A myth is a story with 'deep explanatory or symbolic significance', and Christian myth is therefore a story that explains or symbolises Christian beliefs.
In theological and academic studies describing a story as myth does not imply falsehood. A true story can also be symbolic and explanatory. However in common usage a myth is a story that is not true. Describing Christian beliefs, such as Bible stories, as myth is therefore usually considered an attack on those beliefs.
Many stories that do not come from sacred Christian texts and still do illustrate Christian themes, or are intended to foster Christian values, or address spiritual traditions. These stories are considered by some Christian journalists, theologians, and academics (see citations below) to constitute a body of Christian mythology. There are also stories which were once taken as true but are no longer accepted by most Chrstians, such as the tale of Saint George.
A selection of such stories might include:
- Stories from the apocryphal books.
- Traditional stories such as that of Abgarus of Edessa.
- Elaborations or amendments to Biblical tales, such as the tales of Salomé, the Three Wise Men, or St Dismas.
- Supplying names for unnamed Biblical characters: see List of names for the Biblical nameless
- Literary treatments of traditional Biblical lore, such as Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained by John Milton
- Literary treatments of themes from Christian theology or eschatology such as the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
- Tales of saints (hagiographies) whose historicity is doubtful, like Saint Christopher or St Catherine of Alexandria
- Miraculous stories of saints such as are found in Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend.
- The legends of King Arthur and other tales of medieval chivalry, especially the Quest for the Holy Grail.
- Legendary history of the Christian churches, such as the tales from the Crusades or the paladins of Charlemagne in mediaeval romance.
- Stories about angels, guardian angels, devils, and tales of making pacts with the Devil (see e.g. Faust).
Stories written as fiction and always known as such are sometimes regarded as mythological if they illustrate central Christian themes very powerfully. However many are better regarded as allegory
. Examples of these might include:
Some people would include J. R. R. Tolkien
's The Lord of the Rings
or George MacDonald
's At the Back of the North Wind
, and Phantastes
in this category.
- Louis A. Markos in Myth Matters, from Christianity Today magazine. Quote: "just as Christ came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it, so he came not to put an end to myth but to take all that is most essential in the myth up into himself and make it real."
- Mark Filiatreau in A Master of Imaginative Fiction, from BreakPoint Online. Quote: "Classics of Christian Myth -- MacDonald’s key mythic works include five full-length books, which we’ll introduce here."
- Abstract of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung, from The CG Jung page. Quote: "The astrological characteristics of the fish are seen to contain the essential components of the Christian myth."
- James W. Marchand in Christian Parallels to Norse Myth, from the Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois. Quote: "This reluctance to weigh fairly the possibility of the influence of Christian myth on Norse myth has had a number of unfortunate consequences. The most unfortunate is the resolute refusal on the part of most students of Norse myth to look at medieval Christian myth."
See also: Myth, Mythology, Islamic mythology, Hebrew mythology, Greek mythology