The Christian Myth

The Nativity story is often referred to as “The Christian Myth”. I do it too sometimes, even while I know it to be historically factual.

But it’s easy for even well-meaning Christians to try to make their beliefs more palatable by undermining the authority of the Bible by calling it all “mythological, magical… not necessarily to be taken seriously.” That we, as rational human beings, really know that Mary probably had an affair or fornicated with Joseph to produce the Christ child, and because of that we should be extra-forgiving of other mothers who have committed the same sins.

But that’s far from what the Bible says. And the Bible is not telling myths, as did ancient Greeks and Romans. Compare and contrast:

Zeus impregnates Metis, and immediately fears she would bear an heir to challenge his authority, so he swallows her. Alas for Zeus she had already conceived, and Zeus got a splitting headache. Hephaestus splits his head open to reveal a fully formed, fully armed Athena.  Her miraculous birth is accompanied by the clarion cry of war.


In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). Everyone went to his hometown to register. There she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Joseph had had no union with her until she gave birth to her son, and he gave him the name Jesus.

One is fantastic and incredible, the clash and pull of immortal gods. The other is a humble story, anchored to history, of an unassuming family with the incredible experience of being intimate witness to a personal God, rare in any mythology.  In no way is the Bible presenting anything but hard reality.  You can reject it as incredible if you want, but never take the risk of removing from the Bible the authority of its own words… and still claim that you’re a Christian.

Make no mistake: the Bible did not present a myth, but a historical account.  You can reject that account as false, but don’t think that you’re maintaining respect for the Bible by calling it a “beautiful and moving myth.” The Word has not left that option open to you.  You will decide whether Nativity story is a fact or a falsehood, but it is no myth.

“I’d rather you were hot or cold.”


3 thoughts on “The Christian Myth

  1. Thanks for posting this. I’m often told about the character of myth and the character of the Bible accounts and how they differ, but seldom have I been shown a solid example like you show above.

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