On his blog Genealogy of Religion, Cris Campbell talks about reading Colin Calloway’s book One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark. The crux of the post can be summed up by quoting Campbell:
I have no doubt that indigenous oral traditions are remarkable repositories of deep history and ancient knowledge. They are not just, and never were, “myths.”
In fields like Biblical studies, the polarization that we often see is detrimental to getting at the truth that lies somewhere in the middle.
Those who insist that the Bible is entirely factual are not being realistic or honest. But those who insist that, because it contains material that is legendary and mythological, it cannot have useful historical information embedded in those same traditions, are being every bit as unrealistic and dishonest, ignoring the evidence of analysis of oral traditions.
From the Americas to Australia, oral traditions include details that reflect different water levels and other weather and climate related details which reflect realities as they existed thousands of years ago. See the paper that sparked recent articles in The Conversation and The Daily Mail – the presentation is online on the University of New England website.
Accepting that there can be fiction and deep history in the same body of stories can be challenging for those who like all-or-nothing answers. But the reality is that the truth, when it comes to the stories that a people group tells, is regularly in between the extremes.