Chapter 1 Review

Reading the Bible as Literature. Crain, Jeanie C. Cambridge, UK. Polity Press. 2010. Pages 1-21.


                As I began to read the book, Reading the Bible as Literature by Jeanie C. Craig, I didn’t really know what to expect. Growing up very involved in the church, I have been exposed to the Bible quite a bit for my entire life. This being said, I did not know if I would be able to read the Bible as “literature” very well. As I continued to read the chapter, the author revealed many different explanations and techniques that did an excellent job of walking me through the process. The author is trying to reach out to an audience that is “wanting to acquire a more complete and satisfying understanding of and appreciation for the Bible” (2). My immediate reaction to this chapter was one of gratitude. The author did a wonderful job of explaining her goals of both the chapter and the book, as well as giving a brief background of what we were going to be dealing with.

In this first chapter, the author provides explanations of how she will conduct the rest of her book, along with definitions to many keywords used throughout the course. The author does a very good job of making the chapter reader-friendly. By outlining the chapter at the beginning of each chapter, the author makes it easy for the reader to be visualize the path the chapter will take. This being said, the author states that in her book she will “provide you with the basic definitions and background you need for improving your understanding of the Bible by reading it as literature” (1).  The author wastes no time in doing so, for she goes right into definitions to help the reader get a grasp on the subject. The author’s section on definitions is helpful for both a person new to the subject, and a person that has a vast knowledge of it. This section helps to distinguish many things including the different books used by different religions, different words used to by different religions to describe the same thing, and origins of both of these. As the sections continue in Chapter One, the author gives another brief overview about the form of the Bible, along with how it had been documented. The author does an excellent job of providing credibility by including many in-depth facts about how some of the manuscripts are written, and how they were transferred. This gives the reader a much better understanding of how all of the writings came about, and how they made it into their modern day forms. Going along with the same subject, the author then begins a section that explains much about the translations used in the Bible. The author once again clears up the confusion by stating that “every translation of the Bible affects meaning in different ways, with translations generally existing on a continuum that runs from literal to moderately literal (form-based), and from moderately idiomatic to idiomatic (meaning-bnased). (4). The author then goes into detail about how some translations do a better job at portraying things such as allusion and alliteration from the original text, compared to other translations. Once again, the author reinforces her information on the subject by providing multiple quotes from the Bible that solidify her stance.

In the next group of sections, the author begins to discus some critical terms necessary if someone wishes to read the Bible as literature. The author goes into depth on subjects such as appeal, readership, intertextuality, allusion, language, and many other terms that we will encounter on the journey towards reading the Bible as literature. Once again, the author provides references on how each term is brought about, and how to approach each subject. The author helps the reader by bringing in terms such as symbolic, and mythological to help the reader to get a more basic understanding of somewhat complex subjects. Each of the subjects in the terms section provide more insight on how the Bible came about, and how it is interpreted today. This continues as the author goes into explaining how the Bible is taught in today’s world, along with traditions that are present today on the subject. All of these sections are just more concrete evidence in support of the author’s goal. The first person accounts and opinions on each of these subjects allows the reader to be connected with the thoughts of the author which was very interesting.

The author’s goal of provided a solid foundation on which the rest of the book will continue was most definitely achieved. The author leaves very little room for confusion about the backgrounds of the subject, as well as providing many applicable approaches necessary to successfully understand the subject. The possibilities that are available from the readings are very present. The author provides a firm foundation for the continuance of the process of reading the Bible as literature. The author did an excellent job of providing techniques, approaches, and background information so that the reader could go about studying the Bible from a literature standpoint.  By providing the material in a third person, objective, view, the author leaves little room for bias an opinion. I like this because it reassures me that everything provided is factual. I also enjoyed the italicized, first person paragraphs that the author provided. This made the readings more personal, and relatable, which made the chapter much more enjoyable to read. I have actually never read any other books similar to this one, so I cannot provide a comparison between this author’s approach and that of others. I do believe though, that this book would compare very well because of how simply the information is provided, yet how in-depth the facts are. Once again, I have no personal experience in the field of reading the Bible as literature, so I cannot compare my techniques to that of the author. However, I do read my Bible a lot, and some of these techniques are very applicable in reading it from a non-literary viewpoint. All in all, this chapter is an excellent beginning to a book that I was at first concerned about. The author’s ability to present the material in a mapped out way, present it very in-depth but still compact, was very reassuring to me. I look forward to continuing to read the rest of the book, and to letting these approaches change how I go about reading my Bible