7 October, 2012
Reading the Bible as Literature. Jeanie C. Crain. Cambridge UK: Polity, 2010, [1-213]
Chapter 3 Review
Chapter 3 in Reading the Bible as Literature, by Dr. Crain is entitled “Image, Metaphor, Symbol, and Archetype: A Way of Meaning.” This chapter thoroughly explains the different ways the Bible uses images and metaphors to illustrate the point verses are trying to make. Not only did that chapter define the terms in its title it gave several examples of that term being used in the Bible as well as multiple passages in the Bible that illustrate it. In addition it showed some of the most common metaphors and images used in the Bible such as that of light and water. I personally really enjoyed this chapter. It gave me greater insight into how the Bible takes a concrete image and repeatedly uses it as a metaphor and symbol creating and archetype.
The chapter compared how the Bible uses some opposites as metaphors. Some common examples are of light and darkness, and fire and water. Darkness is repeatedly used throughout the Bible to illustrate sin, evil, or being lost. The image often associated with this is that of light which is used to represent God, righteousness, holiness, and heaven. The two are often used side by side to illustrate God’s holiness in comparison to the darkness of sin. Another common image used, probably the most commonly used, is water. Water is often used to illustrate life. Jesus describes himself to the Samaritan woman as being the living water. Likewise Moses struck the rock in Numbers and water sprung forth. Another way to see water is as a powerful force. In Exodus, God parts the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to pass through safely, and then causes the water to collapse and close up on the Egyptians. The sea is powerful but God is more powerful. Fire is another example that Dr. Crain explains in the chapter. Fire can be used as both a good symbol and a bad one. When most people think fire and the Bible they think of hell; a place of ultimate suffering for the unrighteous. However fire can be holy too. God led the Isralites in the form of a pillar of fire during the night. The Bible also says Christians are purified through the fire, and made holy.
Some other topics discussed in Chapter 3 of Reading the Bible as Literature are the use of metaphors throughout the Bible. More specifically the chapter discussed five metaphors that describe human relationships with God. The Bible uses the metaphor of King and subject to show how God rules over us. It also compares God to a judge saying that He alone can judge us and will. Then the book illustrated the metaphor of husband and wife. Often God describes His relationship with the church as a marriage with Christ as the Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride. The next metaphor was of Father and Child. The Lord is often called our Father, and Christ is the Son of God. When Jesus prayed He prayed to His Father and there are many verses that describe God as a father and His follows as His children. Finally the metaphor of Master and Servant; we are to serve God with our lives and also to serve others. These metaphors are used extensively throughout the Old and New Testaments. As I read the chapter I was able to think of several verses I’ve read over the years that used these metaphors.
I really enjoyed this chapter. One of my favorite things about the Bible is finding repeating themes across several chapters and books. When I read a verse that I like, I try to find other verses in other passages that have the same message. This chapter gave me several connections like this. For example: when the author was explaining the symbol of Water throughout the Bible she cited several verses and explained the implications of the metaphor found in this verse. I found this very useful because not only did it further explain how common the symbol of water was used but it showed the many versatile ways water could be used in the Bible to illustrate different things. Even more so I enjoyed the part about metaphors. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, so it was interesting to have a more in-depth look at how God describes Himself to us, how He uses more than one way to relate to us. He isn’t just our Father, He is our King, our Judge, our Bridegroom, and our Master. With all the passages mentioned in the chapter it was easy to understand how these five different things can go hand-in-hand and all apply to the same being in relation to how He interacts with His creation.
As I was working on the questions and exercises at the end of the chapter I was able to work out some of my own thoughts and find my own examples of what Dr. Crain was discussing in the book. For example, I was not completely understanding the definition of “archetype” as it was explained in the book but as I worked on it and read other students thoughts I was better able to understand it and to discuss it myself. The questions were interesting and fun to work with and think about. The exercises I did were challenging and very educational. However, some of the other exercises seemed very lengthy. Exercise 2 listed many, many sections of the Bible and asked the reader to explain images discussed. I feel like this exercise had too many verses to work with. Other than that I actually enjoyed the work for this chapter.
Overall I liked the chapter. I thought it was well-written and fairly easy to understand. I learned a lot from the chapter and can now better distinguish between figurative and literal language in the Bible. In addition I can now easily recognize archetypes being used when I read the Bible and have several reference points to compare metaphors too.