Monday, January 29, 2007

What is a Jewish Myth?

The tendency of the classical Jewish tradition [is] to liquidate myth - Gerhsom Scholem

Behind speculation, and beneath gnosis and anti-gnosis constructions, we find myths - Paul Ricoeur

What is a Jewish myth? For quite a number of people, that is a nonsensical question. Many have argued that there is no such thing as Jewish myths; being monotheistic, Judaism is a mythless system of belief. You see this thinking, for example, in the title of Frank Moore Cross’s book on ancient Israelite beliefs, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Saga. As far as Cross (and many others) are concerned, only polytheists have myths. Cross had to hunt around for another word to describe the “master stories” of the Hebrew Bible, and he chose “saga.” Elliot Ginsburg writes, ‘Judaic scholars through the 1970’s tended to define myth narrowly and negatively, linking it with so-called “pagan” religions. They therefore tended to see Judaism as a demythologizing tradition, broken only by the “mythic resurgence” of Kabbalah.’ Truth is however, that Judaism has always had its own complex, compelling mythos, starting with the Bible and extending up to today. Most Jewish myths, such as are found in the Midrash, are “spiritual” myths that incorporate divine things and supernatural times and events, but Jews also have secular myths; some of the best modern examples revolve around the founding of the state of Israel. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Jewish or not, what precisely is a “myth?” Set aside for the moment the common use of myth today to mean simply “something that isn’t true,” and instead consider these more sophisticated definitions of “myth".....to read the rest of the article, go to http://www.llewellynjournal.com/article/1302

Zal g'mor - to own the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism, go to: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050.


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