Some people will find this statement shocking: The Bible is a myth.
I remember one of the first times I actually heard someone say this was a teacher in college; he said it to get everyone’s attention and to sound controversial. It worked. Several people sat a little straighter and one even raised their hand to object. It was the first time I had heard someone say it, but not the first time I had heard about it—I had read several authors make this same point, which is why I knew nothing about the statement was even remotely controversial. If anything it was a cheap trick.
A myth is not fiction, and yet for some reason the word implies this to many people. A myth is a legend. Out of my own laziness, I’ll skip putting a scholarly definition here and in its place insert one from the Internet which is basically the same definition you will find anywhere:
Myth: A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes. (Source: http://www.answers.com/topic/celtic-mythology)
Simply put, a myth is a legend that is passed down, and that’s essentially what the Bible (at least the Old Testament) is: a passed down legend.
I wish they would teach the Bible as a myth in church, because studying the Bible as a myth will take you down a path that is even more incredible and even life changing: studying the Bible as a literary work.
The Bible is also full of parallels and symmetry. My favorite book is Genesis which has the craziest literary construction of any book ever wrote. What do I mean by parallels? Look at the "Tower of Babel" (Genesis 11:1-9) and match up the letters—see how they link up:
a. introduction: all the Earth had one language (11:1)
b. people settle together in Shinar (11:2)
c. resolution of people "come let us..." (11:3-4)
d. CENTER OF STORY: God discovers the plot (11:5)
c. resolution of God "come let us..." (11:6-7)
b. people disperse from Shinar (11:8)
a. conclusion: all the Earth now has many languages (11:9)
Do you get the feeling that person who wrote the book knew what they were doing? Then there's also the creation account; look at the order of how it says things were created:
b. sea and sky
c. dry land
b. fish and birds
c. land animals and humans
Here's another...it's the story of Abraham and the promise of a son (Genesis 12:1-21:7):
b. Abram lies about Sarai
c. Lot settles in Sodom
d. Abram intercedes
e. promise of a son
f. Ishmael's birth
g. CENTER: God's covenant
f. Ishmael and Abraham circumcised
e. promise of a son
d. Abraham intercedes
c. Lot flees Sodom
b. Abraham lies abouut Sarah
Entire books have been written about the literary structure of Genesis alone; if you really wanted to dissect it, it would take years of scholarship--and it's a pretty short book.
It’s just Genesis though, right? Nope. You could do a parallel like that of the ENTIRE Bible. You can even do it of the least read books. Take Deuteronomy…
a. God’s Awesome acts at Mount Sinai (Deut 4:1-40)
b. Given of the first tablet (Deut 4:41-5:33)
c. Lessons from God’s past and future care (Deut 6:1-25)
d. CENTER OF STORY: Completely destroy the Canaanites (Deut 7:1-26)
c. Lessons from God’s past and future care (Deut 8:1-20)
b. Given of second tablets (Deut 9:1-10:11)
a. God’s Awesome acts in Egypt and wilderness (Deut 10:12-11:32)
There are hundreds of books out there if you want to know just how intelligently constructed the Bible is. I recommend The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis – Malachi by David A. Dorsey to give you a start. What the Bible says is important, but how it says it is important too—which is why just once I’d love to hear a preacher give a sermon on it.