal Rauser, to name a few. So, mythology hardly undermines biblical truth or biblical inspiration.
So what do I believe, you ask? I believe in Jesus’ deity and resurrection, and I believe in the inspiration and the authority of the Bible. I believe that Jesus is God’s means for salvation for all people and that all people have sinned. I believe that God exists and that it is only the Christian God that does. I see no reason to reject these beliefs.
For more of my thoughts on this subject, readers would do well to engage Q&A – Why are there so many myths in the Bible?