Middle Eastern Mythologies
The Christian Story
What are the primary myths of Christianity?
Christians accept the Hebrew mythology of the Hebrew Bible—the creation, the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Flood, the God of Abraham, the experiences of Moses, the prophets and the Israelites—as vehicles of truth. Even more central to Christianity, however, are the words and deeds of, and the events surrounding, the reported life of Jesus. Many of these deeds and life events, while believed literally by some Christians or metaphorically by others, are clearly out of the ordinary. To non-Christians and even to many Christians, then, they are clearly myths, however beautiful or psychologically revealing they might be.
Jesus is a figure who expresses fully the heroic monomyth. He is miraculously conceived by a human woman by way of God. This places him in a fellowship that includes the Buddha, Perseus, and Herakles, to mention only a few great heroes. Like the Iranian Zoroaster, the infant Moses, and many other heroes, he is threatened in childhood by a wicked tyrant representing the non-heroic status quo. His life is dominated by a quest involving temptations and miracles, a search for the father, and even, in one version, a descent into the Underworld (Hell) to confront the epitome of evil. And in the ultimate act of heroism, he overcomes death itself.
It is that death and the resurrection from it on which Christianity is built. The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is known as the Passion. It is told with only minor variations by the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—the biographers of Jesus in the Christian part of the Bible, the New Testament (as opposed to the Jewish part, the Old Testament). To the gentiles who later became Christians, Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.