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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, concise
In this brief account, Karen Armstrong looks at the general changes in mankind's mythologising that have occurred over the Palaeolithic and Neolithic ages, the early civilisations, the 'Axial Age' (800 to 200 BCE), up to modern times. It is interesting to see how changes in the way we live have caused corresponding changes in our myths: Palaeolithic hunters...
Published on 29 Dec 2005 by Murray

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One star or less
This book reads as if it were written in a hurry to meet a publisher's deadline and, as the references show, draws on a very limited number of sources. The further one gets into the book the less clear seems the author's concept of what myths involve and there is very little to support the dubious proposition that a myth is stripped of its power 'without the transforming...
Published on 7 Mar 2010 by Hugo Perks


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5.0 out of 5 stars Karen Armstrong., 14 Jun 2013
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Unexpectedly helpful..., 31 May 2013
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 30 May 2013
This review is from: A Short History Of Myth (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but short, 15 Feb 2013
This review is from: A Short History Of Myth (Paperback)
This short history of myth is brilliant as a short work which I read at great speed. Compelling and insightful for 150 odd pages. However, you do feel some of her own theories are in there, but why not? After all, does anyone know how early man (and woman ) felt in pre history times? It was a compelling idea to present their feelings about the natural world as ambivalent. These feelings thus feed into the need for myth making. I did also feel she conflates "myths" with, "religion" rather a lot. I guess sometimes they are the same thing, sometimes not. Also one generally had the feeling that "myth as religion" is a human product or creation, that is religion is really, "humans best myth making idea". In other words, if God did not exist, then humans would have to have created him/her in order to deal with the complexity of their feelings about being human at all. However, overall, a brilliant summary and introduction to human myth making over many thousands of years.A Short History Of Myth
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5.0 out of 5 stars The myths of myths explained, 8 Aug 2012
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This review is from: A Short History Of Myth (Paperback)
This concise history illustrates the development of myth in readily accessible contemporary language for everyone and was greatly appreciated by my sceptical highly critical non-churchgoing son as well as by me, a committed churchgoer myself. It also illustrates the development of theology and the importance of myth. As I wish to obtain another copy I am sorry that it is out of print.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short History of Myth, 26 Mar 2009
This review is from: A Short History Of Myth (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Karen Armstrong explains myths, 29 July 2014
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Michael Coleman "micole" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Short History Of Myth (Paperback)
Superb writing by an authoritative historian and theologian.
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15 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Short History of Myth, 15 Oct 2006
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This review is from: A Short History Of Myth (Paperback)
This is the first of Karen Armstrong's books that I have read. While I think she is an accomplished and experienced writer I was left with the impression that she was overly ambitious in attempting to write the whole of the history of myth in one short paperback. I also feel that some of her categoric assumptions around the palaeolithic/neolithic periods were lacking in real evidence and poorly substantiated. Nevertheless, as the book progresses into later historic periods she is able to produce some thought provoking ideas and while I felt bored with how she writes I was still interested enough to finish the book. I plan to read more of her work.
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A Short History Of Myth
A Short History Of Myth by Karen Armstrong (Paperback - 1 Jun 2006)
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