It may sound strange, calling the central
Christian events a “myth”. Are we not talking
about historical events? There is no good reason
to doubt that we are. That Jesus was an actual
person, that he died on a cross at the hands of
the Roman authorities, that his followers
experienced him as living in their midst after his
death—these facts are all rooted in human
memory and experience.
But what we have done with these historic facts is to create a mythic narrative that rivals any
throughout human history. Joseph Campbell, in his ground-breaking book, The Hero With a
Thousand Faces, identified the hero myth as among the most common of the world’s myths: the
hero leaves the tribe in order to carry out some salvific mission on the tribe’s behalf, and thereby
leaves the mortal realm for the divine.
Jesus the man, through his crucifixion and resurrection, became the mythic figure the Church began
calling the Christ, associated so closely with God to be called Son of God. Stories soon began
circulating about his miraculous birth. His earthly presence was described as “incarnation”. His place
in glory called his followers on to their own eternal destiny.
Yes, this may be the stuff of history. But it is also myth in the making: a myth that has changed our