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Sacred Stories. Kinds of Sacred Stories. Myth : stories that explain why the world is the way it is Sacred History (narrative): stories which place the sacred within historical persons and/or events Parable : teaching stories. Characteristics of Myth.

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Sacred Stories

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kinds of sacred stories
Kinds of Sacred Stories
  • Myth: stories that explain why the world is the way it is
  • Sacred History (narrative): stories which place the sacred within historical persons and/or events
  • Parable: teaching stories
characteristics of myth
Characteristics of Myth
  • Outside of time & space: Stories of times and places before and beyond the world we live in today (e.g. Eden)
  • Involving the fantastic: fantastic or supernatural beings (e.g. talking snakes)
  • Intent: to explain (e.g. origins) and validate (e.g. caste) what is

Not “false tales” – beyond proof (because the events are before & beyond historical time)

Not how it came to be but what it means

kinds of myths
Kinds of Myths
  • Creation stories - Do not confuse a creation myth with the theory of evolution. Evolution = how; creation = why, meaning, values
  • Lesser origins (of law, rite, custom, geographic feature)
  • End of the world (eschatology)
  • Lesser endings (of a city or empire)
  • Stories of death and the afterlife
  • Stories of gods and demons
  • Stories of transformation or incarnation between the human and non-human
characteristics of sacred history
Characteristics of Sacred History

Historical but not entirely factual:

  • Within time & space:
    • Stories of events that supposedly took place within historical time frame
    • To some degree provable
  • A mix of the realistic and the fantastic:
    • More realistic than myth but still with elements of the fantastic (e.g. the virgin birth)
    • Certain details of the story beyond proof
kinds of sacred history
Kinds of Sacred History
  • Narratives of hero figures: Birth of Jesus, life story of Buddha
  • Narrative of important events:the Exodus
  • Legends (semi-religious, cultural):King Arthur’s Court, George Washington’s youth

Intent: stories told to inspire us, to make certain persons and events “larger than life”, beyond the ordinary

characteristics of parables
Characteristics of Parables
  • Realistic events and characters
  • Events that did not really occur (outside of time & space)
  • not intended to be taken literally


  • to teach a moral lesson (Aesop’s fables)
  • to teach a spiritual or philosophical truth (Plato’s “the Cave”, Parables of the “Kingdom of Heaven” – Matt. Ch. 13)