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Easter: Myth, Legend, or Ultimate Truth?

The story of Christ is simply a true myth: working on us in the same way, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.

Two of the towering figures of the Twentieth Century literary world went out for a walk to talk about myth, legend, and ultimate truth – and the “true myth.” As professors of English in Oxford, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien both understood that Messianic myths can be found in nearly every culture on earth. In many traditions of classical antiquity, a savior comes to earth and good triumphs over evil during a last judgement, followed by the salvation of the world.

In recent years, superhero films have built upon the messiah myth and made it a part of mainstream folklore once again.

Lewis knew these stories all too well, but in his dark early days, they did not give much joy in the midst of his sorrow. Due to the loss of his mother at an early age, combined with the horrific death and destruct he witnessed in World War I, Lewis had become a staunch atheist. “How could a loving God allow all that tragedy?” the now unbelieving professor reasoned.

But God was at work in this brilliant, yet fragile man.

Though raised in the church, C. S. Lewis was also fascinated by legend and myth – specifically the ancient literature and songs of Scandinavia and Norse mythology. The pursuit of these legends intensified for Lewis an inner longing for something more than the routine of day-to-day life – what he would later call “joy”.

Writing about his time of grappling with God in his book Surprised by Joy, Lewis would admit to being paradoxically “very angry with God for not existing” and “equally angry with him for creating a world.”

Through Myth and Legend

After returning from the crucible of World War One, Lewis was soon elected a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford University. As he read to prepare for classes, he noticed the multiple references to the messianic myth in literature from across the world. Surprisingly, the more he read from different philosophical schools, the more he was attracted to the thinking of those who just happened to be Christians.

“…those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete … all seemed a little thin; what as boys we called ‘tinny.’”

On the other hand, he found himself influenced by the writing of Christian thinkers like George MacDonald and G. K. Chesterton. At the same time he started coming into close relationships with other committed Christians at Oxford, most notably J. R. R. Tolkien.

Read the full article on the Focus on the Family website.


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