Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction. Jeanie C. Crain. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010. [Ch. 2] pg 22-42.

This review covers the second chapter of Reading the bible as Literature: An Introduction, by Jeanie Crain. First, I will provide some background information on style, tone, and rhetorical strategy, followed by a summary of chapter two. The summary will touch on all the main points of the chapter including comparison, association, and a survey of different rhetorical devices. After the summary, I will add my personal evaluation of the chapter followed by a conclusion.

                The elements of style, tone, and rhetorical strategy play a sizeable part when it comes to reading and understanding the Bible. Style and tone can, and do, vary by author. Since many authors wrote what we know today as the Bible, it carries a rich variety of these elements. Also, whether it is from the sheer volume of the work or the result of having so many authors, rhetorical devices abound throughout the Bible. Chapter two of Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction presents these elements in order to better acquaint the reader with the basics of their ever-changing natures.

Chapter two of Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction was about the different ways language is used in the Bible. In the section of preliminary considerations, the author talks about style, tone, strategy, and translation. The sub-section on style, tone, and strategy defines the three interrelated terms and emphasizes that they “give additional force, life, intensified feeling, and greater emphasis to the manifold forms, words, and sentences in the Bible” (Crain, 23). In the sub-section on translation, the author notes that the Bible “requires special attention to style when translated” (24) and that some translations are word for word, while others use more figurative language. She then emphasizes this with the remark that “The Bible employs a limited vocabulary which gives to it a sense of overall simplicity, but it also chooses these words with the nuanced precision of artistic expression” (24).

The main points of this chapter include a section entitled Comparison, Association, and Arrangement of Words and a section on rhetorical devices. In the section on comparison, association, and arrangement the author introduces the “two basic processes out of which [rhetorical] devices originate” (25). Comparison and association are literally what the words say – ways to compare and associate words with each other. They give rise to numerous rhetorical devices that the author mentions, and then describes in detail later on in the chapter. Arrangement of words includes things like parallelism, repetition, and reversal. One important component is variance – which encompasses irony and double meaning.

The section on rhetorical devices details several different sub-sections on different rhetorical devices such as simile, metaphor, merism, and oxymoron. Similes and metaphors are both used to make comparisons which can add “surprise, force, and beauty to the ordinary” (Crain, 27). Metaphors make these comparisons implicitly using “is,” while similes are explicit and use “like” or “as.” In both cases, it is necessary to “begin with the literal meaning of a word, usually one meaning and constant; the figurative departs from this meaning and introduces diversity and variability” (Crain, 27). In the sub-section on merism and oxymoron, the author describes merism as a type of synecdoche that “uses the word ‘and’ to join together contrasting parts to express totality” (29). It is important to recognize when merism is being used so that the relevant figures of speech are not taken literally and thus interpreted incorrectly. Oxymorons put together divergent ideas “to show that something normally foolish can, upon consideration, be exceedingly wise” (Crain, 31). Other sub-sections include allusion and foreshadowing, as well as signs and visions. Allusions “create and interlocking set of events, images, and doctrines that contribute to the idea that Bible has unity and coherence” (Crain, 32). They are found throughout the Bible with hundreds in the book of Revelation alone (Crain, 32). The author also makes the important note that, “The power of allusion exists in its being able to use a few words, to echo a theme or motif, to stimulate the mind to understand a greater meaning” (32). Foreshadowing gives clues as to what will happen later. When the clues of foreshadowing are applied to something that has happened or been written before, the floor is opened up for reinterpretation (33). Signs and visions are the subject of the final sub-section at the end of chapter two. Visions see “beyond human sight and existence,” (Crain, 40) and both carry symbolic meaning. Still more sub-sections cover many other rhetorical devices.

                I think that chapter two of Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction did especially well at covering rhetorical strategy, as was mentioned in the title of the chapter: Style, Tone, and Rhetorical Strategy. Myriad rhetorical devices were enumerated and explained in considerable depth. However, the title of the chapter led me to believe that I would find more information on style and tone. Instead, there was only a paragraph to detail both in the preliminary considerations section. I will admit that style was mentioned several times throughout the section on rhetorical devices as the author evinced how different devices could affect or relate to style. It is just that I was anticipating a more concrete, individual explanation. In addition, I would have liked more information on the arrangement of words; that sub-section felt stinted. Overall, I found the chapter to be highly informative. I am now well acquainted with many types of rhetorical devices and I feel better prepared to read all types of literature.

                In conclusion, I have found that chapter two of Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction offers a good, concise review of the elements of style, tone, and rhetorical strategy and how they apply to the Bible. Although some points have only a short explanation, they serve their purpose – which is to introduce the reader to these elements are used in a Biblical context.

Works Cited

Reading the Bible as Literature: An Introduction. Jeanie C. Crain. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010. [Ch. 2] pg 22-42.