Reading The Bible as Literature an Introduction. Jeanie C. Crain. Malden, MA, 2010. [110-126] 16.
Chapter 6 in Reading the Bible as Literature an Introduction by Janie C. Crain is titled “Character: A Way of Identifying”. Based upon the title, this chapter should discuss different characters and character types and how to recognize what they have to say through their dialogue and actions. In the first section of Chapter 6, readers are given several paragraphs of information necessary before they can begin recognizing characters throughout the Bible. The second section is the most weighty in this chapter, containing nine sub-sections on how to identify different characters throughout the Bible.
The author first provides a section on definitions that the readers must know before continuing into this chapter. I recall learning these definitions in middle and high-school, but, that was several years ago, and the author does a successful job briefly refreshing my memory on characters. Then, the author provides a brief section on how the Bible is traditionally read followed by a section on unique characteristics within the Bible. The author quickly goes through several examples of characters and how details are important and how they are “...revealing and enriching data by the addition of subsequent detail...” (Crain 111). The author is quick to point out, and rightly so, that characters must be interpreted and every detail should be looked at and questions should be asked about “...why the narrator presents material in particular ways...” (Crain 111).
The next section is titled “Identifying Characters” and is divided into nine sections on the topic. The chapter first begins by including a short two paragraphs rationalizing the author's selection process when putting together this section of Chapter 6. She outlines some guidelines for the readers about point-of-view as well as important questions to be asked throughout the rest of the chapter. The first sub-section after the brief justification is about character through context and its identification in the story of Saul and the witch of Endor. The author states at the beginning of the chapter that some of the discussed characters and stories in this chapter may be unfamiliar to the reader, and this one was unfamiliar to me. The author provides a very detailed yet easy to follow summary of the story. The author goes through the story section by section and guides the reader through details of how character emerges in this story. The italicized paragraph at the end of the section, on page 117, provides a helpful account of the two types of characters and how Saul and Solomon can be judged by the same standards to be seen as the two types.
The author then goes into a section about character through actions. The story of Solomon and the two prostitutes with their child is a great choice for presenting character through actions. This story successfully shows that a person's actions can show the readers what kind of person the character was. Again, the italicized paragraph at the end of the section provides a brief, helpful account of how you make decisions about characters throughout the Bible because of their actions, and how their true character often eludes us the more stories about the character are read.
The third section is about character through other character's responses. For me, this was the most confusing section of the whole chapter. This could possibly because this was also the story I was the most unfamiliar with. I read the section several times, and I understand bits and pieces of it, but I feel like it went to far astray from Huldah's character into other discussions. I understand the juxtaposition between life and death, as well as Huldah's importance as a prophetess, I just came out of this section without understanding what all of this says about Huldah's character and what others' responses were.
The next section is about characters through their words. This section discusses the story of Stephen, and how he is more than the first Christian martyr. Stephen produces a speech about history and “...uses the literary tools of foreshadowing and allusion... to make a theological point...” (Crain 121). Stephen is compared with Christ as can be seen in his words at the end of his story and his life. The auhor does a successful job at outlining the story of Stephen and showing that his character can be seen through what he chooses to say.
The fifth section of the chapter is about character through symbolic action. The story of Ezekiel presented in this section is an analogy for the temple being taken away from the people. This story was a very appropriate choice for explaining character through symbolic action. The summary of the story the author provides is brief, but gives the readers important details about the symbolism of Ezekiel's lack of mourning and how it corresponds to the people's lack of mourning of the temple.
The last four sections are short, precise, and to the point. They are about character through requests, impact, description, and structure. The section on requests discusses the story of Salome and her request for Jesus to have her sons sit on his right and left sides in his kingdom. The impact section uses the story of Eunice and how she has instilled many positive traits in her son Timothy. The next section on description is the most brief of all, quickly going over the significance of women in the church and how their responsibilities are described. The final section of the chapter is about character through structure. This section discusses the Gospel of Mark and how it is structured to parallel the lives of Mark and Jesus, thus providing character description for both.
Overall, Chapter 6 of Reading the Bible as Literature an Introduction, does a successful job and describing different characters and how they can be interpreted in the context surrounding their stories. By providing accounts of both familiar and unfamiliar stories to the readers, they are forced to re-examine stories they may think they understand, as well as expand their reading of the Bible to a portion they may not have read before. The sections throughout this chapter (aside from the section on Huldah, which I failed to understand clearly) are presented in clear, concise, easy-to-understand manners. The author chose appropriate stories for each section of the chapter, and overall assisted her readers in understanding how characters can be understood on a deeper level by looking at different parts of their stories and how they are presented.