Reading The Bible as Literature an Introduction. Jeanie C. Crain. Malden, MA, 2010. [65-87] 22.


Chapter 4 of Jeanie C. Crain's textbook Reading the Bible as Literature an Introduction is titled “Major Genres: A Way of Seeing”. Inan introductory section directly following the title, the author lays out what will be discussed in this chapter. According to this section, this chapter will include an introduction to major genres by which works of literature are grouped by form, technique/style, or subject matter/content. The author states that there will also be a discussion of how a genre contributes to a reader's understanding of a text. This chapter is split into three main sections with several subsections. The first main section is a preliminary look at things the reader must be familiar with before looking at major genres in the Bible. The second section will introduce the reader to key elements of story as well as explore individual stories in the Bible can be looked at as a unified whole plot. The third section looks at drama and poetry and how they can be looked at within the book of Job.


By beginning the chapter with a section that includes definitions of several terms seen throughout literary study, the author is providing a background the reader might not otherwise have. The basics are covered in this section from prose and poetry, to plot and setting, along with many others. The author well at providing concise, but detailed descriptions of each term, thus enabling the reader to have these terms in the back of their mind as they continue to read the chapter. A second subsection of section one discusses genre criticism. This section gives the reader a brief background on the disputes about the Bible over the years. Some readers may be unaware that the Bible has been the subject of much debate about whether it should be considered one book or many, and how many people actually authored different sections of the Bible.


The second section is the longest and most detailed section of chapter 4. The author states her objectives right from the beginning. She wants to “...introduce you [the reader] to the key elements of the story evidenced in selections from the Bible” (Crain 69). The author goes on to say that she also wishes to explore how individual stories in the Bible come together “... to form an even greater narrative...” (Crain 69). Each subsection within this second section has a list of specific Bible passages the reader can look to for examples of what the author is talking about. This helps the reader to know where to go within the Bible to find exact examples of what is being taught. The subsections within this section include Stories with Structured Plot, Linking Episodes, Episodes in the New Testament Linked to the Old Testament, and Genesis (which is, in turn, separated into several subsections of its own). The author succeeds in providing examples and definitions throughout this section. Each term is paired with a concrete example from the Bible, providing the reader a way to look specifically at what the author means by each definition. The fourth subsection is about Genesis. Genesis was a very appropriate choice for the author. This is the first book of the Bible, and I would argue, one of the most well-known. Even people who don't know much about the Bible can probably recount the story of creation and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In this subsection on Genesis, the author succeeds in looking at how the stories are laid out and how individual stories can group together to form something greater than themselves. While this entire second section of chapter 4 is long, it is divided into enough separate sections to keep the reader's interest and keep them reading all the way through.


The third, and final, section of chapter 4 is titled “Drama and Poetry (Job 1-42)”. This section will, obviously, focus on the story of Job and how it “brings readers into contact with all the leading literary forms” (Crain 80). Now, Job is one story I am fairly familiar with, and I thought I had a pretty good hold on what was going on throughout the book. I am glad the author chose to include this story, though, because I did not realize how many literary terms could be exemplified throughout the story. The author discusses more than 15 terms throughout this section, more than one of which I had not heard before this section. I definitely feel like I came out of this section knowing more about Job than I had previously, and, therefore, the author succeeded in providing me with an overview of leading literary forms within Job.


Overall, Chapter 4 of Reading the Bible as Literature an Introduction does a successful job of discussing major genres used throughout the Bible. Each section provided multiple literary terms with great examples and definitions, several of which I had not heard before this textbook. The reader can expect to learn a lot from this chapter, and come away with a greater understanding of literary genres and their use throughout the Bible. I found no real downfalls throughout this chapter, as I understood everything I read, and I felt that this chapter helped give the reader a concrete way to begin seeing the Bible as sections of literature.