Posted by: religionthink | November 26, 2007

On Cross Cultural Comparisons Of Mythology and Literature.

On Cross Cultural Comparisons Of Mythology and Literature.

One of the issues when comparing text cross culturally is knowing what to compare and how. Many times the common person becomes overwhelmed with such research and drops the ball half way through the process. It is said that there is no such thing as pure culture and the texts of the ancient Near East and other parts of the world were intended to be multi-functional.

In today’s world with the influence of evangelical conservative ideas and theology about religious texts has changed, at times, even the mainstream secular view of how religious texts are read. Most stop at the idea that the texts were possibly fables, or fairy tales and are no longer relevant. However such people may be dropping the books to early before reading the texts and discovering their value in dept. Here are some tips on how to look at texts critically before jumping to conclusions.

· Read the full text and study the background of the culture to understand the proper context. Also read other texts of that particular culture to see the similarities and writing styles of that particular group.

· When comparing two texts that have similarities, and after researching both cultures, note both the likeness and differences of the texts.

· Understand the archeology and literary styles and word usage, puns, allegory, and mythology of both cultures.

· Note the backgrounds and education of the translators of the texts. This is important in that in today’s society many times religious, anti-religious, political, cultural, and sociological biases influence how texts, archeology, and history are interpreted.

· Note the many hypotheses from researchers and how they differ and how they are alike. Read the texts in light of each hypothesis, and place that against the literary background styles of the culture being studied.

· When noting the difference ask the questions, What was exchanged? What are the similarities and why? What are the differences and why? How has the texts evolved over time and what was added or taken away? Is there more then one text on the subject manner? What was the possible motive behind the text? ( eg. political, religious, economic, sociological, retaliatory, supportive on an idea.)

· If possible also study the other schools of thought from that time period. What do they have to say about the account, text, or belief?

· Next collect all such theories and file them. Some will be more developed then others, some will develop over time and some will not.

· It is important to remain flexible when approaching such theories for through research things may change.

· Note personal opinions, understanding, theology, religious beliefs, cultural influences, and personal biases for or against the texts. It is easier to view another cultures literature, beliefs, and religious theology as untrue or as “mythology”, but it takes a brave person to view their own in such a way.

The points above are not conclusive, but they have been personally helpful when researching world religion and mythology. Each person has their own techniques and guidelines they follow. It is hoped that by using such methods that one is able to push onward rather then just dropping the texts, mythology, or religion when they run into issues of cross cultural borrowing, similarities and differences.


  1. […] helpful guidelines for comparing mythological and religious texts from […]

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