Four Functions of Myths in Genesis Essay

This essay has a total of 2038 words and 8 pages.


Four Functions of Myths in Genesis





The sin stories in the Book of Genesis address theological, cosmic, social, and ethical
questions. These sin stories, The Fall of Man, Cain and Abel, and Noah and the Flood, and
The Tower of Babel show the functions of myths and demonstrate man’s likeliness to
sin. These myths let the readers learn of the culture, beliefs, and foundation of the
time.

A myth is a symbolic way of expressing truths and beliefs that are accepted by society.
Myths, which are reading literature that is imaginative, teach truths that may not always
have a basis for historical fact. Myths, which communicate ideas in story form, are
creative stories that explain and teach religious truths of sin and consequence. Myths
tell what society should be like and are what people learned by experience. They were
written in Genesis around 1000 B.C.E. and help tell the sin stories.

The functions of myths can be applied to the sin stories within Genesis. The four
functions are theological, cosmic, social, and ethical. The theological function of
myths expresses known facts about God and his relationship to humanity. The cosmic
function explains about how the world works and its purpose. It portrays the idea God
created the perfect place. The social function of myths demonstrates the truth that
problems start when people turned away from God. It tell the readers the organization and
leaders of societies. The ethical function explains the values we should have and the
proper behavior for humanity. Sin, which is turning away from God, is exemplified in the
stories of Genesis. Our conscience, an inner sense of right and wrong, helps us decide
what we want. Our conscience helps us to consider the consequences of our sins. Feelings
of fear, desire, and temptation are emotions that lead us to sinning. In the sin stories
in Genesis, it shows we can be influenced by others to sin. An example of this is Adam
and Eve. Because of their sin, all of humanity would be born with original sin. The
four functions in myths help us understand the sin stories in Genesis.

The Fall of Man utilizes the social function of a myth. In this story, the social
function of the myth tells how society should be organized and who should have control.
God said Adam and Eve could not eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge in the middle
of the Garden of Eden. The serpent tempted Eve and she ate from the forbidden tree. Adam
then committed the same sin. By sinning, their eyes were opened to the world of sin and
evil. They now could feel guilt and shame. Through disobedience to God, Adam and Eve
gained an awareness of good and evil. An example of this can be seen when they first
realize they are naked after they have eaten from the forbidden tree. In Gn. 3:16, Yahweh
says, “He (the husband) shall be your master. “ This quote in Genesis
demonstrates that a man had complete control over his wife in a marriage which was the
standard in ancient times. A misconception people saw was that this was not God’s
divine plan forever. Women being controlled by men was the consequence of sin. Other
punishments were Adam had to work for a living and Eve experienced pain in childbirth.
This myth could also explain why we wear clothes. This story demonstrates the idea that in
inequality between men and women is sinful.

Cain and Abel represent the ethical function in myths. God tells us what values we should
hold and how humans should behave. By murdering, Cain violates God’s will. This is
not behavior God wants us to portray. God wants us to offer all we have him, which is
what Abel did. Abel offered the very best of his flock, but Cain did not do this and
offered only some of his crops. Cain wanted a praise that was greater than what God had
given Abel. Cain was jealous of Abel because God chose Abel over him. By being
envious, Cain was committing sin. Sin is the opposite of how God wants humans to act.
Cain sins again by lying to God about not knowing where Abel might be after he had killed
him. God punishes Cain for his sin and he was driven from the community. By not obeying
God, we are misbehaving. God wants us to hold values which He would approve of. God
banishes Cain to be a wanderer on the earth. Cain fears he will be harmed by other humans
so he is given a mark. This myth also conveys another important fact. It shows the
origin of nomads, which are wandering people, and established people. The mark gives a
distinction between him and other people. Because Cain did not obey God and went against
him, he could no longer work the land and was punished to wander the earth. “You
shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Gn 4: 12) This was Cain’s
punishment for not behaving as God would like him. Nomads of the Eastern deserts at the
time often used tattooing as a tribal mark. Later, Cain settled in the city of Nod with
his wife. Nod meant “the land of the nomads”. From there, he founded the
first city, Enoch. The founding of this city showed the origin of established people.
The Cain and Abel myth explains the origin of established people and nomadic people.

Noah and the Flood portrays the theological function of myths. In the theological
function of a myth, it tells what God is like and how he relates to us. God had become
displeased with man because he had become sinful and corrupt and wanted to start over. God
was upset with the actions of people on earth. God felt that man had become so evil that
he could no longer relate to humanity except for one man and his family who stood out from
the rest. This man was Noah and his family. Noah was chosen by God because he was
righteous and loyal. The cause of the flood was the wickedness humans on earth portrayed.
God was willing to give humans everything, but in return wanted them to obey him so we
could experience his goodness and graciousness. “ I will recall the covenant I have
made between me and you and all living things, so that the waters shall never again become
a flood to destroy all mortal beings.” (Gn 9:15) Death was the punishment for the
humans that disobeyed God. The Flood explains where the rainbow came from. “I set
my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
(Gn 9:13) God promises humanity that a flood should never again destroy all mortals. The
rainbow is a symbol of His covenant and promise not to let a flood destroy the earth
again. God cares for people and wants them to prosper. Noah and the Flood myth expresses
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