Christ transcends hero myths

We hear nowadays that, behind every text and every event, there are an infinite number of interpretations, all more or less equivalent. Mimetic victimization makes the absurdity of this view manifest. Only two possible reactions to the mimetic contagion exist, and they make an enormous difference. Either we surrender and join the persecuting crowd, or we resist and stand alone. The first way is the unanimous self-deception we call mythology.

The second way is the road to the truth followed by the Bible.

Instead of blaming victimization on the victims, the Gospels blame it on the victimizers. What the myths systematically hide, the Bible reveals.

This difference is not merely “moralistic” (as Nietzsche believed) or a matter of subjective choice; it is a question of truth. When the Bible and the Gospels say that the victims should have been spared, they do not merely “take pity” on them. They puncture the illusion of the unanimous victimization that foundational myths use as a crisis-solving and reordering device of human communities.

When we examine myths in the light of the Gospels, even their most enigmatic features become intelligible. Consider, for example, the disabilities and abnormalities that seem always to plague mythical heroes. Oedipus limps, as do quite a few of his fellow heroes and divinities. Others have only one leg, or one arm, or one eye, or are blind, hunchbacked, etc. Others still are unusually tall or unusually short. Some have a disgusting skin disease, or a body odor so strong that it plagues their neighbors. In a crowd, even minor disabilities and singularities will arouse discomfort and, should trouble erupt, their possessors are likely to be selected as victims. The preponderance of cripples and freaks among mythical heroes must be a statistical consequence of the type of victimization that generates mythology. So too the preponderance of “strangers”: in all isolated groups, outsiders arouse a curiosity that may quickly turn to hostility during a panic. Mimetic violence is essentially disoriented; deprived of valid causes, it selects its victims according to minuscule signs and pseudo-causes that we may identify as preferential signs of victimization.

In the Bible, the false or insignificant causes of mythical violence are effectively dismissed in the simple and sweeping statement, They hated me without a cause (John 15:25), in which Jesus quotes and virtually summarizes Psalm 35—one of the “scapegoat psalms—that literally turns the mob’s mythical justifications inside out. Instead of the mob speaking to justify violence with causes that it perceives as legitimate, the victim speaks to denounce the causes as nonexistent.

To explicate archaic myths, we need only follow the method Jesus recommends and substitute this without cause for the false mythical causes.