Does Bible Present Us With Myths? A Response to Peter Enns.
I am finally enjoying reading Peter Enns' book, Inspiration and Incarnation, about which I had a brief post earlier this fall. Prof. Chris Heard also has a review of Enns in his Higgaion blog. The book appears to be selling like hot-cakes (under 50,000 now in the Amazon rankings). Congratulations Peter!
Peter Enns raises core hermeneutic issues that all serious theological thinkers need to wrestle with, and it is well worth blogging on at least a few of them here.
Peter Enns has a very informed and very intelligent discussion in the first half of the book on the topic of the "Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature." He does a superb job of identifying why this topic constitutes a "problem." In fact the topic has been, and continues to be for many, wrought with pain.
I want to differ with Enns when he joins the majority guild opinion that we should understand chunks of Bible as Myth. On p. 53, Enns asks why the opening chapters of Genesis look so much like myth. His answer: Because they are myth. Many of his readers are shocked!
Enns writes, "Different cultures had different myths, but the point is that they all had them."
I would argue, in contrast to Enns, that Bible makes a critical appropriation of myth. Myth appears in Bible only in "broken," "demythologized," or "faded" form. To be sure, Bible uses mythic images to help convey deep truths, but incorporates them only with what Jacob Milgrom calls "clipped wings."
I know most of the guild will resist me on this tooth and nail, when I maintain that Bible lacks the genre "myth," but I am sticking to this assertion. One of the best books on this is still Brevard Childs, Myth and Reality in the Old Testament. I also have Hermann Gunkel and Gene Tucker on my side. For a good, brief summary of all of this, see Tucker's Form Criticism of the Old Testament, pp. 26-29.
But why does Bible keep mythology at arms length? Discussion to be continued...