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Convenient Myths
The Axial Age, Dark Green Religion, and the World That Never Was

By Iain Provan

Convenient Myths
Hardback, 171 pages $34.95
Published: 1st October 2013
ISBN: 9781602589964
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Ethics , All Theology

The contemporary world has been shaped by two important and potent myths. Karl Jaspers’ construct of the “axial age” envisions the common past (800–200 BC), the time when Western society was born and world religions spontaneously and independently appeared out of a seemingly shared value set. Conversely, the myth of the “dark green golden age,” as narrated by David Suzuki and others, asserts that the axial age and the otherworldliness that accompanied the emergence of organized religion ripped society from a previously deep communion with nature. Both myths contend that to maintain balance we must return to the idealized past. In Convenient Myths, Iain Provan illuminates the influence of these two deeply entrenched and questionable myths, warns of their potential dangers, and forebodingly maps the implications of a world founded on such myths.




1 The Turning Point of History

The Axial Age

2 Serious People, Bad Ideas

An Inquisition on the Axial Age

3 Procrustes and His Bed

Mutilating the Facts to Fit a Theory

4 Happy Hunting (and Gathering)

The Dark Green Golden Age

5 Hard Times in the Paleolithic

Constant Battles and Unequal Rights

6 Ecologically Noble Ancestors?

Why Spiritual People Don’t Necessarily Look after Their Living Space

7 You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Desire (and Need) and the Past

8 The Past Reloaded

A Brief History of Ancient Time

9 On Loving Your Dead Neighbor

Violence, Knowledge, and History

10 On Truth and Consequences

Why Myths about the Past Matter




“In Convenient Myths, Iain Provan not only challenges deep (and deeply mistaken) myths, but destroys them on the rocks of rugged history.”

—Scot McKnight, Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

“Iain Provan has a long track record of reliable, insightful interpretation. Now he brings his acute critical eye to consider familiar mantras that have served for popular religious interpretation. As Provan knows (and shows), these mantras have done a lot of damage through distortion and generalized misrepresentation. Provan makes clear that we cannot do our interpretive work by reliance upon such generalizations, but must go deeply into the particularity of religious traditions. His book is a summons to critical work that resists much of the facile interpretation now so widespread among us.”

— Walter Brueggemann, Professor Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary

“Humankind has often been held captive by pictures and stories concerning its own remote past. By revealing the misunderstandings and misrepresentations of ‘religion’ perpetuated by two such modern stories, this important book both liberates us from unhealthy and potentially damaging assumptions and opens the way for a fresh evaluation of the phenomena of religious faith and practice as we encounter them. Groundbreaking.”

— Trevor Hart, Professor of Divinity, St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews

“This is an important book to read, not just for those who are tempted to believe in the axial age or dark green golden age, but for any people who are tempted to disrespect their dead neighbors by distorting history to pursue a present agenda.”

—Elliot Ritzema, All is Grist (October 26, 2013)

“Overall [Convenient Myths] makes a persuasive case, albeit often against popular writers, and offers a salient warning against the uncritical appropriation of cultural assumptions.”

—R.S. Watson, Society for Old Testament Study (Book List 2014)

Iain Provan is the Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies, Regent College. He lives in the Vancouver, Canada area.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 171 pages
 9in x 6in

  PHI005000, REL067000, REL067070
 Baylor University Press

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