Friday, June 22, 2007
HISTORICITY VERSUS MYTH
I have concluded that one large difference between the "Eastern Religions" of Taoism, Buddhism and Hinduism is that none of them are fixated, or even terribly interested in historicity. Whereas for the three monotheistic "religions of the "book: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam the matter of what happened when, where and whether the "chain" was unbroken are of great importance and often extreme interest; at least to the majority.
For example, the division between Sunni and Shia stems from the succession to the Prophet Mohammed. The bishops and popes of R.C. Christianity claim to have an unbroken succession to Peter. The Protestants are fixated on the words of the Old and New Testament. Many of the fundamentalists among them are very upset with, e.g. the 70+ scholars of the Jesus Seminar, who after much discussion and examination of the actual texts, historical background, linguistic clues, etc. and, I should mention their collective knowledge and wisdom as Christian scriptural scholars---said that they believe only 20% of the words spoken by Jesus in the New Testament were actually spoken by him! This has created OUTRAGE among those who believe that the entire New Testament was inspired directly by God.
This is a tremendous blow to their faith. It is a call to arms and denunciations are hurled at these enemies of the faith.
This is one reason why Hinduism and Buddhism appeal to me, i.e. history is not of great concern. The truth -- not whether it can be pinned down in chronology -- is the focus. The Pure Land Sutra and the Lotus Sutra are both major scriptures in Mahayana. Both are classed (usually) as myths by Buddhist scholars. A myth may contain much greater truth than centuries of apostolic succession or volumes of scriptures that are true because God inspired them and which are destroyed if they can be questioned on a historical and linguistic analysis.
The simple truth is that Truth may be best expressed in a story (myth) that is designed to be a kind of "finger pointing to the moon".