I have really started to love Syfy’s Original series Eureka; I can’t get enough of it, along with a couple other SyFy original shows, but last week’s episode made a relevant point about myth “versus” reality/historicity, a point which I believe can point biblical scholars in the right direction in the Historical Jesus versus Mythical Jesus debate.
Fargo, in conversation with the skeptical Dr. Holly Martin (played by Whedony player Felicia Day) about a Dragon who has been let loose on the citizens of Eureka, explains the logical possibility for the existence of dragons:
“mythical is just another word for not yet discovered”-Doug Fargo
At the conclusion of the episode, Fargo brags to Holly, that tons of pounds of impossible is being sent to a compound since Global Dynamics captured the beast. What’s interesting here is that nothing that Eureka’s best and brightest are experiencing is real, but it feels real. Holly was scratched by the mythical dragon, but the injuries disappear; she is the first person to ask questions, coming closer to discovering the truth of their living in a dream world. Dragons are not based on historical realities, but we imagine them as reptiles, and reptiles are real, historical animals. It’s sort of like the unicorns; unicorns don’t exist, but they are constructed as horses, right? So really, the definition of myth should not be seen as something independent of truthful reality or historical experience. In fact, myth, because human beings are story-driven creatures, can tell truth.
Now, of course in biblical studies, mythicists see myth as something diametrically opposed to THE TRUTH. Here’s your mythicist sign! Mythicists, like confessional Christian scholars, are driven by their presuppositions, their past bad experiences with religion, and thus the self is the foundation for their research, in the end. The beginning of objective scholarship and the scientific study of religion is to to first admit our biases, and then move away from them, before coming back to them, so that they be under scrutiny, time and again. This is called being self-critical.
The Father of modern Black Theology James Cone gets the Historical Jesus right:
“We [Black theologians] want to know who Jesus was because we believe that that is the only way to assess who he is. […] Without some continuity between the historical Jesus and the kerygmatic Christ, the Christian gospel becomes nothing but the subjective reflections of the early Christian community.”- James Cone, A black theology of Liberation, page 112-113.
Cone argues that the Black Christ’s birth as a carpenter’s son in the midst of an impoverished shepherd community, his ministry of reaching out to the poor and setting the captives free, as well as the political situation regarding the execution of the Oppressed One makes Jesus’ life even more significant to the African American community. But then again, Jesus acts on behalf of the Oppressed, for the salvation of the cosmos in Liberation Theology. Election moves from particularity to the universal, just as scholarship should.
Mythicists would be wise to adopt the view of myth from Fargo, that their Jesus is not yet discovered, and those who affirm the historical Jesus would be wise to learn from James Cone, that the real, concrete body of the Son of Man as well as the historical setting of this Nazarene has a divine purpose, and are not to be easily dismissed by theologians living in the abstract.