Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I Knew Being A Hero Was Not That Special

Written by: on January 31, 2024

As I read “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” this week, I was struck with how the gaps far outweigh any structural unity. The book’s purpose shows in its legacy, leaving many readers to use it to produce even more heroic tales and modern myths [1]. I am left without any further clarity on shared reasons as to why we look for such heroes, or seek to become them, which would reveal the unity suggested in the title.

While I tried to read open-mindedly about this call for the archetypal chosen one to save humanity, I could not seem to set aside the objection which Campbell himself raised in the preface – that not enough effort has been given to point out the differences [2]. I think I can surmise what effect he would like to have on the readers. It would be a sense of reverence and humility when centering one’s life around a single myth, engaging in a fumbling effort to explain the world, in sharing a group dream, and in living by a common revelation [3]. There is danger in group-think. And so, learning more broadly about how ideas get similarly situated in different cultures and religions across time can at least keep arrogance at bay in one’s beliefs.

I had this kind of experience in 2015, when I learned about the Mesha Stele, a Moabite stone recovered in modern Jordan. For me, learning about a recorded story of a battle against Israel, by a Moabite king, in honour and praise to their god, Chemosh, which is a counterpoint to 2 Kings 3 (where Mesha is mentioned as one who was indebted to Israel but who then rebelled) caused me to reflect on how ancient histories interact with one another [4]. The framing of the story as that of a good king who paid homage to his god, and restored peace for his people, while taking the plunder from the enemy and presenting it to his god is the common cadence. The narratives of Israel’s kings follow similar patterns. For me, this was the feeling I had reading Campbell, seeing how there is something in the similarity of the telling that gets to what matters to humanity, through time and across cultures and religions.

And so, that is what I intend to do with this material: I will draw it into my contextualization research. I think it wise to stay curious about the shared longings and makings of stories which reach for a hero who, from personal calling or god-appointment, does something extraordinary for humanity, fights evil and enables good to prevail.


[1] Odenthal, Kathleen. 2014. “A List of Modern Day Archetypes.” April 8, 2014. https://discover.hubpages.com/relationships/Top-Ten-Female-Archetypes-of-Modern-Society.

[2] In that preface he writes, “Perhaps it will be objected that in bringing out the correspondences I have overlooked the differences between the various Oriental and Occidental, modern, ancient, and primitive traditions” (Preface).  Joseph Campbell, and David Kudler. 2020. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Vol. 30th Anniversary Special edition. Collected Works of Joseph Campbell. [Place of publication not identified]: Joseph Campbell Foundation. https://search-ebscohost-com.georgefox.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=2680592&scope=site.

[3] Ibid., Epilogue.

[4] Emerton, J. A. “The Value of the Moabite Stone as an Historical Source.” Vetus Testamentum 52, no. 4 (2002): 483–92. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1585139.

About the Author


Joel Zantingh

Joel Zantingh serves as the Canadian Coordinator of the World Evangelical Alliance's Peace and Reconciliation Network, and as Director of Engagement with Lausanne Movement Canada. He has served in local and national roles within the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, and led their global mission arm. He has experience teaching in formal and informal settings with Bible college students and leaders from various cultures and generations. Joel and Christie are parents to adult children, as well as grandparents. They reside in Guelph, Ont., situated on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and home to many past, present and future First Nations peoples, including the Anishinnabe and Hodinöhsö:ni'.

6 responses to “I Knew Being A Hero Was Not That Special”

  1. Jeff Styer says:

    I wonder if our desire to seek out heroes or become one somehow takes us back to the Garden of Eden in which somehow Eve was not satisfied with who she was and wanted to become like God? Are so many of us unsatisfied with who we are or are looking to be saved from our life situation that we look for the hero?

  2. Graham English says:

    Joel, this is an interesting and good statement “And so, learning more broadly about how ideas get similarly situated in different cultures and religions across time can at least keep arrogance at bay in one’s beliefs.”
    I remember when I learned that Enuma Elish and the Epic of Gilgamesh were pagan versions of accounts found in the bible. We can either choose to be humbled or have our faith shaken. What advice would you give to someone whose faith has been shaken when they discover similarities between biblical stories and pagan myths.

  3. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Joel,

    Thank you for sharing your perspective about group-think, emphasizing the potential pitfalls of exclusively adhering to a singular myth. How would you articulate the danger of group-think in the context of centering one’s life around a single myth?
    Your personal experience with the Mesha Stele adds a tangible and relatable dimension to the passage. Your illustration about the interaction of ancient histories and the impact of diverse perspectives on storytelling resonates with me.

  4. Nancy Blackman says:


    I think you nailed this week’s reading when you pointed out that we learn from other cultures and religions (I will add: if we are willing) and that helps keep us humble. Yes, our opinions matter, but listening and reading stories of others, whether they be monomyths of their contrasting faith beliefs helps us to be more certain about our own, correct?

    How do you connect Campbell’s book to your NPO? What things become highlighted either as something to consider or something to not consider?

  5. Diane Tuttle says:

    Joel your comment about the risk of group think is what stood out to me in your blog. You mentioned that there is danger in group think. While I think I could guess what you mean by that could you share some of the dangers you see with it?

  6. mm Glyn Barrett says:

    Thanks, Joel. I love the blogs for the differing perspectives and opinions on the books assigned.
    In light of your intention to incorporate this material into your contextualising research, how do you think Christianity provides unique insights or challenges to the exploration of universal themes present in the heroic tales across cultures and religions?

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