Reading the Bible as Literature. Jeanie C. Crain. Cambridge UK: Polity, 2010, [1-213]
Chapter 6 Review
Chapter 6 in Reading the Bible as Literature, by Dr. Jeanie Crain, was all about the concept of characters and how they function in the Bible. Appropriately titled, “Character: A Way of Identifying” it discussed the various ways readers learn about characters and the different types of characters throughout the Bible. Several common literature terms were defined and specific Biblical characters were analyzed. The chapter is well written and covers an interesting topic not yet discussed in the text.
In chapter 6, Dr. Crain starts out with some definitions to help the reader understand how to analyze a character. She addresses the concept of a narrator who isn’t really a character but plays a vital role in the understanding of characters. On page 111 the author writes, “What the narrator says provides the greatest certainty.” The narrator presents statements and facts, motives, attitudes, and moral beliefs of the characters in any book, including the Bible. Dr. Crain then claims that God becomes the central character, or the protagonist of the Bible. This makes sense since the whole plot of the Bible revolves around God, and the Bible is in fact the very word of God. The chapter then transitions into the importance of being able to interpret characters. We can interpret characters based on their actions, the things they themselves personally say, or based on what the narrator says about them. On page 112, Dr. Crain also states that “Not all characters, of course, represent human beings: things and animals may be personified.”
Of course, all characters need to be identified and we do this through a number of ways. The first way explained in the chapter is identifying character through context. The author uses King Saul and the Witch of Endor as an example, found in 1 Samuel 28:3-25. Saul was the first king of Israel, and we learn that the wanted a king to be more like other nations. God tells them time and time again that they aren’t supposed to have a king and uses Samuel, the prophet, to warn against this. The people, however, are persistent and God gives them Saul. We learn about Saul through the context that he was the first king of Israel ever, and thus was pretty incompetent. We can also identify with characters through their actions. The book uses another king of Israel to illustrate this point, and that is King Solomon. We know that Solomon was a very wise king, because of the actions portrayed in 1 Kings. God offered Solomon anything and Solomon chose wisdom. He later demonstrates his wisdom by settling an argument between two women. By reading about his actions we learn that Solomon was in fact very wise. Next the chapter explains how to identify characters through other characters responses. Josiah is referenced here in regards to the religious reform he brought to Judah. We learn of Josiah’s desire to change Israel based on his meetings and interactions with the prophetess Huldah. Without these interactions and her response we wouldn’t be able to fully understand the heart of Josiah. We also learn to identify with characters based on the things they say. An easy way to understand this in regards to the Bible is to look at the many prophets of God. We learn most about them when we read about their teachings and prophecies, the very things they said. The chapter explains a few more ways to identify with characters including: through symbolic actions, through requests, through impact, through description, and through structure. Identifying with characters is important when it comes to reading any form of literature, but especially important when it comes to the Bible. As stated earlier, God can be considered the protagonist of the Bible, but to truly understand Him the reader must be able to identify with all the other characters of the Bible and see how they interact with God to truly understand the character of God.
I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter. I find the characters and different stories of the Bible to be extremely interesting. I was beginning to feel like this book was growing repetitive. I felt like the previous five chapters all just built a little more on the previous one, without discussing anything really new. There was a lot of literature terminology without really discussing the literature itself. However, found chapter 6 to be unique and refreshing. It discussed a topic not previously discussed by the textbook Reading the Bible as Literature and really allowed me to analyze the Bible deeper. I think the plot of any book is only truly understandable when we look at the characters and their actions. This chapter equips the reader to do that in regards to the Bible by explaining how to identify characters when reading and citing several examples of that throughout the Bible. I believe this chapter was very thorough in its explanations and definitions and truly helped me to better understand the characters of the Bible.
Chapter 6: “Characters: A Way of Identifying” in Reading the Bible as Literature by Dr. Jeanie C. Crain was instructive and informative. It went in-depth into the breakdown of characters and how a reader can identify with them. The chapter cites several examples from the Bible to illustrate the main points and to help the reader make a connection between the text and the Bible. As a result a greater understanding of what makes a character unique and how we learn about them is established. In regards to the rest of the book Reading the Bible as Literature, chapter 6 is the best chapter I’ve read thus far. I personally learned a lot and feel I developed new ways of thinking about the characters in the Bible when I read about them. Now I can fully understand their mindset and relate to them better. Overall, this chapter is well written and easy to understand, as well as enjoy.