Odysseus Overcome by Demodocus' Song, by Francesco Hayez, 1813–15

Mythology (from the Ancient Greek: μῦθος, muthos, meaning "story", or "narrative") is the study of traditional stories, tales, legends, and folklore; or a collection of myths, especially belonging to a particular religious or cultural tradition.[1] The word mythología [μυθολογία] appears in Plato, which was used as a general term for "fiction" or "story-telling" of any kind.[2]

In classical mythology, mythology was the subject of Latin author Fulgentius in his fifth-century work: Mythologiæ, which concerns the explication of Greek and Roman stories about their gods.[3]

In modern society, Scholars in the field of cultural studies research how "myth" has worked itself into modern discourses, where mythology is applied to certain genres or "universes" in the entertainment industry of television, cinema and video games.[4]

Academia[edit | edit source]

In academia, the term "myth" often refers to stories whose culture regards them as true (as opposed to fictitious).[5] Thus, many scholars will call a body of stories "mythology", leaving open the question of whether the stories are true or false. For example, in Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, English professor Howard Schwartz writes, "the definition of 'mythology' offered here does not attempt to determine if biblical or subsequent narratives are true or false, i.e., historically accurate or not".[6]

Religion[edit | edit source]

Most religions contain a body of traditional sacred stories that are believed to express profound truth. Some religious organizations and practitioners believe that some or all of their traditional stories are not only sacred and "true" but also historically accurate and divinely revealed and that calling such stories "myths" disrespects its holy status.[7][8] Other religious organizations and practitioners have no problem with categorizing their sacred stories as myths.[9][10][11] In terms of etiquette, the word "tradition" is often used in place of "mythology" when referencing belief systems of other religions, such as "Christian tradition", or "Islamic tradition".

Christian use[edit | edit source]

Early Christians contrasted their sacred stories with "myths", by which they meant false and pagan stories.[12][13][14]

Christians predominantly object to associating Christian stories with "myth" due to several reasons: (1) ancient mythologies are often associated with polytheism and paganism,[15][16][17] (2) the term "myth" is often used to indicate falsehood or non-historicity–especially by critics,[15][16][18][19][20] and (3) the lack of an agreed-upon definition of "myth".[15][16][20] However, some modern Christian writers such as C.S. Lewis have described elements of Christianity, particularly the story of Christ, as "myth" and also as being "true"–thus being "true myth".[21][22][23]

Neopagan use[edit | edit source]

Neopagans frequently refer to their sacred stories as "myths". Asatru, a modern-day revival of Germanic Paganism, holds "that the Eddas, Myths and Norse Sagas are the divinely inspired wisdom of [its] religion".[24] Wicca, a Neopagan movement, also applies the term "mythology" to its stories.[25]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Oxford Living Dictionaries, mythology
  2. Oxford English Dictionary, 1st ed. "-logy, comb. form". Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1903.—mythology, combining mỹthos [μῦθος, "narrative, fiction"] and -logía [-λογία, "discourse, able to speak about"].
  3. Fulgentius, Fabius Planciades (1971). Fulgentius the Mythographer. Ohio State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8142-0162-6. 
  4. Ostenson, Jonathan (2013). "Exploring the Boundaries of Narrative: Video Games in the English Classroom". 
  5. Eliade, Myth and Reality, p. 1, 8-10; The Sacred and the Profane, p. 95
  6. Schwartz, p. lxxviii
  7. Hardon, John A. "The Resurrection of Jesus". Real Presence Eucharistic Education and Adoration Association. 30 December 2007
  8. Henry, Carl Ferdinand Howard. God Who Speaks and Shows: Preliminary Considerations.
  9. Menion, Michael. Tolkien Elves and Art, in J.R.R. Tolkien's Aesthetics. 2003/2004 (commentary on Mythopoeia the poem).
  10. Schram, Peninnah. Review: Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism. University of Missouri – St. Louis. 30 December 2007.
  11. Schwartz, p. lxxv, and p. lxxviii
  12. Eliade, Myth and Reality, 162
  13. Oleyar 5
  14. Barrett 69
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Henry, Carl F. H. God Who Speaks, chapter 3
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Greidanus 23
  17. Tyndale House Publishers 9
  18. Nwachukwu 47
  19. Holman Bible Publishers 896
  20. 20.0 20.1 Hamilton 56-57
  21. Sammons 231
  22. Dorrien 236 and throughout
  23. Lazo 210
  24. "About Us"
  25. "The Wheel of the Year / the Sabbats"; "What is Wicca?"; "Workshops and Talks"
  • Barrett, C.K. "Myth and the New Testament: the Greek word μύθος". Myth: Critical Concepts in Literary and Cultural Studies. Vol. 4. Ed. Robert A. Segal. London: Routledge, 2007. 65-71.
  • Dorrien, Gary J. The Word as True Myth: Interpreting Modern Theology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997.
  • Eliade, Mircea. Myth and Reality. New York: Harper & Row, 1963 and 1968 printings (See esp. Section IX "Survivals and Camouflages of Myths - Christianity and Mythology" through "Myths and Mass Media"
  • Greidanus, Sidney. Preaching Christ From Genesis: Foundations for Expository Sermons. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007.
  • Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.
  • Holman Bible Publishers. Super Giant Print Dictionary and Concordance: Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville, 2006.Crossway: Wheaton, 1999.
  • Lazo, Andrew. "Gathered Round Northern Fires: The Imaginative Impact of the Kolbítar". Tolkien and the Invention of Myth: A Reader. Ed. Jane Chance. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004. 191-227.
  • Nwachukwu, Mary Sylvia Chinyere. Creation-Covenant Scheme and Justification by Faith. Rome: Gregorian University Press, 2002.
  • Oleyar, Rita. Myths of Creation and Fall. NY: Harper & Row, 1975.
  • Sammons, Martha C. A Far-off Country: A Guide to C.S. Lewis's Fantasy Fiction. Lanham: University Press of America, 2000.
  • Schwartz, Howard. Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004.
  • Tyndale House Publishers. NLT Study Bible: Genesis 1-12 Sampler. Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2008.
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