Chapter 3 Review Hon 395
Reading the Bible as Literature. Jeanie C. Crain. Malden, Maryland: Polity Press, 2010. [43-64] 21 pages.
This chapter review is over Reading the Bible as Literature by Jeanie C. Crain. The chapter covered is Chapter 3. In Chapter 3 the focus was on moving beyond the literalism the Bible has to offer and invoke vision and offer revelation of a reality greater than time and space. These concepts that were then covered included: image, metaphor, symbol, and archetype: a way of meaning, making a great title for Chapter 3. As given in Chapters 1 and 2, the outline for Chapter 3 gave the reader expectations for what main ideas that was to be covered in the chapter. The outline included: preliminary considerations, two unifying images (light, darkness, and fire; and water), five metaphors of divine-human relationship, archetypal encounters of the divine and human, close reading, and questions for reflection. Overall, this chapter did a fine job projecting the ideas of image, metaphor, symbol, and archetype as tools the reader can use to understand the Bible’s literary elements. I found the chapter to be extremely beneficial, due to its effectiveness to even expose me, and avid Bible reader, to the various images, metaphors, symbols, and archetypes the Bible offers that I haven’t even picked up or noticed. By giving multiple examples of each throughout the chapter helped me to truly grasp what this chapter had to offer.
To help readers understand how to read the Bible as literature, Jeanie C. Crain authored a book that affected the common reader audience to understand the narrative, drama, and poetry the Bible entails. Chapter 3 was written with the idea that by simply understanding image, metaphor, symbol, and archetype, a reader can understand how they play a significant role in being able to read and understand the Bible. Jeanie C. Crain explains in this chapter how well the strategies can be used to decipher the Bible’s use of descriptive language.
As mentioned in the introduction the main focus of this chapter is image, metaphor, symbol, and archetype. The outline at the beginning of the chapter promised to include: preliminary considerations, two unifying images, five metaphors of divine-human relationship, archetypal encounters of the divine and human, close reading, and questions for reflection. To begin, Jeanie C. Crain explains how the chapter requires mental effort and concentration to interpret interlocking patterns of myth, metaphor, and typology richer than the descriptive language of fact and evidence. The figurative uses of language in literature and religion invoke vision and offer revelation of a reality greater than time and space. In the chapter is a highlighted section the covers two unifying images, five metaphors of divine-human relationship, and archetypal encounters of the divine and human.
Crain explains in this chapter a literary approach to reading the Bible means understanding how it uses language, both literally and figuratively, to present human experience in a connected pattern of images, metaphors, motifs, symbols, and archetypes. The image examples included are: light, darkness, fire and water. The five metaphors of divine-human relationship are: king and subject, judge and litigant, husband and wife, father and child, and master and servant. The archetypal encounters of the divine and human were Mount Horeb/Sinai and Mount of the skull.
In this chapter the examples of two unifying images: light, darkness, and fire; and water. Crain then explains that Genesis describes the essential stuff of life as beginning with the primal elements of light and water, throughout the Old and New testaments. This description is followed by several Bible verses and the interpretations for their literary element. This then leads into a further description of darkness, light, and fire and their symbolism. Darkness, light, and fire provide primal images symbolizing God’s absence or presence, followed by several verses again to reiterate the meaning. Light functions throughout the Bible to uphold right action and behaviors in contrast to the less sought after actions of darkness. Then, the symbol of blindness, by extension physical blindness becomes related to spiritual blindness and the inability to recognize and face truth. Following the light, darkness, and fire is the theme of water. Water’s function in the Bible is in three important ways: a cosmic force of life that can be controlled only by God, a source of life, and as a cleansing agent. Crain then does a great job depicting and listing out examples of water in the Bible that you can catch including: springs, wells, cisterns, seasonal rains, floods, the crossing of water, the drawing and carrying of water, and ceremonial cleansings with water. It’s also important that a reader understand that water brings life and death, blessing and affliction, order, and chaos. Crain then follows up this description of the many ways water is used in the Bible and the meaning with several verses and interpretations so the reader is able to understand more than just the literal meaning of water’s importance.
Following the idea of images in the Bible was the five metaphors of Divine-Human relationship. Crain explains that in the category of human character, many metaphors describe the divine-human relationship, the five most frequent being those of king and subject, judge and litigant, husband and wife, father and child, and lord or master and servant, all implying an obligation in the relationship. All five examples were followed with their own corresponding section, verses that show the example followed by interpretation, and further symbolization. Each of the five metaphors given begins with the literal, physical image but, beyond the literal image, each represents in some way a characteristic of God. Crain then explains both metaphor and simile move the reader to a second level of reading where king, judge, husband, father, and master stand for something more than the literal and concrete, and call for interpretation.
Finally, the last main section of chapter 3 involves archetypal encounters of the divine and human. There were two main examples Crain describes in grave detail the two dramatic encounters of the divine and human at Mount Horeb and at Golgotha; where both represent symbolically the coming together of the infinite and the finite. Further on before the chapter ends blood and trees are mentioned with their symbolic meaning. Blood figure prominently in the crucifixion as a source of life, while trees symbolize strength, power, glory, wealth, honor, and even immortality!
Reading the Bible as Literature is a great literary tool for understanding the symbols, metaphors, images, and archetypes the Bible has to offer. The chapter truly achieved its goal at providing the reader with the basic literary tools and devices the Bible uses. It gives the audience the tools to now, by just using their common sense, the reader can interpret the literary elements to understand the literature. Crain did explain that reading the Bible means understanding how it uses language, both literally and figuratively, to present human experience in a connected pattern of images, metaphors, motifs, symbols, and archetypes. It was known to the audience throughout the chapter how important to understand the Bible; you need to understand what can help you to decipher the literal meaning that is given. Every single section in this chapter covered a symbol, metaphor, image, and archetype, with a definition of the device, along with one or more examples of where this device can be found in the Bible. That’s truly helpful even for a Bible reader like me, I knew that the light was a symbol for God, but didn’t know about many of the other symbols used! I can see how a beginner Bible reader would definitely need to read this book and especially this chapter so they know not to necessarily take the Bible so literally, but may need to reach below the surface to understand what is trying to be said.