Chapter Five Review
November 4, 2012
Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction. Jeanie C. Crain. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010. 90-109
It is likely that anyone who has ever read the Bible would agree that the Bible does not fit neatly into one specific category of book. There is a vast multitude of genres and sub-genres found within the Bible, whether the genre varies from book to book, verse to verse, chapter to chapter, or even groupings of various books. But what does this mean for the reader? In Chapter Five of Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction, author Jeanie C. Crain introduces students to sub-genres and the importance of understanding them. Chapter Five is titled “Sub-Genres: A Way of Clarifying and Mapping.” From the chapter’s title alone, readers can grasp that sub-genres assist them in understanding how ideas or events in the Bible work together to create the whole. In this chapter, Dr. Crain introduces students to four of the most familiar sub-genres: song, parable, allegory, and prayer. Chapter Five intends to teach students the basics of identifying and understanding sub-genres in the Bible. As usual, multiple examples from the Bible itself are provided to aid in reader understanding. Dr. Crain’s presentation is highly effective; from this chapter, readers will better understand sub-genres in the Bible.
Readers were introduced to genres in Chapter Four of Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction. With those ideas fresh in their minds, they are able to then turn to Chapter Five and deepen their understanding of the literary structure of the Bible. Dr. Crain does inform students that this chapter is just an introduction to the topic, and, as with other ideas presented in the textbook, “any one tool presented belongs to a much more encompassing and complex set of discussions,” (107). Having said that, Chapter Five provides students with the foundation they need to identify sub-genres in the Bible and appreciate and understand how those genres work together.
Chapter Five begins with an introduction demonstrating to students the importance of understanding genres and sub-genres. Dr. Crain writes, “You will begin by asking questions: what kind of thing is this—is it prose or poetry? What is the literary form? Can the text be recognized as a song, an allegory, a parable, a prayer, or another genre?” (91). By gaining the ability to identify and understand genre, the reader can better understand what the authors of the Bible were truly saying. Additionally, readers will be enabled to see how seemingly different things in the Bible relate to one another. As the chapter continues, some preliminary considerations are discussed, including conventions, recognition of genres, metaphorical function, and objections to genre criticism. In this section of the text, Dr. Crain initiates interest and gets the reader thinking. “Knowing about genres… brings interpretive insight and provides a basic foundation for beginning to appreciate the literature in the Bible,” she writes (Crain, 91). The chapter then begins to examine four of the most familiar sub-genres. These sub-genres are song, allegory, parable, and prayer. In the section discussing the sub-genre of song, Dr. Crain explains that songs in the Bible possess many of the common characteristics of poetry. These characteristics include “inset arrangement, genre and mode markers, occasional antiphonal arrangement, concrete imagery, parallelisms, cognates, and allusion,” (Crain, 93). Dr. Crain provides multiple examples of songs in the Bible including the Song of Moses, the Song of Miriam, and the Song of Mary. To illustrate concepts, Dr. Crain provides specific verses from the Bible. For example, to demonstrate parallelism, she provides two verses from Exodus. Exodus 17.7 (“You overthrew your adversaries”) is parallel to Exodus 15.6 (“Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy”), as the author indicated (Crain, 95). In the next section, the chapter examines allegory, which is considered a continuation of metaphor. Dr. Crain discusses an extremely powerful allegory. It is the allegory of Hosea and his wife, Gomer. As Dr. Crain explains, Hosea and his acceptance and unconditional love is a metaphor for God, while Gomer, a prostitute who cheated on her husband, is a metaphor for the people of Israel. By addressing these metaphors, readers will find that Hosea’s story is an incredible allegory that represents God’s everlasting love for his people. Chapter Five then examines parable, which is a continuation of simile. Dr. Crain provides numerous examples found throughout the Bible. The chapter then begins to come to a close with the discussion of prayer. Prayer evolves throughout the Bible, and Dr. Crain provides examples and explains the importance of understanding the sub-genre of prayer. Chapter Five concludes with thought-provoking exercises and reflection questions for the reader to answer.
When comparing this chapter to other works, I found that the length of the chapter caught my attention. It seems that many textbooks struggle with the length of a chapter, and for good reason; if a chapter is too short, important details will be lost. However, if a chapter is too long, readers will lose interest. With her book, Dr. Crain has found an excellent, effective chapter length. She is able to present important points and provide useful examples, yet she keeps her chapters concise. This way, she gets her points across, and readers remain attentive while reading, instead of getting caught up with the common question, “how many pages do I have left?”
I also examined the fifth chapter of John B. Gabel, Charles B. Wheeler, and Anthony D. York’s work, The Bible as Literature. Upon reading the title of their chapter, “The Physical Setting of the Bible,” I determined that it is clear that these two texts, while both excellent and educational, have set their focus on two different ideas. While Dr. Crain focuses on the literary aspects of the Bible, Gabel, Wheeler, and York focus on the history of the Bible. I find Dr. Crain’s approach more effective for my understanding. When considering evaluating—and learning from—literature, students will typically think of literary style—the language used, the literary structure of the work, and the message the author is trying to convey. Dr. Crain’s approach explores these components. Her discussions are well-organized and travel a sensible route. It is clear that a large amount of thought and planning went into the arrangement of Jeanie Crain’s textbook, which is sure to be appreciated by any reader.r, and York focus on sed , and don'ints and provide u
In conclusion, Dr. Crain provided yet another extremely effective and educational chapter in Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction. Chapter Five, “Sub-Genres: A Way of Clarifying and Mapping,” provides students with useful information regarding sub-genres used in the Bible. The chapter provided an in-depth explanation of four of the most familiar sub-genres: song, allegory, parable, and prayer. Upon completion of the chapter, readers will have gained an understanding of what sub-genres in the Bible look like, and how these genres work together to create a unity within the Bible.