Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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An approach to religious imagery advocated in the mid-twentieth century by Rudolf Bultmann (1953), who was concerned that the Christian Bible was written in a way that obscured rather than revealed Christianity to modern people. He believed that existentialism described the universal in the human condition, and that translating biblical imagery into existential terms would more effectively communicate the biblical message. Although biblical literalists objected to the very ideas of myth and interpretation, others granted the need for a demythologizing hermeneutic but disagreed with Bultmann over exactly what required demythologizing and what did not.

The comprehension of any text where there is a cultural chasm between author and reader will involve some inevitable hermeneutics, or "translation," from one myth system into another. Demythologizing assumes that the reader's perspective is less mythical than the author's. It reflects the empiricist and rationalist nature of modern culture.

Anthony J. Blasi


R. Bultmann, "The New Testament and Mythology," in Kerygma and Myth , vol. 1, ed. H. W. Bartsch (London: SPCK, 1953 [1941]): 1-44.

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