The Bible and Myths

The Bible contains many great stories of God’s miraculous works. In Holy Scripture, we see God’s great miracles of deliverance for His people. We behold the Lord saving the people of Israel by dividing the Red Sea, allowing them to walk through it on dry land (Ex. 14). We see God declaring His deity before Elijah and the prophets of Baal by bringing down fire from heaven (1 Kings 18). We see God sending a great fish to swallow Jonah for three days and nights before spitting him back out (Jonah 1–4). But most importantly of all, we see the miraculous ministry of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This ministry culminates in His glorious resurrection from the dead and subsequent ascension into heaven at the right hand of the Father. The miracles of Scripture are the works of God in His redemption of His people. Through His miracles, He brings His people to salvation.

The miracles of Scripture also include many strange and unique events that are vastly different from our normal experiences. In the creation account of Genesis 1–3, a serpent speaks, leading Adam and Eve to sin against God. We also read of a donkey speaking (Num. 22), axe heads floating (2 Kings 6), boys slaying giants (1 Sam. 17), plagues sent against Egypt (Ex. 7–12), and God miraculously intervening to stop Abraham from sacrificing his son (Gen. 22). All of these are unique and dramatic supernatural events, unlike anything recorded elsewhere. In these stories we see the visible presence of the supernatural world, where God, angels, and demons are active in the life of God’s people. Each one of them is important to understanding the drama of redemption as God works to deliver His people from sin and its effects.

Yet many have looked at these miracles and unique occurrences in Scripture and claimed that they cannot be true. Liberal Old Testament scholars such as Peter Enns, Walter Bruggemann, and Gerhard von Rad have claimed these stories are “mythical,” “mythopoetic,” or “mythopoeic.” This means that they are stories mixed with truth and falsehood merely meant to teach Israel that God is a God of salvation. Liberal scholarship has claimed that many stories in the Bible are similar to those of other ancient myths, such as those of the ancient Near East. They have claimed that the stories of the Bible are indeed nothing more than myths, on the same level as the fanciful tales of the surrounding nations.

The reality is that the perspective of these scholars is largely predetermined before they even come to the text of Scripture. Before they read the Bible, they come to it with the assumption that miracles are impossible. Others, such as the philosopher David Hume, based his disbelief of miracles on his own personal experience. As he never witnessed or experienced a miracle, and no one he knew experienced a miracle, he assumed that miracles cannot be true. In both of these instances, the decision is made to exclude miracles before one even comes to the text of Scripture.

In reality, the stories of Scripture are not myths at all. They are divinely inspired accounts of what actually occurred. When the Bible says that a serpent spoke, it means that a snake actually spoke. When the Bible says that God parted the waters of the Red Sea, that is what actually happened. These are not myths or fables. God has given these stories as historical accounts of His redemptive actions. And as they come from the hand of God, we should recognize that they possess an inherent validity that the myths of the surrounding nations did not possess. Rather than viewing the Bible from the context of pagan myths, we should understand that the stories of Scripture are the truth of which all myths are but poor copies.

We recognize, of course, that God inspired a variety of genres in Scripture, including poetry, history, wisdom literature, and prophecy. At times He uses poetic and metaphorical language. Psalm 18, for example, speaks of the “foundations of the world” being shaken by the “blast of the breath of thy nostrils.” This obviously does not mean that God possesses a physical nose. It is a reference to the wrath of God against those who harm His people. But the important thing to note is that poetic passages are very clearly defined, as are the historical passages. When we see miracles in Scripture, they are presented as real historical events, and thus to be understood as having actually happened. On occasion, even poetic language is fulfilled literally, such as in Psalm 22, where the death of Christ is described: “they pierced my hands and my feat” (Ps. 22:16) and “they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots” (Ps. 22:18).

The Scriptures are inspired, inerrant, and infallible. The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (KJV). All of Scripture is given by the breath of God. It is God’s inspired Word. And as such, it is without error and infallible. Jesus states in John 10:35 that “Scripture cannot be broken.” This means that the Bible can never be said to be false or incorrect in any way.

Furthermore, Jesus Himself mentions several of the stories of the Old Testament in a straightforward reference to their historicity. In Matthew 12:40, He references Jonah being in the belly of the great fish to point to the way in which He would be buried and rise again from the grave. In Mark 12:26, Jesus speaks of the way in which God spoke to Moses from the burning bush. In each of these, Jesus references the miraculous events of the Old Testament in a straightforward historical manner.

The point that we are to take from this is that all that we read in Scripture is true. It does not matter how different from our own experience it is or how fantastic it may seem to us. The Bible is God’s holy Word and thus true. It does not contain myths. Rather, it is the glorious history of God’s redemptive and miraculous work in the salvation of His people through Christ.

C. Cleveland

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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