Thursday, March 24, 2011

History III

One may question the relationship between history and legends. From a purely direct standpoint one could say that one is fact and the other fiction. But if we look at the previous question - why do we study history - looking at legends and fables provides us with a window toward answering the riddle.

Despite our society's best efforts to destroy the family, parents still occasionally read their children bedtime stories. They talk about growing up in their time, what they did and who they formed friendships with. We tell stories to our friends for a variety of purposes. To make them laugh, or to make a point. It is the latter that I believe gets us closer to the purpose of legends.

Perhaps there was no greater storyteller than Jesus Christ. Mountains of literature and study have been written about the masterful parables that Jesus told the crowds during His missionary days. How every detail seems to have something to teach both the original hearers of the story and for the future.

I should warn you dear reader that I have no intention of examining the parables of Jesus Christ as much smarter scholars and much holier men have written much more worthwhile things than I could. I bring them up because there is an unfortunate secret about the parables of Jesus Christ. Brace yourself....they not do have much evidence to support them historically.

Now it is entirely possible for example that a man did in fact have two sons at one point and that one blew his inheritance on a good time in the ancient world's version of Vegas. Or that a farmer did in fact sow seeds (because farmers did such things back then), only to have a criminal sow tares to attack the wheat. Or that there was indeed a shepherd who lost a sheep at one point and looked for a good long time for it. But as for their accuracy of depicting events the parables simply don't have a leg to stand on historically.

Shocking, I know. But perhaps, just perhaps, there was another reason why Christ would make up stories out of whole cloth. I know I'm stretching things a bit, but let's assume for the sake of argument that the point was not to be historically accurate. That in fact the story's aim is not to be historical at all. No, the point I believe, and this is only a theory mind you, that the aim of the stories He told were to present a moral truth of some kind. A truth that, via the events in the stories and the symbols used, impart to the listener a moral lesson or set of moral truths.

Now if truth can be communicated via a historically unsubstantiated story, then what other modes of communication have people throughout time to convey ideas, truths and values? I propose that legends served this purpose. And that various kinds of legends with various kinds of historical dubiousness were used as a sort of mode of learning. And I ask that you be patient, dear reader, as I will come to a point eventually. Hopefully it will be worth the wait.


mcarlin said...

I like this. It makes sense to me.

Also, Spider-man. The legend of. Not kidding at all.

The Story Lady said...

Insightful post. The purpose of legends indeed includes teaching truths and also conveying culture, sharing expectations and expressing faith.

You might also enjoy this article on the purpose of legends:

Ronda Del Boccio, the Story lady,
#1 bestselling author of Write on purpose