There are many themes running through the Old Testament myth of Exodus – slavery, rescue and redemption, guidance, commandments on how to live, the creation of a nation, and God’s power over other gods. In this paper I will explore what appears to be the chief reasoning behind the creation of the Exodus myth – the explanation of the creation of a monotheistic religion and the similarities of the Exodus myth to the ancient myths, as well as how one should approach the reading of the myth.
First of all, we need to understand what a myth is. William Bascom says in his essay, “The Forms of Folklore: Prose Narratives”, “Myths are prose narratives which, in the society in which they are told, are considered to be truthful accounts of what happened in the remote past” (Dundes 9). Trying to prove the elements in the myth as factual are contrary to the very existence of the myth. In reading Old Testament Bible myth, the question of divine inspiration versus historical truth is often debated. “A myth makes a valid statement about the origins of the world, of society and of its institutions, about the gods and their relationship with mortals, in short, about everything on which human existence depends” (Graf 3).
Further, the context in which the myth was written must be taken into account when reading the story. Bronislaw Malinowski in his essay “The Role of Myth in Life” says that “The text, of course, is extremely important, but without the context it remains lifeless” (Malinowski 201). The context that needs to be addressed when reading the myth are the cultural and sociological components that surround a mythological text. This context, consisting of the understanding of the culture in which the myth exte...
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...map of proper behavior for the new society that has been liberated from slavery. Within the context of history, the myth offers future generations a glimpse of a new religions beginnings. As the new code of laws is set into place, a new and more powerful god emerges – a god of great strength, a god that supersedes all other gods, one god above all others.
Coogan, Michael D., ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Dalley, Stephanie. Myths from Mesopotamia. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Dundes, Alan, ed. Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth. LA: University of California Press, 1984.
Graf, Fritz. Greek Mythology: An Introduction. Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.
Segal, Robert A. Theorizing About Myth. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.
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