Chapter 6 Review Hon 395


Reading the Bible as Literature. Jeanie C. Crain. Malden, Maryland: Polity Press, 2010. [110-128] 18 pages.


This chapter review is over Reading the Bible as Literature by Jeanie C. Crain. The chapter covered is Chapter 6. In Chapter 6 the main focus was identifying characters with details and the background the Bible provides you. It was broken down throughout the chapter by Dr. Crain introducing characters that illustrate processes the audience can use to examine the immediate and extended framework in which they are found. As given in every Chapter covered so far, the outline for Chapter 6 gave the reader expectations for what main ideas were to be covered in the chapter. The outline included: preliminary considerations, identifying characters in: context, actions, other characters’ responses, words, symbolic actions, requests, impact, description, and structure; close reading, and questions for reflection. Overall, this chapter was effective in providing the audience with how to identify the characters, while also giving direct examples of characters in the Bible so that the reader actually understands what’s being explained. To be honest, I didn’t know half of these examples of characters existed in the Bible, or the thought of them being round and not a flat character. 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 how to identify and understand the Bible has to offer. Chapter 6 was written with the idea that by identifying and understanding how often characters occur in 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 to identify one-dimensional or multidimensional characters in the Bible, so when they occur throughout, as an audience you can interpret them.

As mentioned in the introduction the main focus of this chapter is identifying characters and the backgrounds that allow us to identify them. The outline at the beginning of the chapter promised to include: preliminary considerations, identifying characters in: context, actions, other characters’ responses, words, symbolic actions, requests, impact, description, and structure; close reading, and questions for reflection. To begin, Jeanie C. Crain explains how the easiest way to begin appreciating a piece of literature is through its characters, and it’s necessary to learn about the characters because, “as we learn about characters, we learn about ourselves – coming to understand our own motives, attitudes, and moral natures”.  In the chapter are individual sections that cover each category of identifying characters, provided with examples and definitions that make the way of identifying characters easier to understand.

Crain explains in this chapter that she will introduce the ways to identify characters, so that by examining the audience will begin to appreciate the complexity and ambiguity that arise within situations, and that Dr. Crain chose characters that are less well known or familiar characters that deserve reassessment. Dr. Crain then leads into the ways of identifying characters with a major guideline: a critical distinction must be kept between the narrator’s and the characters’ point of view.

When chapter 6 began, the audience was given some preliminary considerations to make identifying characters easier, which were: one-dimensional and multidimensional, characterization (revelation or display of a character’s habits, emotions, desires, and instincts), and what a narrator is. This then lead into knowing who the central characters is in the Bible and how his reoccurrence is important throughout the text, and the central character is God. It was also necessary to know that the Bible presents characters in sparse details and that the stories are presented in action, to know how the characters grow and develop. This then lead into the major section of the chapter, identifying characters.

In this section the characters were chosen to illustrate the numerous processes the audience could examine. Dr. Crain then reiterates that she chose characters less well known or familiar that needs reassessment. Finally, again she mentions that you need to understand the narrator versus the character’s point of view. First was identifying character through context: King Saul and the witch of Endor. This character identification was similar to the theology that emphasizes obedience to the covenant and the laws of Yahweh and in light of which moral character must be understood. Samuel in the story is told by God to tell the people that having a king will lead to oppression, Saul then become king, which leads to retributive justice and deserved punishment, where Saul consults the witch of Endor instead of God, so he and his people become punished. This leads to Saul not trusting anyone, slaughters his own priests, and then lies to Samuel and the good he’s done when instead it’s all lies.  This leads the audience after reading the story to understand disguise and deception to suggest a character fully and consciously involved in wrongdoing. Eventually the story ends when Saul dies tragically, thus accepting his own fate. This account of Saul introduces a multidimensional round character with a background of growing tension and moral compass gauged by God.

Next was character through action: King Solomon and Two Women Prostitutes. The reign of Solomon in 1 Kings shows character tragic overtones: the rise to power, tainted glory, and his downfall. King Solomon in the story eventually emerges as a positive figure by the narrator for his prayers for wisdom. The two prostitutes then help to reiterate Solomon’s reputation for wisdom and demonstrates his ability to execute justice. The section ends comparing two different narratives concerning this story: in the book of Kings Solomon is portrayed as a multidimensional character, while 1 Chronicles portrays Solomon as a flat character just wise and positive, and then omits the bad.

The next section involved identifying character through other characters’ responses: King Josiah and Huldah. The main undertone in this story is disobedient kings and nations are punished. Josiah being a good king seeks out God’s direction, well Huldah a prophetess brings about religious reform by giving a scroll prophetic authority as written words of God, which gives the people the choice of divine justice. The story ends with Josiah becoming pivotal by brining promise to his land, people, and nation – with Huldah key to bring in renewed hope to the people.

The section concerning identifying characters through their words: Stephen. Stephen is identified as the first Christian martyr (prophet), raised up by God to deal with day to day problems. He tells his followers that they need to be held accountable for their resistance/rejection of God. He does this by mentioning everyone’s ancestor’s wrongdoings and then states, “You are forever opposing the Holy Spirit just as your ancestors did”. (Acts 7.51). Stephen helps to make the theological point that Israel has a history of rejection with his statements to the people. He always reiterates God’s justice, but emphasizes the mercy of God! The narrator then states Stephen’s moral integrity as filled with grace and power, Stephen is one of “seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom…” (Acts 6. 3, 5).

Next is identifying character through symbolic actions: Ezekiel’s wife. This was an uncommon character in the Bible that many didn’t even know existed. The story is just to identify Ezekiel’s wife through how Ezekiel handled her death. The death of Ezekial’s wife and how Ezekiel handled her death by not mourning, was a sign to the people and Ezekiel himself, do what God commands.

This was followed by, identifying character through requests: Salome. Salome was the mother of James and John. Salome received special significance simply through making one request, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom” (Matt, 20,21). This request Salome made contrasts a mother’s ambition for her sons to the king of greatness modeled by Jesus and expected of his followers.

Then came, identifying character through impact: Eunice. The impact was the linkage between generations, Timothy the character in the Bible being linked to his mother Eunice. Eunice made a huge impact to her son’s life by shaping her son’s sincere faith. As a reader you learn about Eunice through positive traits demonstrated in her son that she taught him.

The story of the Elect Lady helps the audience to identify character through description. It’s the idea and shaped the significant role women play within the church. It helps state that women are responsibility for teaching generations to follow and walk in love and truth.

Finally, character through structure: Mark is covered. In this section is covers how the structure and genre of the Gospel of Mark have been debated, thus making the identification a bit more difficult. The structure of the book of Mark emphasizes ancestry. And with many key characteristics in the book of Mark, after emphasizing ancestry it becomes hard to just focus on one concrete character in terms of actions and values.

Reading the Bible as Literature is a great tool for identifying the characters throughout the Bible.  The chapter truly achieved its goal by providing direct examples from the Bible, along with in each section giving direct versus to use the character identifying tool covered. It gives the audience the understanding of how each book or multiple verses in the Bible contain a character that can be identified. Crain did explain that in this chapter that she chose characters that can be identified using each identifying tool, and how to reassess current characters that we know about. Dr. Crain helped us to understand the importance by appreciating a piece of literature is through its characters, and it’s necessary to learn about the characters because, “as we learn about characters, we learn about ourselves – coming to understand our own motives, attitudes, and moral natures”. The numerous ways to identify the characters covered in this chapter, along with direct examples, and thorough explanations were beneficial for the audience to truly grasp the character. Even for a Bible reader like me, the idea of reassessing or gaining knowledge on a new character can be beneficial. I can see how a beginner Bible reader would definitely need to read this book and especially this chapter so they know how to decipher a multidimensional character, know if the character needs to be reassessed, and how to distinguish between narrator point of view of the character’s point of view!