Reading The Bible as Literature an Introduction. Jeanie C. Crain. Malden, MA, 2010. [43-62] 19.
Chapter three of Jeanie C. Crain's textbook Reading the Bible as Literature an Introduction is titled “Image, Metaphor, Symbol, and Archetype: A Way of Meaning”. This title indicates that this chapter should include discussion of the definitions of image, metaphor, symbol and archetype, as well as discussion on the way they help provide meaning within the Bible for the reader. This chapter includes four sections and several subsections. The first section looks at the preliminary considerations the reader should be familiar with before continuing with the chapter. The second section provides a discussion of light, darkness, fire, and water and how they are used throughout the Bible. The third section discusses the divine-human relationship and the five most commonly used metaphors for this relationship throughout the Bible. The fourth section discusses archetypes within encounters of the divine and human and what they mean symbolically. Overall, this chapter succeeds in doing what it set out to do: provide a discussion of image, metaphor, symbol and archetype and how they each affect meaning in the Bible. Each section of this chapter will be summarized and reviewed here in order to show the successes and setbacks of the text so far.
By beginning the chapter with a section detailing what each of the literary devices are, as well as including an example of how each of the devices is used in the Bible, the reader is set up with a model they can use while reading the rest of this chapter. The reader is given the image of water, and told how it is used throughout the Bible as metaphor, simile, motif, symbol, and archetype, which is setting up an example of the several levels of meaning readers should be able to pull from many images throughout the Bible. This first section of chapter three succeeds in providing a short, concise background and a simple-to-understand example for the reader to absorb before diving in to the rest of the chapter. At the beginning of the chapter the author says, “You may find this chapter challenging, requiring from you mental effort and concentration” (Crain 43). This is the case throughout much of the chapter. This first introductory section provides the reader some tools and assistance they may need while reading the rest of this chapter.
The next section begins by discussing how images serve as links between different parts of the Bible. The author says that light and water are “two of the most familiar images” (Crain 45). The author goes on to list many examples of how light, darkness, and fire are used with multiple levels of meaning. The second subsection of this part of chapter three focuses on the imagery of water. The author states that water imagery appears “over 600 times” (Crain 48), tripling the appearances of light. The second paragraph talks about water as a motif. Personally, I find motif to be a very difficult concept to understand. This section on water as a motif, though, helps my understanding greatly. There are many examples of light, darkness, fire, and water used as images and symbols throughout the Bible. This section of chapter three succeeds in providing a wide variety of examples and explanations throughout different parts of the Bible. This section really did well at providing a detailed, balanced combination of explanation and example that assist the reader in understanding how these literary devices are used in different contexts.
The third section of chapter three discusses the five metaphors of divine-human relationship. These five metaphors are king and subject, judge and litigant, husband and wife, father and child, and master and servant. The author gives a list of verses that contain the metaphor before discussing each different one. These lists provide a road map of sorts on where the author will be taking the discussion, and is very helpful while reading the discussion of each metaphor. The discussion of each metaphor individually allows the author to provide varied and detailed examples as well as explanation on how the metaphors provide deeper meaning to each of these literal relationships in the Bible. This section of the chapter succeeds in its goal of showing the reader that even relationships throughout the Bible can be read as more than just the concrete, literal image.
The fourth, and final, section of chapter 3 looks at the archetypal encounters of the divine and human. The first part of this section talks about Mount Horeb/Sinai. The author states that “there are over 500 references in the Bible to mountains and hills...” (Crain 59). Despite the massive amount of examples to choose from, the author provides many varied examples of the multiple levels of meaning in references to mountains throughout the Bible. The first part of this section does a great job at showing the importance of the images of mountains throughout the Bible. The second part of this section (titled “The Mount of the Skull”), unfortunately, confused me quite a bit. First, I was unsure what “The Mount of the Skull” meant. Based on the name, and the context of this section, I assumed it was referring to Calgary, the place of Jesus' crucifixion, but I was unsure, so I looked it up on the internet. I have no problem using outside resources, but it would have benefited the reader for the author to have been more clear about the tie between Golgotha, Calgary, and The Mount of the Skull. The second part that confused me was the sudden interjection of the significance of trees. I understand why the discussion of trees was in the chapter, I was just confused as to why it was in the section about The Mount of the Skull. I read this section several times in order to try to understand the transition between the symbolism of blood to the symbolism behind trees. It would have helped my confusion if the author had either provided an additional section for trees, or provided a better explanation and introduction to the discussion of trees.
Overall, Chapter 3 of Reading the Bible as Literature an Introduction does a successful job at discussing image, metaphor, symbol, and archetype and how they provide greater meaning throughout the Bible. Each section of this chapter provided great detail and clear explanation which the reader can refer back to when trying to read deeper meaning into different parts of the Bible. The only complaint I have about chapter three is the confusing inclusion of trees in the discussion of The Mount of the Skull. Because that is just an issue of clarity and slight confusion on my part, I do not see it as a major issue and would still claim that this chapter succeeded in completing what it set out to do.