I had to smile at an article in the Christian Post today, comparing the “true story” of David and Goliath with the “fictional” story of Jack the Giant Slayer:
Unlike our fairy tale teenager Jack, David was a real life, flesh and bone adolescent who faced up to a giant bigger and badder than any we will face. There was no beanstalk or imaginary kingdom in the clouds in this event, but there was a nine foot tall gargantuan monstrosity named Goliath who mocked the God of Angel Armies.
- Lane Palmer, “You Can Be a Giant Slayer!”, Christian Post, 4 March 2013
Wendy Doniger wrote a well-known book on the dangers inherent in any attempt to describe “other people’s myths”. We can see elements of this problem playing out in the Christian Post‘s comparison. It perceives only “unrealistic” elements in the Jack the Giant Slayer film, but is quite incapable of seeing any such unrealistic elements in the Bible’s own myth. The Christian Post article describes the biblical story of David and Goliath as simply a “true story” – despite the fact that the same article can refer to Goliath’s fantastic “nine-foot-tall” height.
Other legendary elements in the wider biblical story are not even commented upon, although they would be instantly recognised as fantasy if appearing in a Hollywood film. Among others: a seer recognises David as the future king while he was still a boy; David had the power to drive away demons by playing a musical instrument; David’s rise to kingship was guided by the favour of a god called Yahweh; and there are “Angel Armies”.
Sure, there are differences between the two stories. But the presence of fictional elements is not one of them.