Chapter 4 Review Hon 395
Reading the Bible as Literature. Jeanie C. Crain. Malden, Maryland: Polity Press, 2010. [65-89] 24 pages.
This chapter review is over Reading the Bible as Literature by Jeanie C. Crain. The chapter covered is Chapter 4. In Chapter 4 the main focus was on interpreting the major genres in the Bible and new way of viewing those genres. It was broken down throughout the chapter by either different books of the Bible and the genres contained in those books or definitions of various genres. As giving in every Chapter covered so far, the outline for Chapter 4 gave the reader expectations for what main ideas that was to be covered in the chapter. The outline included: preliminary considerations, major genres and related definitions, genre criticism, narrative, drama and poetry, close reading, and questions for reflection. Overall, this chapter did a fine job of presenting the numerous genres found in the Bible and defining them in ways that the audience can understand, while also giving direct examples of genres and their reoccurrence throughout the Bible so that the reader actually understands what’s being explained. I can honestly say many of the genres and the parts of genres defined I had no idea existed so deep and throughout the Bible. Jeanie C. Crain did a great job by not just giving definitions, but by providing 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 4 was written with the idea that by simply understanding genres, what composes a genre, and where to find them through the Bible, 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 the major genres.
As mentioned in the introduction the main focus of this chapter is major genres: a way of seeing. The outline at the beginning of the chapter promised to include: preliminary considerations, major genres and related definitions, genre criticism, narrative, drama and poetry, close reading, and questions for reflection. To begin, Jeanie C. Crain explains how the chapter requires the audience to understand the importance of “close reading and the need to focus on the Bible as a whole.” In the chapter is a highlighted section that covers the preliminary considerations concerning major genres and related definitions, narrative, and drama and poetry.
Crain explains in this chapter that she will introduce the major genres (the types and categories) into which literary works are grouped according to form, technique/style, or subject matter/content; and that once a literary genre is recognized contributes a set of expectations that shapes a reader’s interpretation of a text. The chapter is divided into: the introduction of genres, narrative (which is then subdivided to achieve two purposes out of the section), and drama and poetry (concerning the book of Job).
To start off the chapter Crain begins with giving the definition of genre to mean designation into which works are classified according to what they have in common, either in their formal structures or in their treatment of subject matter, or both. Chapter four then leads into genre criticism or more widely known as “form criticism”, which directs attention to four elements: structure, genre, setting, and intent. Genre criticism is then brought up again at the end of the introduction section, by referencing to the idea of do genres really exist or are they made up, is the taxonomy finite or infinite (which I love referring to genres as taxonomy since I’m a biology major), or descriptive or proscriptive. And then finally to sum up the section was the major genres and related definitions which included: lyric (poetry), drama (relating to performance), epic (poetic narrative), prose, poetry, story (what happens), fiction (stories that have been made up imaginatively), plot (story or succession of events), setting (time, location, and everything in which a story takes place), point of view (reference to the perspective from which the story is told), and narrative (applied to prose which presents chronological sequenced events in the story). The idea of narrative is then explained in depth as the next main section covered in the chapter.
Narrative is used as a main heading in the chapter because Crain had a twofold purpose for it to be used as. She wanted to introduce the key elements of story evidenced in selections from the Bible; and how to explore with us how the Bible takes individual stories and weaves them together to form an ever greater narrative (unifying plot). It was helpful that in the introduction of narrative Crain gave the definition of episode to mean consists of phases and steps grouped into a complete story, and results in some form of problem/resolution; which was necessary to know since the Biblical narrative distinctively consists of episodes that link together chains of stories. Following this definition were subheadings. The subheading stories with structured lot covered several versus and within the examples given; the protagonist, exposition, resolution, dialogue, and omniscient narrator were defined. The next subheading was linking episodes, which as episodes were defined earlier comes up throughout the Bible and is necessary to know they can be linked. We know from earlier chapters that many authors of the New Testament reference the Old Testament, but now we can refer to some of those as linking episodes because the next subheading covered just that; episodes in the New Testament linked to the Old Testament and even lists multiple examples! Crain then leads into the main focus of Narrative, and that is to emphasize the importance of the book of Genesis. Crain explains that Genesis is used to demonstrate some of the structuring techniques used for biblical narrative to intertwine myth, legend, and historical fact. What follows is the breakdown of Genesis for the audience into: the numerous genres Genesis contains (with examples), the stories contained in Genesis 1-2, groups of stories, and cycles (three to five groups of stories) and the macro-plot. These all were not only defined and then explained by Crain, but contained multiple verses to back up the idea.
Drama and Poetry was the next heading covered and the book of Job was deemed most fit by Crain, with the idea that Job brings readers into contact with all the leading literary forms. Job’s genres were then listed that could include: theodicy (moral issues), retribution, comedy, tragedy, and poetry. After each one of the definitions was listed Crain then wrote a few sentences to a paragraph with verses that pointed the reader into the direction of where to find this example in the Bible, how helpful! The last few pages of the chapter were still concerning drama and poetry in the book of Job, were more so focused on just the poetry aspect. The definitions for stanzas (hymn consisting of a formal structure), parallelism (lines that use different words to express the same or similar ideas in grammatical form), synonymous (similar content), antithetical (second line expresses the truth of the first in a negative way), chiasm (x-shape poetry representing the crossing of two objects in reverse order) and synthetic (pair of lines form a unit and the second line expands or completes the first) were all listed and had verses to follow and show direct examples of the poetry to be found in Job.
Reading the Bible as Literature is a great literary tool for understanding the major genres the Bible has to offer. The chapter truly achieved its goal at providing the reader with the basic definitions and devices the Bible uses to promote each genre. It gives the audience the understanding of how each book or multiple verses in the Bible may follow a specific genre. Crain did explain that in this chapter that she will introduce the major genres (the types and categories) into which literary works are grouped according to form, technique/style, or subject matter/content; and that once a literary genre is recognized contributes a set of expectations that shapes a reader’s interpretation of a text. It was known to the audience throughout the chapter how important to understand the Bible; you need to understand the genre the text is written in! The two heading that were then broken down helped the audience to understand genres, parts of genres, and where they can be found in the Bible. That’s truly helpful even for a Bible reader like me, the idea of genres in the Bible astounds me I didn’t think that literary element existed that deeply in the Bible! 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!