Farrer on the middle road of Myth

The first sense of myth we have to consider stands for something which no mind, whether modern or ancient, ought to swallow, and that is the taking of poetical symbol for literal fact. Angels above the blue and devils underground fitly frame the setting of man in the spiritual hierarchy, but excavation will not reach the one or aeronautics the other. How far symbol is taken for literal fact in the New Testament is a subtle question. On the whole it is truer to say that the relation of mythical expression to literal belief is left undecided, than to say that it is decided in the sense of literalism. There are undoubted cases of decision in both directions; for example, St. Luke did think that the Biblical genealogies gave a tolerable idea of the number of generations from the beginning of the world to his own day; St. John did not think that his description of the Heavenly Jerusalem would or could be executed by angelic hands in gold and precious stones. But the middle cases between the two are the more typical; if we ask with Bultmann, for example, whether spirits good and evil were really thought to be breaths of subtle and potent air physically invading the human person, we run into a mist of ambiguities

I think he’s right. I mean, there is a certain element of ‘yes, they believed that’ in the New Testament as well as ‘oh come on, that’s just poetic license.’

What if we approached the whole of a book to see if the author was using poetic license and being creative?

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