Through a Glass Darkly: Essays in the Religious Imagination

By John C. Hawley | Go to book overview

3 1 The Gospel of Mark as Myth

Brenda Deen Schildgen

TO EXAMINE THE GOSPEL OF Mark as myth is to take it temporarily outside of time and history and to consider its communication as poetic knowledge. Viewing the Gospel in this way opens us to psychological and ontological dimensions which may be less apparent in time-specific historical or sociological studies. In myths certain fundamental human concerns and situations are expressed through ancient, inherently biological and culturally primal, symbolism. This symbolism adheres as Paul Ricoeur has suggested "to the most immutable human manner of being in the world, whether it be a question of above and below, the cardinal directions, the spectacle of the heavens, terrestrial localization, houses, paths, fire, wind, stones, or water" ( Interpretation65).

Through looking at the Gospel outside of history, and examining how it employs mythic themes, we can approach some understanding of how the Gospel attempts to say something about "reality," and about how to live in the world sub specie eternitatis. However, myths are usually projected back into a time before time, what Paul Ricoeur calls "mythic time," but in the case of Mark the narrative is set in the present time. Narratives set in this "mythic time" represent an imagined time before "fragmentation" overtook the human condition, when all the differences, whether sky and earth, male and female, God and humankind, etc., were in harmony. Consciousness of differences did not exist, because human transgression had not created them. Obviously, the Gospel of Mark does not describe such a time, but it does present the possibility of overcoming this bifurcated human condition by modeling a "way of being in the world" by which these differ

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