21 October, 2012
Reading the Bible as Literature. Jeanie C. Crain. Cambridge UK: Polity, 2010, [1-213]
Chapter 4 Review
Chapter 4 in Reading the Bible as Literature, by Dr. Crain discusses the Major Genres in the Bible. In this chapter Dr. Crain breaks down the differences between narrative, episode, poetry, and prose. In this chapter the terms were easily defined and broken down so that the reader can understand. In addition to providing an explanation the author gives many, references to the Bible that exemplify the terms discussed. As I was reading I could think of several stories and narratives in the Bible that were connected together and acted as linking episodes. It reminded me of my mom telling me Biblical stories when I was a kid. I used to love hearing her tell me stories like that of Daniel and the Lions’ Den, or David and Goliath. She would tell me all about the characters, the action, the problems, and how they solved those problems. I didn’t realize it then but she was describing protagonists, dialogue, episodes, and resolutions of conflicts, all components of narratives. I also didn’t realize then the magnitude of linked episodes, or how they transcend through all books of the Bible. Back then they were just stories, but now I see how all these elements of literature are used in the Bible to unify it into one cohesive book.
This chapter in Reading the Bible as Literature is easy to understand because it was set up perfectly by the previous chapters. Chapter 1 gave an overview of what it means to read the Bible as literature and Chapter 2 explained how to use elements like style, tone, and rhetorical strategy to use language. Chapter 3 broke down images, metaphors, similes, symbols, and archetypes to help the reader understand the difference between literal and figurative language used throughout the Bible. This was a perfect lead up to Chapter 4 which discusses the major genres of the Bible. Dr. Crain, the author, put the chapters in a nice cohesive order so that each chapter builds on the previous one and expands the readers thoughts and understanding of the Bible as a literary work.
Chapter 4 analyzed the different literature genres in the Bible. After defining the terms of the chapter and explaining Genre Criticism, the author broke down the components of a narrative, (which the Bible is full of. The first topic explained is Stories with Structured Plot. The main points of this section were that of the use of protagonist and dialogue. Dr. Crain gave used the short story of Zacchaeus, found in Luke 19:1-10. The next element of a narrative discussed in the chapter is Linking Episodes. This is demonstrated by stories that can be connected and arranged chronologically. Take the story of Abraham as example. Abraham and Sarah gave birth to Isaac in Genesis 21:5. Skip ahead to Genesis 23:1 where Isaac marries Rebekah. Flip over a few more chapters to Genesis 25 and Rebekah gives birth to twins, Jacob and Esau. The Bible then goes through the life of Jacob, who we know is Joseph’s father. Everyone knows the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors, but we can link this episode to all the ones I just listed. This leads perfectly into the next element which is Episodes in the New Testament Linked to the Old Testament. The New Testament quotes, references, and mentions stories from the Old Testament tons of times. Not only does the New Testament reference the Old Testament, but the Old Testament is full of prophecies that are fulfilled in the New Testament. To fully explain the concepts of narratives used in the Bible and the genres of the Bible the author breaks down the book of Genesis.
Overall, I enjoyed this chapter a bit. Although I didn’t find it as informative as previous chapters, that is just because I feel I had a lot of prior knowledge on how the Bible connects stories and episodes to create a unified work. I feel like the Bible is a lot of small stories that when put together create one large story about God’s love for human beings and his plan for them. I did enjoy the chapter and more importantly I enjoyed the colloquium work and what my classmates had to say about the questions and exercises. My favorite part of doing the work is seeing the biblical references my fellow students use to illustrate their points. I think the author does a good job building on previous chapters and proving her points by referencing the Bible.