The Corner

The Myth That Happened

The publication of Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, a detailed study of dozens of ancient myths, proved in its own way as epochal as the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Before The Golden Bough, Christianity appeared unique. After The Golden Bough, Christianity looked a lot like countless myths about a dying and resurrected god.

Today on Uncommon Knowledge, philosopher René Girard explains what Frazer missed.

Frazer was perfectly right to point to the similarities between myth and Christianity. In both instances you have a victim who is killed by an entire community and who becomes who he is and who he has always been, the christ of the community. What Frazer did not see, which is the simplest thing of all, is that Christianity is very different from mythology. It is exactly the same situation, but whereas in all the myths the victim is guilty, in Christianity, Christ is innocent.

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