For instance, there is the story of some Soviet scientists who drilled into hell. Another is the story of an English fisherman who was swallowed by a whale, "hence proving the story of Johah," was debunked upon research by many, who found no evidence to support it. The story dates from 1907 and the widow of the captain made the statement "There is not one word of truth to the story," as her husband never had the experience (New Life 2007).
This example is one that might explain how many stories came about in the days before written history. As there were no experts to research and bring forward the truth about such matters, it would be easy to make claims and pass along information that sounded reasonable and believable, or even contain miraculous events. With no proof needed, all a story-teller would need would be an appreciative and believing audience.
The myths that Christians and others who follow the teachings of the New Testament believe today are constantly changing in form and content. The Church has something to do with this. The Catholic Church regularly makes edicts that tell believers how they are to act and believe from that point on (dogma). One example is the myth of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Paul makes no reference to her being a virgin when Jesus was conceived and his books predate all the four gospels. He had not heard of this "myth." It was a story that evidently was circulated and gained acceptance after 50 a.D. The story of Mary continued to grow and her character was modified and changed to suit the times (Symes 2007).
Later, in quoting the old testament, Matthew used a mistranslation of the word "almah" (young woman) to mean a virgin when he quoted Isaiah "therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). It was common in those days to believe in heroic Greek gods who came down to earth and conceive half-god, half-human sons. Even Plato was said to have been one of these demi-gods because of his stature in the eyes of his fellow men, as was Alexander the Great. In the Book of Genesis, we find other examples. There was a time when this was the explanation of how a genius had been born among average people.
In 150, James' gospel was written, portraying Jesus' devotion to his mother and advocating her virginity. In the year 377, Epiphanius of Salamis stated Mary, the mother of Jesus ascended into heaven. No one really knew where Mary's body was buried, or of her fate, so all options were open. In 431, the Council of Ephesus allowed a cult to grow around the Virgin Mary, now called the Mother of God, and allowed icons to be made in her image to worship. She had early been called the "Theotokos" (God-bearer), and the church finally sanctioned not only her sainthood, but her equivalence to a god in 1854, when Pope Pius IX proclaimed the "Immaculate Conception" as dogma. It was only recently (1950) that Pope Pius XII stated "At the end of her earthly course, Mary was assumed into heavenly glory, body and soul," saying without stating details, that Mary had ascended into heaven, implying that Mary was equivalent to Jesus, who had also been said to have ascended into heaven at the end of his early life (New Advent 1909).
Myths surrounding religions will always exist and continue to grow and transform. It is true that the lessons learned from these stories have morals that may be learned from them. But still, it is important that the stories that are told be founded on truth, else those who doubt find out that they are false and then will believe nothing.
Bryces, Steve, Worldwide Adherents of All Religions, Mid-2005', Encyclopaedia Britanica. 1999.<