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VINE VOICEon 1 April 2014
I enjoyed this initially as an audio book, where the slow American delivery was irritating at first but very helpful as the ideas became more difficult to follow. Very pleased to get a pretty hardback edition. A handy introduction to myth from an interesting perspective, looking at the ages of myth and the purpose of those myths.
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on 30 May 2013
This is an excellent book. Karen Armstrong, as always, has a breadth and depth of knowledge that is remarkable. Equally remarkable is her ability to bring this with such clarity to a reader. Humility and compassion run through her writing as a strong current in a quiet river.
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on 26 March 2009
As a fan of Karen Armstrong I was expecting something succinct, well written and easy to comprehend.

I wasn't disappointed. This history of the myth which contributed and developed into major world religions is further expounded in some of her other works.

A good introduction to this writer who deals with complex and detailled aspects of comparative theology in a sincere and succint manner.
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on 14 June 2013
Love this book,history,philosophy,theology, it's all in here.Brings to light some questions you haven't even thought about.Brings us all together.Recommend highly.
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on 31 May 2013
I doubt that this was the author's intention, but Karen Armstrong's book actually strengthens biblical faith. We read that as soon as human beings completed the evolutionary process, they found that a longing for transcendence was built into their condition; and that the notion of a Golden Age before a fall (i.e. a 'lost paradise') is common to many cultures. We're also informed that monotheism preceded polytheism:

"Before they began to worship a number of deities, people in many parts of the world acknowledged only one Supreme God, who had created the world and governed human affairs from afar."

Armstrong touches on one of the essential yearnings of humanity being the desire to get 'above' the human state. But how can we get access to this God who is above? Scripture reveals that God has met with his fallen image-bearers through the 'types' and 'shadows' of the Old Testament; and supremely through His Son in the New Testament. The transcendent God has become accessible through Jesus, the eternal Word made flesh, who has dwelt among us (John 1:1-14). Karen Armstrong, of course, doesn't quite put it this way. She writes about earlier concepts of God being too transcendent, and therefore more accessible deities coming to the fore to facilitate participation in the sacred.

We are also reminded of the widespread concept of the 'gods' bringing forth order out of chaos. How different is the Genesis account of origins to other Ancient Near East accounts! Consider, for example, Marduk standing on Tiamat's massive corpse and splitting it in half like a giant shellfish to create heaven and earth. It's not the similarities but the differences that are compelling. Karen Armstrong makes an interesting point about creation stories in the ancient world being not so much a matter of providing factual information about the origins of life as cosmogonies recited in liturgical settings. (Something perhaps for Young Earth Creationists to consider.) This reminds me of John Walton's stimulating work, "The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate", in which he suggests that Genesis 1 describes functional rather than material origins.

Karen Armstrong's statement about the Israelites enjoying for centuries the ritual and mythical life of the Near East, "worshipping Asherah, Baal and Ishtar alongside their own god, Yahweh", puts an interpretive spin on the actual biblical record that they fell into such idolatrous practises precisely because they turned away from the LORD. When we get to New Testament times, we're told that Judaism continued to inspire myths - Christianity being one of them - and that St Paul "transformed Jesus into a mythical figure". Clearly, the supernatural doesn't form a part of Karen Armstrong's worldview, and Jesus couldn't really have ascended into glory having been raised from the dead, as far as she is concerned.

But what I want to know is *why* a longing for transcendence is built into the human condition? Ecclesiastes tells us that God has set eternity in our hearts. And this is certainly reflected in the history of mythology. The wonder of the Gospel is that, to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis in his essay by the same name, myth became fact:

"Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history."

Lewis goes on to say that this great myth became fact when the Virgin conceived, and that we ought not to be worried about pagan parallels, as if they should not be expected. In other words, it would be problematic if they weren't there! Karen Armstrong informs us that mythology forced men and women to confront the inexorable realities of life and death. The good news is that, through His death and resurrection, Jesus has conquered sin and death. Karen Armstrong informs us that "unless encountered as part of a process of regeneration, of death and rebirth, mythology makes no sense." Scripture informs us that we can have new life in Christ. Just as He died and rose again, so we too can die to the old self and rise in newness life with Him.

The history of myth is, in fact, the history of mankind's longing for God. Jesus is the desire of all nations...
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on 29 July 2014
Superb writing by an authoritative historian and theologian.
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on 3 March 2016
very happy with the service you provide. solid.
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on 25 May 2015
really useful contextualisation of myth.
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A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong, Canongate, Edinburgh, 2005, 168 ff

Karen Armstrong has become a recognised authority on many different aspects of religion and belief. After introducing the concept of the myth, she takes us here through the development of human civilizations - Palaeolithic, Neolithic, civilizations immediately before, during and after the so-called Axial Age (when modern religions of east and west developed) and then the great cultural transformations of the Reformation, Counter-reformation and Enlightenment. She looks at the role of myths at each stage of our cultural development.

Myths are stories about things we cannot experience with the senses but can feel. They shape the way we behave in the world. The greatest sources of myths are those to be found in the scriptures of religions in the east and west, as detailed here by Armstrong, and it is these that the book concentrates on. There is nothing here about secular myths like those found in the Welsh Mabinogion, the Finnish Kalevala, or the Germanic folk-tales compiled by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim - and folk tales are myths too. For the limited range of topics covered, this book is very informative. There is a list of References, but no Bibliography of further reading and no Index.

Howard Jones is the author of Evolution of Consciousness
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on 4 March 2016
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