New Testament and Mythology

I have been meaning to read something by Rudolf Bultmann for some time and I finally got around to reading a collection of his essays entitled New Testament and Mythology.  I have encountered a number of times people pointing to Bultmann and saying “See, even the great New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann thought the Gospels came from mythology.”  That is not at all what Bultmann was claiming.  He never attempted to find mythological origins to the story of Jesus.  Rather, Bultmann claimed that the Gospels were wrapped in mythological trappings (by this he meant accounts of the supernatural) and that we must strip off the myths to get to the true story of Jesus.  As brilliant as Bultmann was, I believe he misunderstood the nature of mythology.  Mythology is not just a bunch of supernatural accounts but rather represents a whole non-biblical worldview, as John Oswalt recently argued in his Bible Among the Myths.  Who are we to say that anything supernatural must be untrue or mythological.  There is so much about science that we do not understand, to claim that all that is beyond our understanding is false is simply foolish.  In these essays, Bultmann basically presents his existential philosophy based on Heidegger.  Bultmann writes more about philosophy than he does about biblical studies.  I disagreed with much that Bultmann said, and yet to be fair, there seemed to be a genuine and sincere faith that was shining through.  I respect Bultmann’s intelligence and yet I see his work as deeply flawed.

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