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DeMythologizing Religion with 1oseph Campbell

n completing The Masks of God,


1
Joseph Campbell wrote that this 12-year enterprise
conIirmed Ior him: 'the unitv of the race of man, not onlv in its biologv but also in its spiritual
historv, which has evervwhere unfolded in the manner of a single svmphonv.
2


The cultural history oI mankind can be studied as
a unit, because themes like Iire-theIt, Ilood, virgin
birth, resurrected hero, sibling murder, Iorbidden
Iruit, tree oI liIe, tree oI knowledge, etc., have
worldwide distribution. No human society has yet
been Iound without such myths. Humanity apparently
cannot maintain itselI in the universe without belieI in
some arrangement oI this general inheritance oI myth.
3

Explaining this universality, Joseph Campbell cites
Iour Iunctions oI myth:
1. to reconcile one to the mvsterv of the universe,
2. to render a cosmologv for interpreting it,
3. to reinforce a moral order, and
4. to unveil the psvche.

Despite which Iunction the myth serves, all myths emerge within cultures in two ways:

As Art, myth reIlects a spirit oI Iantasy and play to instruct as well as entertain. Greek myths
emerged as Art with classical heroes Hercules, Theseus, and Perseus studied as literature; and

As Religion, myth poses as Iactual or revealed truth to conIer spiritual authority and temporal
power. Judeo-Christian myths emerged as Religion with the Hebrew patriarchs Noah, Moses,
and Abraham--even Jesus--studied as history.

SCIEACE UAJEILS 1HE MY1HS
he unveiling oI these myths began in modern times through the scholarship oI the early 19
th

century through archeology, anthropology, philology, and psychology. This scientiIic unveiling
was particularly disruptive to religions that had inherited their myths as revealed truths. Most oI

1
Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mvthologv, vol. 1; Oriental Mvthologv, vol. 2; Occidental Mvthologv, vol. 3;
Creative Mvthologv, vol. 4 (New York: Viking, 1964).
2
Ibid., Introduction to each volume.
3
James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough. The Roots of Religion and Folklore (New York: Avenel Books, 1981); Jessie Weston,
From Ritual to Romance (Cambridge: University Press, 1920); F.R.B. Godolphin, Great Classical Mvths (New York: Random
House, 1964); Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton: University Press, 1973); Carl G. Jung, Svmbols
of Transformation, translated by R.F.C. Hull (New York: Pantheon, 1956); Robert Graves, The Greek Mvths (New York:
Penguin, 1955); and Mircea Eliade, Cosmos and Historv. The Mvth of the Eternal Return, translated by Willard R. Trask (New
York: Harper & Row, 1959).


S.T. Harty Demvthologi:ing Religion with Joseph Campbell Page 2


Genesis in the Hebrew scriptures could no longer be accepted as literally true. Such demythologizing
shook the Jewish and Christian claim to divine authority.

In Archeologv
he Rosetta Stone was discovered
4
as the key to Egyptian hieroglyphics, which revealed a civilized
religious literature 2,000 years earlier than the Greek or Hebrew. Two decades later, excavations oI the
ancient cities oI Ninevah and Babylon unearthed the treasures oI the Mesopotamia civilization.
5
Further
excavations oI Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man and the civilizations oI Troy, Mycenae, and Crete
produced a growing consensus on the universality oI basic mythological themes.

Archeological discoveries revealed that the two Iron-Age Eastern Mediterranean traditionsGreek
and Hebrewhad common elements derived Irom the preceding Bronze-Age civilization oI Mesopotamia but
with very discordant approaches.

In Philologv
he Iirst surprising revelation in the study oI written records was that Sanskrit and Latin were
remarkably alike.
6
A comparative study oI the grammatical structures oI Latin, Greek, Sanskrit,
Persian, and German determined that they all had a common source.
7
Closely related but broadly scattered
tongues distributed over the majority oI the civilized world were now considered Indo-European
languages.
8
Europe was elated and the Grimm brothers went to work collecting Iairy tales.
9


The similarity oI myth was revealed in languages and literary Iorms Irom Ireland to India. This
discovery oI ethnic continuity united Greek Humanism with German Paganism with Indian Upanishads
and Buddhist Sutras and with Judeo-Christian belieIs.

In Anthropologv
esearch revealed that the earliest Indo-European tribes, centered around the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, were already a mix oI races. The myths thought to be an Indo-European invention were
actually derived Irom much earlier and more highly developed cultures oI ancient Egypt, Crete, and
Mesopotamia. The divine source oI the higher religions was now recognized as universal mythology not
peculiar to any single tradition but common to the religious lore oI mankind. Boundaries dissolved that
had previously distinguished orthodox Irom gentile or high church Irom primitive.

Once the underlying mythology oI all religions was recognized, another query presented itselI.
Whether such myths as virgin birth, hero`s death and resurrection, creation out oI nothing, etc., should be
dismissed as primitive superstition or interpreted as transcendent symbols representing values beyond
rationality.
In Psvchologv
wareness about the unconscious had to await the 20
th
century Ior application to ethnology, initiated
speciIically by Carl G. Jung.
10
Earlier psychologists
11
had prepared the way along with work by

4
Jean Franois Champollion, 1821.
5
Sir Austen Henry Layard, 1845-1850.
6
Father Coeurdoux, a French Jesuit in India, 1767.
7
Franz Bopp (1791-1867).
8
Sir William Jones (1746-1794).
9
Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859).
10
Carl G. Jung, Psvchologv of the Unconscious. translated by Dr. Beatrice M. Hinkle (New York: MoIIatt, 1916).
11
Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) and Jean Martin Charcot (1825-1893).
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Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche as well as Goethe, Ibsen, and Wagner. Hypotheses about the
unconscious could now be applied in the Iields oI religion, mythology, pre-history, Iolklore, literature,
and the arts.

The discipline oI psychology asked whether these universal myths were spontaneous products oI the
psyche or inventions oI particular times and persons that either appeared independently around the world
12

or spread by migration and commerce.
13


1HE SACRED WORD
he results oI modern scholarship in archeology, anthropology, philology, and psychology changed
thinking toward the world`s great religions. The sacred scriptures oI religions could no longer be
relied upon Ior an understanding oI God, rather they more truly provided an understanding oI the
believers themselves.

Unlike the religions oI 'the Book (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), which enshrined their sacred
traditions in a book guarded with authority, Greek 'theology was not Iormulated by priests and prophets
but by poets and philosophers.
14
Greek tales oI the gods were not meant to be aIIixed in the mind as
reality but to reIlect beyond. The diIIerence is immense.

Sacred scriptures give the appearance oI conscientious history, whereas they reIlect myths or poetry
Irom a vested point oI view.
15
Thus, we understand religions by demythologizing their scripture, not by
accepting their 'revealed truths.

For example, scholarly analysis oI the Hebrew scriptures reveals Iive separate source materials and
points oI view, ranging Irom the 9
th
century to the 4
th
century BCE.
16
To demythologize these interwoven
texts, scholars separate the earlier Irom the later sources as well as rework the earlier by the later, then
compare languages, symbols, and images with other and earlier textual material, both within and beyond
that culture. In doing so, they are able to distinguish myth Irom history.
17


ORICIAS BEYOAD MEMORY
et`s start with creation. The world is Iull oI creation myths and, as Joseph Campbell said, all oI
them are IalseIactually! In what way they are Ialse depends on how old the myths are. Creation
myths Iollow an evolutionary sequence.

1. The oldest ones have the world born of a goddess on her own.
2. The older ones have the world born of a goddess with a male consort.
3. The newer ones have the world fashioned from the bodv of a goddess bv a male warrior.
4. The newest ones have the world created bv the unaided power of a male god alone.

12
The theory oI parallel development.
13
The theory oI diIIusion.
14
F.M. CornIord, Greek Religious Thought from Homer to the Age of Alexander (New York: Dutton, 1923).
15
William Foxwell Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianitv. Monotheism and the Historical Process (New York:
Doubleday, 1957).
16
Bernard W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament (New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1966). Also, Robert H. PIeiIIer, The
Books of the Old Testament (New York: Harper & Row, 1965).
17
Elmer W.K. Mould, H.Neil Richardson & Robert F. Berkey, Essentials of Bible Historv (New York: Ronald Press Co., 1966).
S.T. Harty Demvthologi:ing Religion with Joseph Campbell Page 4



In Earlv Sumerian Creation Mvths
18

he goddess Nammu, whose name is written with the pictograph Ior 'primeval sea, was the mother
by herselI oI both Heaven and Earth, which were pictured in the singular Iorm oI a cosmic
mountain.
19
Yet, signiIicantly, this primordial Iorm had a dual nature: the base, which was Iemale, was
Earth; the summit, which was male, was Heaven. Then, Heaven begot the Air, which separated Heaven
and Earth, tearing them apart. We see this 'splitting oI One-into-Two in many mythic variations.

In Sumeria, Nammu and her pantheon oI gods lived in their heaven, tilling their crops oI grain. Much
later when the crops Iailed, Nammu asked one oI her sons to help the other gods.
Mv son' Arise from thv couch and bring to pass some great work of wisdom.
Fashion servants for the gods who will assume their tasks.

At his mother`s bidding, he reached Ior a handIul oI clay Irom the bottom oI the earth and, with the
help oI the earth-mother and several goddesses, shaped it as a newborn in the image oI the gods and
called it man. The other gods gave praise Ior this wonderIul invention oI a race oI humans that would
serve the gods by tending their Iields oI grain.

Several Sumerian seals oI the 2
nd
millennium BCE depict a sanctuary with all the Iamiliar symbols oI
the Garden oI Eden: the tree, the IruitIul bounty, the serpent, one Iigure with Iruit in hand extended
toward another, the eternal sun, and the living waters. In this early Sumerian representation, however,
both Iigures are Iemale. Nor is there any sign oI divine wrath or danger in the garden. Fruit is eaten
without guilt.

In Babvlonian Creation Mvths
20

he primordial, world-creating sacriIicial Iigure was a monstrous Iemale, goddess oI the world abyss,
Tiamat.
21
From the library oI the ancient Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, we see the splitting myth oI
One-into-Two in the only extant Babylonian document. The young and newly risen sun-god Marduk uses
the body oI his great great great grandmother Tiamat:
Marduk split the bodv of Tiamat like a shellfish into two halves and set one as a
heavenlv roof...and assigned guards to watch that her waters above not escape.

Compare this with Genesis 1:7,
And so it was, God made the vault and it divided the waters above the vault from
the waters under the vault.

In each oI these creation myths, we see the splitting oI the One into Two. The Babylonian myth is an
appropriation oI the earlier Sumerian myth in which the god Marduk has taken over the role and Iunction
oI the goddess Nammu. As we shall see, the Hebrew myth changed what was appropriated even more.

In Greek Creation Mvths
22

eIore the Iamiliar Greek gods came into being, Chaos reigned and her child was Night and another
child was Erebus, the unIathomable depth where death dwells. Love was born Irom darkness and

18
3,300 to 2,000 BCE.
19
Dr. Samuel Noah Kramer, From the Tablets of Sumer (The Falcon`s Wing Press, 1956).
20
1,700 to 700 BCE.
21
Stephen Herbert Langdon, Semitic Mvthologv. The Mvthologv of All Races (Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1931).
22
800 to 100 BCE.
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death. Love then created Light and its companion, Day. The Greek poet Hesiod gave us the creation oI
Earth:
Earth, the beautiful, rose up broad-bosomed, she that is the steadfast base of all
things. And fair Earth first bore the starrv Heaven, equal to herself...

This early Greek creation myth is older, since Gaia, the goddess Earth, brings Iorth Heaven, Uranus,
by herselIthat is, without a consort. In the Greek myth by Hesiod where Gaia and Uranus are separated
by their son Kronos,
23
we see again the splitting myth oI One-into-Two. Then, conceiving through her son
Uranus, Gaia produced the race oI Titans and conceived a second race oI monsters through her other son,
Pontus. The Greeks retained a kind oI honest promiscuity that contrasts with the unexplained Hebrew
mystery oI Cain and Abel`s progeny.


The Greeks have more than one account oI how mankind was created.
24
One version was a task
delegated by the gods to the wise Prometheus, whose name means 'Iorethought, and to his brother,
Epimetheus, whose name means 'aIterthought and was not so wise. BeIore making men, Epimetheus
gave all the best qualities to the animalsstrength, swiItness, courage, cunninguntil nothing good was
leIt Ior man. So Epimetheus asked his brother Ior help. Prometheus took over the task oI creation,
thinking out a way to make mankind superior to the animals. He went to the sun, where he lit a torch, and
brought down Iire to protect and assist mankind.

The second Greek version oI creation came in stages oI the races oI man: the golden, the silver, the
brass, a race oI heroes; and an iron race. These two creation stories are strikingly diIIerent; however, each
had one thing in common: there were no women. Woman was created later by Zeus in revenge on
Prometheus. Zeus created a great evil to give Prometheus but shaped it in the likeness oI a shy maiden,
sweet and lovely to behold. All the gods gave her giIts and so called her Pandora. From her came the race
oI women, who were an evil to men.

In Hebrew Creation Mvths
25

ike the Greeks, the Hebrews also had two versions oI creationGenesis Chapter 1 and Genesis
Chapter 2. Both oI theseplus the creation epic oI the Babyloniansderive Irom a general Iund oI
Sumerian/Semitic myth. The Biblical versions are a later stage oI the patriarchal takeover in which the
Iemale principle, represented in both the Greek and the earlier Babylonian version as a great mother
goddess, has in the Hebrew version been reduced to its elemental state, abstracted as 'the deep. Linguists
have remarked that the name oI the Babylonian mother goddess 'Tiamat is related etymologically to the
Hebrew term 'tehom, which appears in Genesis 1:2 as 'the deep.
Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and Gods
spirit hovered over the water.

Genesis 1 is attributed to priestly editors late in the 4
th
century BCE and contains the Iamous seven
days oI creation. The animals are created on the IiIth day beIore man. On the sixth day, God created man
and woman together as Genesis 26-27 reads:

And God said, Let us make man in our own image. So God created man in his own
image.male and female he created them.


23
Hesiod, Theogonia, 750 BCE.
24
Edith Hamilton, Mvthologv. Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (New York: New American Library, 1942).
25
900 to 400 BCE.
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Genesis 2, Irom 9
th
century BCE, is the older or earlier oI the two creation myths. It diIIers in every
detail and sequence Irom the other account. As Genesis 2:7 reads:

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life..

That`s a variation on the Sumerian myth where Nammus son molded man Irom clay. Then, in Genesis
2:8, God plants a garden. We can recognize the old Sumerian garden, but Eden has two trees instead oI one
tree with two Iruits. Man is also created as a servant oI God to tend the garden as in both the Sumerian and
the Babylonian myth. In Genesis 2:18-19, God creates the 'beasts of the field and fowl of the air as 'it is
not good for man to be alone. Adam naming the animals reminds us oI Epimetheus giving qualities to the
animals. Not until Genesis 2:22 does God take a rib Irom Adam and create woman. That`s a variation on
the Babylonian Marduk Iorming man Irom bones and blood.

How Chapter 1 and 2 oI Genesis have been accepted Ior centuries as a tale oI sequence despite so
many contradictory elements can only be explained by Iaith being as blind as love.

When the Iirst Iive books oI Hebrew scripture were believed to be rendered directly Irom God to
Moses, the truth was understood as paradoxical. We know today that much oI this material was set down
by a priest-poet in the century oI Aristotle and that other material was borrowed and adapted Irom the
Babylonian myths oI Marduk, 1500 years beIore, which itselI borrowed Irom the earlier Sumerian myths.
The Catholic Jerusalem Bible at least labels Genesis 2 as a 'second account of creation.

Oriental Creation Mvths
he creation myths oI the Orient diverge Irom those oI the Occident speciIically in their opposite
versions oI the mythic Iirst being. The Sumerian, Babylonian, Greek, and Hebrew split the One into
Two. In contrast, the Indian Upanishads has god become the creation, so everything is still Onea
maniIestation oI Brahma. The Oriental pantheistic view oI creation has God as co-extensive with the
universe; the Occidental view recognizes a creator distinct Irom his creation.

1HE RIJALRY OF CODS
ne mythic element Iound in creation myths is a pantheon oI ruling gods who enjoy a period oI
unchallenged dominion Iollowed with an overthrow oI an older generation by a younger one or oI
an earlier matriarchal culture by a later patriarchal one. In either case, the intention oI the new
cosmic genealogy is to reIute the claims oI the earlier theology in Iavor oI the new gods and a new moral
order. We see the victory oI the Babylonian Marduk over Tiamat and the Greek Titans overthrow oI their
parents. The motive oI such mythic revolutions is deeper than rivalry between genders or generations. It`s
a dialectic oI competing truths.

In the Greco-Roman myths, the victory oI the patriarchal deities over the earlier matriarchal ones was
not as decisive as in the myths oI Hebrew scripture. These early pre-Homeric goddesses survived in
popular Greek temple rites and women`s cults. In the not-so-matriarchal post-Homeric Greece, goddesses
survived because the patriarchal gods at least married the goddesses oI the land, who then succeeded in
regaining inIluence. The later warrior gods, Zeus and Apollo, reduced the power oI the goddesses; but in
biblical mythology, the goddesses were exterminated altogetheralong with the benign character oI the
serpent.

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Jirgins
ods always seem to be born oI virgins. Such parentage diIIerentiates them Irom mere mortals, such
as the classical Greek myth oI the death and birth oI Dionvsos. Demeter, the goddess oI agriculture,
hid her daughter Persephone who was conceived by Zeus. Nevertheless, Zeus approached his daughter in
the Iorm oI a serpent while she sat weaving, and she conceived a son, Dionvsosthe ever-dying, ever-
living god oI bread and winewho was born in a cave, killed as a babe by jealous Titans, then
resurrected by his Iather Zeus. Comparably, in the Christian myth derived Irom the same archaic myth,
Mary is conceived oI the Holy Spirit and bears a son, who is born in a manger, persecuted and cruciIied,
then resurrected and sacramentalized through bread and wine.

Serpents
hroughout the cultures oI the world, myth uses the serpent to represent rebirth, because oI the
serpent`s wonderIul ability to slough its skin. In the earlier Sumerian myth, the serpent was a consort
to the earth mother goddess. In Greek myth, many maidens were given to or saved by serpents, such as
Ovid`s account oI Andromeda. In the Hebrew myth, the signs oI the old earth mother and her spouse, the
serpent, remain but the relationship changed as well as the character oI these symbols. Two trees are
mentioned in the Garden oI Eden: the tree oI liIe, and the tree oI the knowledge oI good and evil. In
Genesis 3:15, Yahweh cursed the serpent:
I will make vou enemies of each other. vou and the woman, vour offspring and her
offspring.
26


Because the woman was beguiled by the serpent, Yahweh cursed the woman to bring Iorth in pain and
be subject to her spouse. Thus, the patriarchy was set in the Garden oI Eden, but there are echoes oI the
evil thing that Zeus created in the shape oI Pandora.

In the earlier Bronze-Age Sumerian myth, there is one tree that bears two Iruits: the Iruit oI
enlightenment, and the Iruit oI immortality. In a Sumerian seal, we can see a serpent sitting behind a
Iemale Iigure who sits on the opposite side oI a tree Irom her consort. Two Iruits hang, one on each side
oI the tree to which they each reach. In the biblical Hebrew myth, two trees exist and eating one Iruit Irom
one tree exiles them Irom the Garden oI Eden.

These Iron-Age Hebrews oI the 1st millennium BCE adopted mythic symbols Irom the neolithic
Bronze-Age Sumerians oI the 2
nd
millennium BCE, but the Hebrews inverted the mythic symbols to render
an argument the opposite oI its origin. It was a conceptual overthrow.

Sons
he rivalry oI sons is another Iamiliar mythic structure in the dialectic oI competing truths. In the
Genesis story oI Cain and Abel, the myth was used to exalt the Hebrews over the older peoples oI the
land. The people oI Canaan were agriculturists like Cain, who tended the Iields; the Hebrews were
keepers oI sheep like Abel, who tended the Ilocks. When Cain and Abel each brought an oIIering oI
produce to Yahweh (Cain, the Iruit oI the Iield; Abel, the Iirst oI his Ilock), the Hebrew deity preIers Abel,
the shepherd. An older Sumerian cuneiIorm text oI 2050 BCE also tells the tale oI an argument between a
Iarmer and a shepherd Ior the Iavor oI a goddess, butin her culturethe Iarmer wins.

Although Yahweh preIers Abel over Cain in the Genesis account, Cain slays Abel; so doesn`t that mean the
Iarmer wins? The preIerence oI Abel over Cain is signiIicant, despite Abel being slain, because Cain is the elder
son. Going against deIerence to this tradition is evidence oI a conceptual overthrow.

26
All biblical quotations Irom The Jerusalem Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1970).
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The explanation is that the original source oI the biblical Eden is not a mythology oI the desertthat
is, a primitive Hebrew myth in which the shepherd would win. Rather, the Genesis story is an old planting
mythology borrowed Irom peoples oI the soil in which the Iarmer would win. However, in the Hebrew
retelling (Genesis 3:10-12), the story is turned on its head, i.e., agriculture is made to suIIer.
Now be accursed and driven from the ground that has opened its mouth to
receive vour brothers blood at vour hands. When vou till the ground, it shall no
longer vield vou anv of its produce.

Another reversed element is that the murder by Cain oI Abel does not render Iecundity to the soil,
such as other agricultural mythic murders do. Moreover, the murder oI Abel by Cain was transIormed to
duplicate the Fall motiI oI sin and punishment as Iound in the Adam and Eve story. Joseph Campbell
sums up the biblical inversions oI these universal mythic symbols:
In the older mother mvths and rites, the light and darker aspects of the mixed thing
that is life had been honored equallv and together, whereas in the later, male-
oriented, patriarchal mvths, all that is good and noble was attributed to the new
heroic master gods...

MO1IJE BEHIAD 1HE MY1HS
he archeological discoveries in Ninevah and Babylon radically changed the scholarly understanding
about the Iirst Iive books oI the Hebrew scriptures, known as the Law of Moses.
27
All oI the earlier
historical and mythological material oI the Hebrew scriptures had to be reinterpreted. The Books oI
Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, which had been attributed to Moses during the years wandering in the
desert, were actually brought Irom Babylon to Jerusalem much later. They were already law books oI a
thoroughly orthodox priestly tradition, which were ceremoniously established as a Book oI Law binding Ior
all Hebrews by the Persian emperor Artaxerxes.

No knowledge oI the Books oI Moses was recorded beIore 621 BCE, which is 600 years aIter Moses
diediI he ever lived. Joseph Campbell explains that the legend oI Mosesat least his birthis modeled
on the earlier birth story oI the Assyrian Sargon oI Agade in 2350 BCE, who was also Iound in the
bulrushes as an inIant. The adaptation was composed in the 8
th
century BCE and Iollows the general
mythic Iormula Ior the birth oI the hero.
28
That is, a noble or divine birth, then the inIant is exposed or
exiled, then Iound and adopted by a lowly Iamily, and ultimately returned to his true estate with those
responsible being laid low. Such legends held great appeal Ior biographers oI ambitious kings and
prophets. As with most mythic adaptations, some elements are reversed to make a point. Here, the
Hebrew Mosesthough adoptedis born lowly and adopted nobly.

Despite drawing on the same mythic Iund, all religions have a distinct theology that uniIies the myths
recorded in their sacred scriptures. The theology oI the Hebrews, which uniIied the Iirst Iive books oI
their scriptures, was that the twelve tribes oI Israel descended Irom Abraham were given a divine blessing
to be realized in their common history. The Hebrew narrativeoI the pastoral patriarchs, an Egyptian
interlude, then conquest and settlement in Canaanserved a mythic Iunction. We know this narrative is
myth and not history because the inconsistencies are easily detected against historical and archeological
records.

27
Wette.
28
Otto Rank, The Mvth of the Birth of the Hero, 1806.
S.T. Harty Demvthologi:ing Religion with Joseph Campbell Page 9


1. The Hebrew conquest of Canaan had commenced long before the earliest plausible
date for the Exodus from Egvpt.
2. The cities of Pithom and Raamses, which the enslaved Jews supposedlv built, were
not constructed until one centurv later in the period of Ramses II.
3. The Bedouin tribes of Hebrews invading Canaan were not of one familv but of manv
and entered Canaan in stages and from various directions.

Viewed as an origin mythinstead oI as historythe narrative reveals both the Iorm and Iunction oI
the religion`s message: a great cycle oI descent into the underworld and a triumphal return, i.e., the
ancient patriarchs entered Egypt and the Chosen Hebrews emerged.

In contrast to other such myths, the Hebrew myth is very diIIerent in one degree. The hero is not an
individualnot even Mosesinstead, it is the Hebrew people. Just an aside, but the Iestival oI the
Passover commemorates the exodus oI the 'people. This Ieast occurs on the same date as the annual
sacriIice and resurrection oI the Greek god Adonis, who was the consort as well as the son by virgin birth
oI the mother goddess Demeter. Christianity appropriated this Ieast date Ior Easter, which celebrates the
death and resurrection oI Jesus who was the son by virgin birth oI the religion`s only remnant oI the
primordial mother goddess, Mary. In both the Greek pagan cult and the Christian theistic cult, the
resurrection is oI a god; whereas in the Hebrew cult, the redemption is oI a people.

The Hebrew people`s mythic history serves a Iunction that in other cults belongs to an incarnate god.
This Iundamental diIIerence throughout history has remained Judaism`s second point oI distinction
among religions oI the worldthe Iirst being its transcendent monotheism. As Joseph Campbell explains:
One millennium later, the patriarchal desert nomads arrived and all fudgments were
reversed in heaven as on earth.

Thus lies the power oI myth.

Copyright, Sheila Harty, 1999.