So here is an interesting paradox: we can still read those Ancient Greek myths today and find new depths of meaning in them; but we are unlikely to read Ancient Greek science with profit now, because their take on factual reality has been superseded by modern knowledge, which is truer to the “facts of the universe” than the Greeks could possibly have been in their time. In other words, the value of factual discourse turns out to be transient; while myth or imaginative discourse turns out to be enduringly useful.
The holy books of religion, including the Bible, clearly belong in the category of muthos rather than logos. Unfortunately, many religious leaders ignore or misunderstand that distinction today. They want their scripture to have the status not of myth and poetry but of science; they want it packed not with meaning but with fact.Tragically, they fail to realise that a community’s myths are more enduringly useful than its science. More significantly, they fail to realise that the endless reiteration of brute fact, unseasoned by colour or sorrow, is deeply boring to the average listener. (...) when we read, as an ancient myth, the account of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden we continue to be impressed by its contemporary validity as a picture of the power of discontent to destroy human happiness. But if we are told we have to understand it as a description of a historical event, we know immediately the claim is false and are likely to dismiss the story’s importance: and we miss the depths of meaning that a different reading of the text will afford us. Like thousands of preachers before me, in the years when I was expounding the Bible I preferred modern translations because they gave it the false gloss of factual discourse; whereas the majesty of the King James version would have been a far better way of introducing my listeners to the dark beauty and tragic depth of ancient myth.
Ironically, we have reached a stage when it is unbelievers who are more likely to champion the great traditional versions of the Bible, such as the King James, while believers are more likely to resort to the banalities of modern translation. This is because unbelievers, if they read the Bible at all, are likely to read it as a constellation of myths that continue to express the height and depth of human existence, while believers are more likely to try to read it as an information manual, a sort of users’ guide to the universe. In my experience, when you let go of the Bible as explanatory logos, you get it back as depthless myth. That is why, when I quote it in my writing and lecturing now, it is the King James version I use.
Fuck you, Chorazin, and fuck you, too, Bethsaida: if Tyre and Sidon had seen the funky shit I just laid down for you, they’d be kissing my sweet Nazarene ass right fucking now.
Out of Eden flows a river; it waters the garden, then outside, branches into four: one, Pishon, winds through the whole of Havila, lands with gold—excellent gold, where the bdellium is, the lapis lazuli. The second, named Gihon, moves through the length of Cush; Tigris, the third, travels east of Asshur; and Euphrates is the fourth. Yahweh lifts the man, brings him to rest in the garden of Eden, to tend it and watch. "From all trees in the garden you are free to eat"—so Yahweh desires the man to know—"but the tree of knowing good and bad you will no touch. Eat from it," said Yahweh, "and on that day death touches you."
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