Beginning with Bultmann, scripture scholars have discovered that the Bible, like other sacred literature is myth. When we hear the word myth we get out the fact checker or truth meter, especially during election season. We are inclined to define myth as something that is untrue. We should be defining myth as symbolic stories that lead us to deeper truth. In this sense, the Bible is myth. As we read the words, we look for deeper meaning, deeper significance for living authentic lives.
The scripture scholars—Bultmann and Bruggemann–and Professor Dickman (Young Harris College) have helped me identify the meta-myth. God is forever calling to live up to the imago Dei in which they were created. In a more positive, non-western theological view, the Greek fathers and mothers were fond of saying that Christ became human so that we might become divine.
I consider the meta-myth of the Judeo-Christian Bible is our existential experience that we are not all that we can or should be. I say “meta-myth” because this is the operative thread woven throughout the Bible. God created the world and each “day” sat back and admired the handiwork—“It—creation—was GOOD.” We are not very far into the story when we realize that all is not good. Murder (Cain and Abel), mayhem (Joseph sold into slavery), deceit and trickery (Jacob and his mother defrauding Esau of his birthright) run rampant. Ah, we get it—we are never quite good enough. We never quite measure up to the imago Dei within us. God is totally Other and we are fallen, that is, incapable of living authentic lives on our own.
This is abundantly clear in the readings from the first Saturday of Lent. God brought the people out of slavery to the production fleshpots of Egypt and offered them a new covenant—a covenant that was not based on a production-consumption economy which Dorothy Day called “the dirty rotten system.” Bruggemann says that the Mosaic covenant was a better deal for the people than the commands of an oppressive Pharaoh:
Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“This day the LORD, your God,
commands you to observe these statutes and decrees.
Be careful, then,
to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Today you are making this agreement with the LORD:
he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways
and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees,
and to hearken to his voice.
Following the covenant will enable the people to become more than what they are. The covenant will enable them to live up to higher standards. One example—the Sabbath counters the production economy by giving people the rest they need to live and thrive in community.
Jesus up the ante and the payoff in Matthew’s Gospel. “You have heard it said, but I say to you:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus fulfills and completes the Mosaic law. The Risen Christ calls people to a higher standard. In our fallenness, the Spirit of the Risen Christ empowers us to be what we are. God is love. God loves you. Love one another. We do not always measure up but we keep on keeping on struggling in our human condition to become more than we are, to be better than we have been.
What a great myth to live by!