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[Paper given at the EABS  Graduate Symposium, Maynooth, 8–10 April 2011]

Introduction

That myth is important for Biblical Studies is obvious. The biblical texts use and adapt myths, create myths, are sometimes read as myths, and have formed subsequent myths. The concept of ‘myth,’ however, presents real interpretive difficulties. The word itself eludes a consensual definition; its use and conceptualization is even more scattered, both within the biblical guild and within the broader cognate disciplines. These difficulties lead to practical problems for methodologies: how should one deal with the phenomena of parallel myths? When a myth appears in a text, how should it be understood in terms of its function in the text, the author’s intentions, and the critic’s interpretation? Today I will muse on some of these difficulties and various theoretical approaches, and will offer some tentative ideas, primarily drawn from the areas in which I work. Finally, I will then ask further questions on how these ideas may or may not prove to be helpful.

I will discuss three primary questions which mythology presents. First, what is it? The question of myth’s definition is more than scholarly pedantry: it carries real interpretive repercussions. Any one familiar with Hanson’s work on prophecy and apocalyptic cannot miss how much his analysis is predicated on his particular and problematic understanding of myth. I will very briefly outline some approaches to myth and propose a working definition, to which I will return later. The second question myth raises is how did people in the biblical eras understand myth? While 19th century comparative mythologists assumed it was ‘primitive historiography’ or ‘science,’ I am unconvinced that this is anything more than a retrojection of Enlightenment thinking. This leads to the final question, how do the above two questions affect scholarly analysis of texts which use myth? This has implications both for the ways in which we reconstruct origins of ideas as well as the understanding of final texts, both in terms of meaning and of the relationships between their authors and communities.

 What is Myth?

Although some biblical scholars still seem to use ‘myth’ as a convenient antonym for ‘history’,[1] there is a smorgasbord of more or less useful perspectives on mythology. We can quickly dismiss the pan-solar interpretations of Friedrich Max Müller and his ilk[2]—the most entertaining critique of which remains the essay published at Trinity College Dublin which used Max Müller’s methodology to prove that F. Max Müller himself was a solar myth[3]—although we do not want to forget that astral beliefs were certainly important. For present purposes, I am not concerned with distinguishing between myths, folklore, and fairy-tales, as such attempts are never particularly sustainable and may be a Western oddity anyway.[4] Several useful summaries of the schools of thought on mythology are available in the bibliography;[5] today I will merely mention a few in passing to contextualize our discussion.

Ritual Theory.[6] The Ritual school of mythology argues that ritual and myth are the same thing, and that all known myths were originally connected with a ritual regardless of present knowledge of such. As Burkert has noted, ritual and myths can indeed be mutually supportive, but that does not make them indivisible.[7] I am unaware of any recent biblical scholar who has attempted to ritualize everything in the Bible, although Wyatt still seems to think ritual is the ultimate source of myths.[8]

Structural Theory.[9] Structuralists, the most important of whom was Claude Lévi-Strauss, want to move beyond the surface meaning of a myth to the social patterns which can be discerned through analysis of binary pairs. While structuralism provides a useful prompt to look for greater cultural patterns, its over reliance on binary oppositions and tendency to ignore the particularity of individual myths limits its value. Further, despite the common recourse to complex mathematic-like formulas, conclusions can be rather banal—Carroll argues that a Lévi-Straussian approach to Susanna, Judith, and Esther shows concern over adultery![10] McDowell’s take on Lévi-Strauss aptly sums up my own: “I find myself skeptical to the bitter end yet constantly wondering whether, after all, he might be on to something important.”[11]

Psychological Theories. A number of theorists have attempted to apply wildly divergent psychological theories to the origin or interpretation of myth (Freud, Jung, Campbell, and in a different way, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien).[12] While these kinds of interpretations hold out the possibility of explaining recurrent patterns and tale-types, many of them—besides being mutually  incompatible—are in the final analysis non-falsifiable or overly subjective. Nevertheless, I am inclined to agree with Thompson when he argues that ubiquity of myth must indicate that they answer some sort of human psychological need, albeit not necessarily in the way the psychological theorists have tried to describe them.[13]

Definitions. Having briefly described some previous schools of thought, it is time to attempt to better define what myth is.[14]

Ogden defines myth as a traditional, oral story involving super-human characters of remote antiquity.[15] This definition would exclude myths like Faust or Don Juan; I also wonder how it could apply to the mythology of kingship. It might even exclude Enoch and Noah. Further, the emphasis on orality might make its application in a textual setting problematic.

Lincoln defines myth as “ideology in narrative form.”[16] This definition is in keeping with the “ideological turn” in recent critical thinking, but it is both too restrictive and too general. First, whatever functions to which myth can be applied secondarily does not necessarily define or account for myth as such. I would suspect many, if not most myths exist and circulate prior to their use in a particular ideology. More importantly—and this may just be my prejudice—the term ‘ideology’ is too inherently negatively loaded to function as a proper a priori construct. ‘Ideas’ or ‘perspectives’ would carry less connotations of deliberate falsehood. Despite this restrictive nature, the definition is so broad as to include just about all human discourse; indeed, Lincoln himself notes that his students use his definition against him in class, calling all scholarship “ideology in narrative form.”[17] A category so broad and so connotatively negative is not a useful starting place for so critical a term.

Puhvel claims that “in myth are expressed the thought patterns by which a group formulates self-cognition and self-realization, attains self-knowledge and self-confidence, explains its own source and being and that of its surroundings, and sometimes tries to chart its destinies” and that “legends, folktale, fairy-tale” are “debased forms” of myth.[18] Although Puhvel’s definition is preferable to the previous two, with the exception of the bit on folklore, the items it lists makes it difficult to use and is too heavily biased towards cosmogonic and aetiological myths. However, his emphasis on the interpretation of reality could be a more profitable way forward.

A New Definition. In light of the problematic understandings discussed above, I propose a new definition of myth: “A myth is an attempt to understand and impart meaning to reality in narrative and symbolic form without regard to empiricist concerns.”[19] This definition focuses on function not limited to cosmogonic/theogonic myths, an approach reflecting how other stories function symbolically and meaningfully in the same manner. Although appealing to function like the structuralists and early anthropologists, it is not limiting function merely to group formation. The qualifier ‘without regard to empiricist concerns’ is essential to this definition because it highlights two aspects: one, myth and history are not dichotomous—they simply relate differently to empirical evidence; two, a story’s mythic and historical natures are independent.

Modern societies have stories which function as myth like ancient ones; the myth of George Washington in America or of the 800 years of English oppression in Ireland have the same culturally-defining and –orienting function as the myths of Athena or Abraham. When these modern stories are told not as historiography but as explanations for the way things are or ought to be, they are myths. It is this function which is important—the teller is not concerned with the evidence per se but with how it explains and imparts meaning to reality, and thus function is mythic regardless of what the teller thinks of the story’s historicity. In some cases, a story’s perceived historicity can be used to justify its normativity. This definition therefore transcends specific genre categories; the only generic necessity is narrative; by narrative I mean something slightly broader than ‘story’ but less comprehensive than what someone like Walter Fischer or Bruce Lincoln mean by ‘narrative.’[20] We will come back to the implications of this definition later.

How did people understand myth?

If we are going to define myth as given above, how does that influence the way we reconstruct what myths meant to the original mythmakers? I am not convinced that ‘myth’ was the original form of ‘historiography’ and ‘science’ like the 19th century scholars thought. Besides being rather Eurocentric and condescending, the evidence for advanced Babylonian science and for competing Greek philosophies of myth suggests to me that mythmakers are/were well able to understand the difference between empirical statements and myths. Indeed, Hesiod even puts the following claim in the mouth of the Muses in his Theogony: “We know how to speak many false things (ψεύδεα) as though they were true, but we know, when we will, to utter true things (ἀληθέα).”[21] Even if some myths were sometimes taken as literally factual by groups and individuals, that is not in of itself a large difference between early myths and myths in our contemporary society. This leads me to consider what kind of discourse or mindset is implied by the use of  myth.

Ideology. Caspo and Lincoln understand myth purely in terms of instrumentality: people create and tell myths to control those to whom they tell them; Lincoln has attempted to provide tools for analyzing a myth’s instrumentality.[22] While it is true that myths can and have been used in the service of propaganda, only a rather thorough-going cynicism could maintain that every myth is always and only used as propaganda. It would seem fair, however, to analyze the viewpoints implicit in a myth and to assess whether or not it is in fact being used to advance an interested perspective. But that certainly cannot exhaust the way we read myth; any genre or medium can be used in the service of persuasion or coercion.

‘Transcendentalism.’ Several other thinkers understand myth in a radically different way, which for convenience and lack of a better term I will call ‘transcendentalism.’  C. S. Lewis, in his Experiment in Criticism, understands myth by the effect it has on the hearer or reader. For him, a myth is a kind of story which evokes the numinous and a disinterested fascination, and these kinds of stories exist for their own sake, not for any instrumental purpose.[23] For him this means exactly which stories classify as myths will vary depending on the reader; what strikes one person as fascinatingly numinous may not strike another as such. Nevertheless, Lewis thinks myths last due this attempt to explain a hidden aspect of reality. J. R. R. Tolkien, in a paper given in the 20s but republished in 2008, argues that myths offer “satisfaction of certain primordial human desires,” the most important of which for him is the creative impulse combined with a sense of the unveiling of hidden reality.[24] Thus like Lewis, Tolkien sees in myth an attempt to peel back the layers of normal human understanding. However, he also includes consideration of humankind’s creative nature, what Fisher has called the homo narrans.[25] Thielicke also appeals to myth’s attempt at “a transcending of the merely objective and hence partial aspect of reality.”[26] In attempting to understand whether the form of myth is tied to its transcendental nature or not, Thielicke notes that even Plato resorts to creating his own myths after rejecting traditional Greek ones.[27] All of these interpretations presuppose the idea that logical discourse is not sufficient for explaining all aspects of reality, and that myth is attempting to communicate the numinous or the transcendent element of reality.

While particular theological ideas are certainly involved in each of the above scholars’ ideas, the idea of a transcendent reality need not be out of place in evaluating the type of discourse represented by myth. An attempt to understand the kind of discourse represented by myth—and thereby to understand what mythmakers meant and mean by them—need not imply we are resorting to 19th century canards about mythopoetic thinking. The early forms of such theorizing were based on the ideas of an inherently illogical, animistic nature of “savages,” a view which has been effectively critiqued many times.[28] Nevertheless, recognizing that human creations such as myth and poetry offer a different kind of expression than other kinds of discourse can help us to better understand how they are understood in practice. An interest in meaning, the ‘big questions’—whether this is labelled ‘transcendent’ or not—is surely something which theologians, myth-makers, and poets share.[29]

In his discussion of the “Semantics of myth,” Wheelwright makes a distinction between what he calls “steno-language” and “expressive language.”[30] Steno-language is language which attempts to be precise and logical, like mathematics; expressive language attempts to integrate values and emotions into the communicative act.[31] Wheelwright’s concept of “expressive language” parallels Fisher’s idea of “good reasons” within his “narrative paradigm.”[32] For Wheelwright, a myth is expressive language with “enough transcendental reference,” or what he calls a “diaphor,” which is the “blending of meaning, significations, and participation.”[33] So far, Wheelwright’s ideas parallel the views of Lewis, Tolkien, and Thielicke. But he goes one step further in a way which may be profitable for conceptualizing how myth is and has been used by people, particularly within a religious context. He argues that myth lies on a dialectic between “truth-commitment” and “stylization,” or between pure superstition and pure allegory.[34] The myths which are most effective are those which “fall somewhere between these extremes: they invite some degree of assent, but less than full intellectual commitment.”[35] In a phrase reminiscent of Gadamer, he describes the mindset of myth as one of “serious playfulness.”[36] Wheelwright’s model is a sophisticated one, and one with fruitful potential for the study of myth. They are narratives and remain as such, yet they point beyond themselves, and both aspects are relevant to the user’s understanding of them. This dialectic is simultaneously blatantly obvious and commonly over-looked. I am reminded of Kreitzer’s attempt at reading Moby-Dick: he rather tentatively suggests the white whale might be more than just a whale.[37] Surely a no-brainer? But in his subsequent analysis, he loses sight of the fact that the whale functions within the context of a narrative about whaling. Literarily, Moby-Dick remains a whale; it is only behind the words that audiences catch a glimmer of Melville’s vision of human obsession and finitude. Melville’s work is renowned for its metaphorical resonances, but I imagine much of its distinctive power would be lost if translated from a sperm whale to a Chihuahua. Wheelwright’s formulation, therefore, should help us to understand both complexity and the variation likely involved in the use and interpretation of myths; we should not assume that all users either believed them literally or merely allegoricized them.[38] Further, it will be necessary to assess individual community dynamics when attempting to understand how a particular myth fits within the total picture.[39]

How do these considerations affect textual analysis of biblical texts?

So far, I have posited that a myth is primarily a kind of hermeneutic (i.e., “A myth is an attempt to understand and impart meaning to reality in narrative and symbolic form without regard to empiricist concerns”) which falls somewhere on a dialectic between truth-commitment and stylization with a reference to transcendence. What does this mean when an exegete or historian of religion studying a text comes across language which they identify as a myth, a mythic motif, or a mythic allusion? I will prod this question through three subject areas, on all of which I welcome feedback and criticism. The first is the question of comparative mythology and origins; the second is the way myth is used in a text; the third, is the overall meaning the previous two imply for a text, and the implications of that for the author and intended audience.

Comparison and Origins. A rather important aspect of myth for my work is the question of how to deal with myths which appear in Jewish literature and in cognate literatures; when the same or similar myths appear in multiple texts from the Ancient Near East, what does that mean for interpretation? Are they all simply reflexes of a general cultural milieu? Or was the motif borrowed from one culture or region to another? Or is the myth simply reflective of common human answers to common human questions? Since these kinds of questions are difficult to conceptualize purely abstractly, and since they need to be answered anew in each case, it is easiest to discuss this through an example.

The Chaoskampf motif. Our chosen example is the pattern typically known as the Chaoskampf, or a god’s combat against chaos, often personified as a dragon or serpent. This has been a popular subject for biblical scholars at least since Gunkel.[40]  This motif is particularly complex as many if not all of the Ancient Near Eastern mythologies had a combat which could be characterized under this rubric—Marduk versus Tiamat, Ba’al or Anat versus Yam or Mot, Apollo versus the Python, Yahweh and Leviathan, Thraētaona and Aži Dahāka. While widespread and with many common features, there are still particularities in each attested version. The difficulties such numerous parallels present are not always fully acknowledged.

In the Hebrew Bible, passages which are typically understood to refer to a Chaoskampf occur in the Psalms, Job, and Isaiah, to only name a few.[41] Gunkel famously argued that this idea was borrowed during the exile from Babylonia.[42] The subsequent discovery of the Ugaritic texts convinced the majority of scholars that the source should be seen as Israel’s Canaanite heritage.[43] Rather than pointing directly to the Ugaritic parallels, Yarbro Collins only appeals to a general Semitic and Greco-Roman Mythic pattern in her famous discussion of Revelation.[44] While it may seem most expedient to simply appeal to a Canaanite precedence, the thesis requires at least nominal nuance; first, the presence of a millennial gap between texts is certainly an issue; second, as Wyatt notes, there are elements of the myth in the Hebrew versions which do echo Babylonian but not Ugaritic parallels.[45] [Angel] Further, the Chaoskampf reappears in the apocalypses with a vengeance.[46] Building on the suggestions of Hintze, I have suggested that the apocalyptic reuse of the Chaoskampf has re-borrowed the Ugaritic mythology under the influence of Iranian mythology.[47] Even though the nuances between these various scholars may seem minimal, I think the way one nuances these parallels does make a difference in how one assesses a particular text which uses the Chaoskampf theme. Let us take the brief appearance of the theme in Psalm 104:26. In the psalmist’s praise of Yahweh’s creation, he describes the ocean thus:

There sail ships/and Leviathan that you formed to frolic there. (my trans).

In this verse, Leviathan is merely one of G-d’s creatures, not a primaeval opponent. If we follow through with our posited hermeneutical definition of myth, then this particular use’s interpretation is important. If this is viewed as taking up old Israelite traditions with which its original audience would have been familiar, then either one must understand Israelite tradition as having altered significantly from the Ugaritic version or that the Psalmist is inverting the audience’s expectations. If one posits that the psalmist is borrowing Ugaritic ideas, then the use of the altered  myth becomes almost a critique of Ugaritic religion. Which scenario one chooses will significantly impact one’s placement of the psalm in the development of Hebrew thinking. It also impacts how the use of similar themes in the apocalypses. If it has been a continuous part of Israelite tradition, then its use is not so overly noteworthy, and the Ugaritic parallels merely help us moderns understand motifs otherwise opaque. If not, then its use represents a “revival” of sorts which much be explained.

A further complication comes when attempting to identify allusions or references to the Chaoskampf. A principle coming from folkloric studies is the idea of metonymy, or “catch phrases,” whereby a key word or phrase can condense and conjure up otherwise unmentioned mythic themes or narratives, as when the Voluspá alludes to the story of Odin’s loss of an eye merely with the kenning “Fjolnir’s pledge.”[48] When one lives within a society where something is broadly current, then picking up references can be easy. I suspect everyone here knows from where “my kingdom for a horse” derives.[49] Since the culture of the Hebrew Bible is no longer current, catching such parallels can be more difficult. Scholars assign different Hebrew texts to this motif, and this is mostly due to assumptions as to what constitutes the complex itself. Day connects the myth with creation, and thus creation texts become potential passages.[50] Watson, however, strongly rejects this association, which correspondingly alters her reading of Isa 51.[51] Wyatt, by contrast, seems to think that the Chaoskampf is essentially synonymous with the Divine Warrior motif, which causes him both to greatly expand the number of relevant texts and to claim it is primarily concerned with royal authority.[52] Further, this makes him characterize Creation itself as nothing but Chaoskampf shorn of a king![53] This latter approach threatens to become a modern version of “solar mythology” in its hyper-extension of useful comparison.

This rather cursory overview of the example of the Chaoskampf demonstrates some of the difficulties involved with determining priority when parallel cognate myths exist; the interpretative implications lead us into the next section.

Use in Texts (Literary Criticism).

One of the primary reasons for determining the question of comparison and sources for a myth is to determine how a myth is used and interpreted in a given text, whether the myth interprets the text or if the text interprets the myth. What does the use of the myth say about the author’s view of reality? Is the myth used for its narrative value, its ‘religious’ value, or both?

The re-use of the Chaoskampf myth in apocalyptic literature makes the relevance of such questions highly pertinent. A text can utilize myth in at least two different ways, and scholarship on the apocalypses has often conflated these two. There are at least two methods of utilizing myth which must be distinguished: typological and predictive. Myths can be used as a way of interpreting an event or person: this is like or foreshadowed by that. A good example of this is the common use of Exodus motifs to describe a return from exile,[54] or in depicting a prophet like Moses.[55] Here myth is used to explain or characterize something else, much like an elaborate metaphor. As described by Burkert, “Myth usually takes what has happened once as a model for what is now.”[56] However, myth can also be used predictively: examples would include expectations of a second Elijah.[57] These two uses are quite distinct, but often conflated in discussion of myth in the apocalypses. There is no reason why typological (or aetiological) use of myth need lead to predictive use of myth. A case in point is the ‘Endzeit wird Urzeit’ trope and its often associated Kaoskampf motif. When one investigates these, it is appropriate to ask whether they are being used typologically or predictively. Is the imagery of Urzeit hyperbolic or prognostic? Is the situation like a return to chaos or predicting an actual return of chaos? The two are cognitively very different even if literarily they can be quite difficult to distinguish. Both of these types of utilization are interpretive: they attempt to paint the text’s topic in light of a more transcendent reality as the author sees that to be.

I am inclined to think that the choice quickly offered above, between narrative interest and religious value may be a false dichotomy in the latter respect. Sometimes a story is rhetorically the best way to communicate an idea, and for the biblical texts, those ideas are usually classifiable as religious. [steno-language; ‘consistency’]

Overall meaning of Text (implications for author/audience?). 

Having briefly queried the question of comparative mythology and the use of myth in literary criticism, we are left with the implications for the overall meaning of the text, both in terms of the original authors’ intentions and the implied audience, as well as for subsequent readers. How does the use of myth inform the kind of reality which the author intended to convey?

The use of a myth implies that the material is in someway ‘traditional’ or a general part of the contemporary culture, yet the emphasis on the interpretative nature also suggests the potential for genuinely novel understandings of that tradition. While structuralist approaches to myth would suggest that these myths by needs must reinforce social norms, again the potential for novelty implies a further potential for subversion, meaning that while a myth may be communally supported, it is not necessarily communally supportive.

Beyond these rather general observations, I do not think the presence of myth can be used to determine the kind of author or community implied by a given texts. Myths by their very nature are “Sitz-im-Leben-less,” prone to travelling, morphing, and lasting over long periods of time. As we briefly noted above in the discussion of the Chaoskampf, certain interpretations of the myth have implications for the likely expectations meeting a particular use of a myth. But the usefulness of such depends on a broader historical reconstruction; it cannot lead to firm answers on its own.

Lastly, in terms of what myth says about a text’s view of reality, I think Wheelwright’s concept of playfulness and Tolkien’s appeal to human creativeness can be useful. Humans have an innate urge to create new things, just as they have a need to understand their world. These two impulses are not necessarily confined to separate boxes, and they interact in complex ways. Perhaps the appearance of myth or of mythic themes within a text should be a signal for exegetes to consider how a text might be playing with these two human impulses: being neither systematic metaphysics, scientific historiography, nor pure frivolity.

Exit Stage Left

This paper has charged through some rather complex questions and given all too few answers. I will briefly sum up what was said, and then open up to discussion and critiques. We briefly asked the question of what myth is. I mentioned a few problematic and lingering schools—ritual, structural, and psychological—and proposed a hermeneutical definition of myth. We critiqued the purely ‘ideological’ understanding of myth, and discussed some ‘transcendental’ views. This lead into a consideration of comparison and origins of myths, focusing on the example of the Chaoskampf. We then very briefly made some comments on what these meant for literary criticism of relevant texts and of the overall meaning for a text. I am still left with significant questions towards myth and its uses in biblically cognate fields, as I presume you are as well. Let us discuss.


[1] E.g., David Arthur, A Smooth Stone: Biblical Prophecy in Historical Perspective (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001), 278.

[2] For an amusing overview of the 19th century controversies over Solar interpretations, see Richard M. Dorson, “The Eclipse of Solar Mythology,” Myth: A Symposium, ed. Thomas A. Seboek (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ Press, 1965), 25–63. A more general discussion of Friedrich Max Müller and his type of analysis is available in Eric J. Sharpe, Comparative Religion: a History, 2nd ed. (London: Duckworth, 2003), 35–4.

[3] [R. F. Littledale]?, “The Oxford Solar Myth: A Contribution to Comparative Mythology,” Kottabos: a college miscellany 5: Michaelmas Term (1870): 145–154. The essay is merely autographed as ‘Δ,’ but Dorson claims the author was Rev. R. F. Littledale (Dorson, “The Eclipse of Solar Mythology,”  55).

[4] Stith Thompson, “Myths and Folktales,” Myth: A Symposium, ed. Thomas A. Seboek (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ Press, 1965), 170, 174–175; Fiona Bowie, The Anthropology of Religion, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006), 268; Jaan Puhvel, Comparative Mythology (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ Press, 1989), 3.

[5] Robert A. Ogden, Jr., “Mythology,” Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, vol. 4 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 946–956, is sadly deficient, as is Robert A. Segal, Myth: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford Univ Press, 2004). Eric Caspo, Theories of Mythology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005) and Bowie, Anthropology of Religion , Chapter 10 (pp. 267–304) are better.

[6] For a statement of the theory, see Lord Raglan, “Myth and Ritual,” Myth: A Symposium, ed. Thomas A. Seboek (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ Press, 1965), 122–135. For a discussion of its appearance in Biblical Studies, see Robert A. Ogden, Jr., “Myth in the OT,” Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, vol. 4 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 958–959.

[7] Walter Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual (Berkeley: Univ of California P, 1982), 56–58. His comments remain valuable, despite the problematic biological theories which they follow.

[8] Nicolas Wyatt, ‘There’s such Divinity doth Hedge a King’: Selected Essays of Nicolas Wyatt on Royl ideology in Ugarit and Old Testament Literature, SOTS Monograph Series (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 164.

[9] A summary of the concept from the structural doyen can be found in Claude Lévi-Strauss, “The Structural Study of Myth,” Myth: A Symposium, ed. Thomas A. Seboek (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ Press, 1965), 81–106. For an adjusted attempt to apply the theory to biblical studies, see Michael P. Carroll, “Myth, Mythology, and Transformation in the Old Testament: The Stories of Esther, Judith, and Susanna,” Studies in Religion 12.3 (1983): 301–312.

[10] Carroll, “Myth, Mythology, and Transformation,” 304–312.

[11] John H. McDowell, “From Expressive Language to Mythemes: Meaning in Mythic Narratives,” Myth: A New Symposium, eds. Gregory Allen Schrempp and William F. Hansen (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ Press, 2002), 34.

[12] See Segal, Myth: A Very Short Introduction , 91–108; Caspo, Theories of Mythology , 80–131; Bowie, Anthropology of Religion , 284–290; C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 1992), 40–49; J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” Tales From the Perilous Realm (London: HarperCollins, 2008), 313–400.

[13] Thompson, “Myths and Folktales,”  171.

[14] For a variety of views, see the introduction ( 1–12) of Larson, et al., eds., Myth in Indo-European Antiquity, with its parade of problematic definitions; Bowie, The Anthropology of Religion, 267–304; Caspo, Theories of Mythology; in the context of apocalyptic, Grabbe, “Introduction and Overview,” 20; Breslauer, “Mythology, Judaism and,” 1812–1833.

[15] Ogden, “Mythology,”  949.

[16] Bruce Lincoln, Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship (Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press, 1999), ix, 207.

[17] Lincoln, Theorizing Myth , 207.

[18] Jaan Puhvel, Comparative Mythology (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ Press, 1989), p. 2, 3, respectively.

[19] This definition was previously posited in my dissertation, in Chapter V and in Appendix IV. It is also in the forthcoming revised monograph, Persepolis and Jerusalem, in Chapter V and Appendix III.

[20] Walter R. Fisher, Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value, and Action., Studies in Rhetoric/Communication (Columbia, SC: Univ of SC Press, 1987); Lincoln, Theorizing Myth .

[21] Hesiod, Theogony, lines 27–28 (trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White). Also cited by Lincoln, p. 3.

[22] Caspo, Theories of Mythology , 278–279; Lincoln, Theorizing Myth , 150–159.

[23] C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 1992), 40–49, 52, 65.

[24] Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,”  326, 334–336, 386–387.

[25] Fisher, Human Communication as Narration , xiii, 18.

[26] Helmut Thielicke, The Evangelical Faith: Prolegomena: The Relation of Theology to Modern Thought-Forms, trans. Geoffrey W Bromiley, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997), 74.

[27] Thielicke, The Evangelical Faith , 75–76. Also noted by Gregory Nagy, “Can Myths Survive?,” Myth: A New Symposium, eds. Gregory Allen Schrempp and William F. Hansen (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ Press, 2002), 246.

[28] This is actually one of the main points behind Jack Goody, The Domestication of the Savage Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977). Part two of Lincoln’s study focuses particularly on racist aspects of such theories, Lincoln, Theorizing Myth .

[29] An interest in ‘big questions’ is not limited to myth, despite Wyatt’s attempts to make it so. [cite the footnote where he thinks “meaninglessness” is not an interpretation.]

[30] Philip Wheelwright, “The Semantic Approach to Myth,” Myth: A Symposium, ed. Thomas A. Seboek (Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ Press, 1965), 157. In biblical studies, Bryan has attempted to bring to attention a similar sort of distinction between ‘sign’ and ‘symbol’. See David Bryan, Cosmos, Chaos and the Kosher Mentality, JSPS 12 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 29–31.

[31] Wheelwright, “The Semantic Approach to Myth,”  162–163.

[32] Fisher, Human Communication as Narration , xii–xiii, 109, 119.

[33] Wheelwright, “The Semantic Approach to Myth,”  157–159.

[34] Wheelwright, “The Semantic Approach to Myth,”  165–167.

[35] Wheelwright, “The Semantic Approach to Myth,”  166.

[36] Wheelwright, “The Semantic Approach to Myth,”  167. Gadamer is well known for his understanding of interpretation as a ‘game.’ See Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G Marshall, Second, Revised ed. (London: Sheed & Ward, 1999).

[37] In his essay “Moby-Dick: Encountering the Leviathan of God” in Larry J. Kreitzer, The Old Testament in Fiction and Film: On Reversing the Hermeneutical Flow, The Biblical Seminar 24 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994).

[38] After developing these views on Wheelwright’s essay, I was delighted to find a similar assessment of his usefulness in McDowell, “From Expressive Language,”  38–39.

[39] Cf. The comments Nagy makes about variation between communities as well as which he posits within Greek use of mythos itself. Nagy, “Can Myths Survive?,”  240–242.

[40] Hermann Gunkel and Heinrich Zimmern, Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton : a religio-historical study of Genesis 1 and Revelation 12, trans. K. William Whitney, Jr., The Biblical resource series (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2006).

[41] E.g., Ps 74:12–15; 89:9–10; 104:26; Job 26:12–13; Job 41; Isa 27:1; 51:9–10.

[42] Gunkel and Zimmern, Creation and Chaos .

[43] E.g., Frank Moore Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ Press, 1973), 118–144; John Day, God’s Conflict with the Dragon and the Sea: Echoes of a Canaanite Myth in the Old Testament (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 1985).

[44] Adela Yarbro Collins, The Combat Myth in the Book of Revelation (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2001), 2.

[45] [Check where in Wyatt!!]

[46] Dan 7; Rev 12; 1 Enoch 10; 54; 60:24.[citations]

[47] Almut Hintze, “The Saviour and the Dragon in Iranian and Jewish/Christian Eschatology,” Irano-Judaica IV, eds. Shaul Shaked and Amnon Netzer (Jerusalem: Ben Zvi Institute, 1999), 72–90; Jason M. Silverman. “Of Persepolis and Jerusalem: Towards an Evaluation of Iranian Influence on Jewish Apocalyptic Traidtions.” (PhD Diss. Trinity College Dublin, 2010), 221–230.

[48] Susan Niditch, Oral World and Written Word: Ancient Israelite Literature (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 10–20; for the Scandinavian poem, see Voluspá §27 (Lee M. Hollander, The Poetic Edda Translated with Introduction and Explanatory Notes, Second ed. (Austin, TX: Univ of Texas Press, 2006), 5).

[49] Shakespeare’s Richard III. This example highlights the care one needs to take in investigate such references: few people when using this phrase intend any in-depth analysis of the play itself.

[50] Day, God’s Conflict , 17, 39–40.

[51] Rebecca S. Watson, Chaos Uncreated: A Reassessment of the Theme of ‘Chaos’ in the Hebrew Bible, BZAW 341 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2005), 388–390.

[52] Nicolas Wyatt, The Mythic Mind: Essays on Cosmology in Ugaritic and Old Testament Literature, Bible World (London: Equinox, 2005), 168–173; Nicolas Wyatt, ‘There’s such Divinity doth Hedge a King’: Selected Essays of Nicolas Wyatt on Royl ideology in Ugarit and Old Testament Literature, SOTS Monograph Series (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 151–190.

[53] Wyatt, There’s such Divinity , 178–179.

[54] E.g., Goldingay, Message of Isaiah 40–55, 264.

[55] E.g., O’Kane, “Isaiah: a Prophet in the Footsteps of Moses,” 29–50.

[56] Burkert, “The Logic of Cosmogony,” 91.

[57] E.g., Mal 4:5; Mark 9:11; Matt 11:14; 17:10.