Karin Schmit Chapter 2 Review Hon 395


Reading The Bible As Literature.Jeanie C. Crain.Malden, Maryland: Polity Press, 2010. [22-42] 20 pages.


                This chapter review is over Reading the Bible as Literature by Jeanie C. Crain. The chapter covered is Chapter 2. In Chapter 2 the focus was on closely related concepts that give additional force, feeling, and emphasis in the Bible. These concepts that were then covered included: style, tone, and rhetorical strategy: a way of using language, making a great title for Chapter 2. As given in Chapter 1, the outline for Chapter 2 gave the reader expectations for what main ideas that was to be covered in the chapter. The outline included: preliminary considerations for style, tone, and strategy; comparison, association, and arrangement of words; a sampling of rhetorical devices; close reading; and questions for reflection. Overall, I would say this chapter did an extremely well job in exposing a wide audience to the style, tone and rhetorical strategies the Bible uses to help the reader understand the Bible. I honestly can’t critique the chapter at all, due to its effectiveness to even expose me, and avid Bible reader, to the strategies I haven’t even picked up on that allowed me to understand the ideas the Bible was trying to put across!


                To help readers understand how to read the Bible as literature, Jeanie C. Crain authored a book that affected the common reader audience to understand the narrative, drama, and poetry the Bible entails. Chapter 2 was written with the idea that by simply understanding style, tone, and rhetorical strategy early in the book, a reader can understand how they play a significant role in being able to read and understand the Bible. Jeanie C. Crain explains in this chapter how well the strategies can be used to decipher the Bible’s extremely rich use of rhetorical devices.


                As mentioned in the introduction the main focus of this chapter is style, tone, and strategy as rhetorical devices. The outline at the beginning of the chapter promised to include: preliminary considerations for style, tone, and strategy; comparison, association, and arrangement of words; a sampling of rhetorical devices; close reading; and questions for reflection. To begin, Jeanie C. Crain defines a rhetorical device as using persuasive means, and includes the use of conventions and expectations with the manipulations of these to achieve the desired effects. In the chapter is a highlighted section the covers comparison, association, and arrangement of words; along with the arrangement of words and their importance in the Bible.


                Crain explains that rhetorical devices occur so frequently in the Bible that ignoring them means not using the literary tools available to understand it. The devices included in this chapter that are also described include: simile, metaphor; personification, metonymy, and synecdoche; anthropomorphism and zoomorphism; merism and oxymoron; quotation, allusion, and foreshadowing; irony, rhetorical question, amplification, and euphemism; repetition, recursion, inclusion, and chiasm; and signs and visions.


                 A simile or metaphor involves a comparison using is and explicit comparison using like or as. Crain then lists several Biblical verses that then include examples of similes and metaphors using figurative language. Personification includes when examples are represented or spoken of as persons, metonymy is an exaggerated metaphor in which the thing chosen for the comparison is closely associated with the object that it is being compared to, and synecdoche a whole totality is represented by naming a part; all described with actual quotations from the Bible. Anthropomorphism is the idea to attribute many characteristics of humans to God, while zoomorphism compares features of an animal to a different species. Merism and Oxymoron, as Crain explains, were used primarily in Gen. 1, 2 to compare contrasting parts to totality. Quotation, allusions, and foreshadowing are key tools to help the reader understand the New Testament clearly quotes the Old Testament with chapter and verse divisions with cross-referencing materials that were quoted, alluded, or foreshadowed to. Irony, rhetorical question, amplification, and euphemism, as described include the ideas of using words to suggest the opposite of their literal meaning (irony), one set of question asked by God and another by the human (rhetorical question), more words then needed to describe (amplification), and nice words to replace bad ones (euphemism). These were used for numerous verses and were pointed out with the verse they correspond to by a list Crain provides at the beginning of the section. The next section includes repetition – the most important Biblical literary device that repeats a specific idea over and over to place importance, recursion – key information is repeated from one narrative to another, inclusion – repetition to mark to beginning and end of a section, and chiasm- another repetition device to connect what’s repeated to what it connects with. To help the reader understand the repetition literary devices, each definition was explained with an actual verse and the components were pointed out and defined. Finally to end the chapter signs and visions were defined and explained where they can be found and how they are a vision or a sign.


                Reading the Bible as Literature is a great literary tool for understanding the rhetorical devices the Bible has to offer.  The chapter truly achieved its goal at providing the reader with the basic literary tools and devices the Bible uses. It gives the audience the tools to now, by just using their common sense, rhetorical devices can be recognized and defined and that doing so helps to understand the literature. Crain did explain that the Bible is rich in rhetorical devices and with that being said at the beginning of the chapter, it was known to the audience throughout the chapter how important to understand the Bible, you need to understand what can help you to decipher the devices used. Every single section in this chapter covered a rhetorical device in depth, with a definition of the device, along with one or more examples of where this device can be found in the Bible. That’s truly helpful even for a Bible reader like me, I never caught on to some of the literary devices used and how they worked until now. I can see how a beginner Bible reader would definitely need to read this book and especially this chapter so they know not to necessarily take the Bible so literally, but may need to reach below the surface to understand what is trying to be said!