Chapter 7 Review

 Hon 395-40: Reading the Bible as Literature

 Jeanie Crain


Title- Chapter 7: Themes and Motifs: A Way of Unifying

Author-Jeanie Crain

 Place of publication- Cambridge, UK

 Publisher- Polity Press

 Date of publication- 2010

 Number of pages- 129-151


Theme, which is an organizing idea that holds together a work and unifies its meanings, is one anthology that the Bible and all literature can be organized into. Theme emerges from the genre the composition is. A motif is similar to theme. A motif consists of recurrent patterns in themes characters, events, situation, verbal patterns, and concepts. Motifs are more commonly thought of as concrete and themes more abstract. Motifs set expectations in the minds of readers and writers. The motifs in the Bible help the reader read the Bible as a complex of parts and help to create coherence. There are many unfolding motifs in the Bible that help unite and hold together a story. An example of this is the story of Jacob. The motif can be extended into many typescenes, including annunciation, birth of a hero to a barren woman, the encounter with the future betrothed at a well, the epiphany in a field, the initiatory trial, danger in a dessert, and the discovery of a well. A leitmotif refers to less dominant patterns and images. Archetype, universal images and patterns that recur in literature and life, also closely relates to theme. Theme, motif, and archetype work together to provide coherence in a piece of literature,

A thematic analysis is the approach that systematizes the work of identifying, analyzing, and reporting themes in a text. It also shows how the theme affects the text. There are objections to thematic analyses. Literary critics question whether the themes exist in the text, the reader, or the culture of the moment. They question if focus should be upon the text itself or its historical and social conditions. Most people traditionally read the Bible through its theological rather than literary themes. They consider the Bible as a sacred manual of moral instruction.

One theme in the Bible is the relationship to God and with other human beings. This can be shown through the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments, which can be found in Exodus and Deuteronomy. In Exodus, God inscribed the commandments on two stone tablets and gave them to Moses on Mount Sinai. In Deuteronomy, these laws are repeated with minor variations. For example, Exodus refers to the Sabbath as God’s resting on the seventh day after creation and Deuteronomy links the Sabbath to God’s covenant. Another difference is in Exodus God tells the laws to Moses, who is to deliver them to God’s people. In Deuteronomy, Moses is retelling the laws to the next generation Hebrews. The Decalogue shows the relationship to God and with other human beings because it tells the crimes against God and also the crimes against human beings. It gives the requirements for having relationships with God and other people.

The Shema (named for the first word “Hear”), according to the book, calls attention to a sovereign and unique God to whom Israel must be loyal, to whom it most devote mind, will, and vital being. The Shema serves as a confession of faith in God for Israel. The Shema also works structurally to bring together what has come before, the Decalogue, and what comes afterwards. The Shema shows the theme of God’s oneness. The Shema is spoken daily in Jewish tradition. It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night. Another theme in the Bible is relationship based on promise and obligation. Two examples of this are the Noahic covenant and Abrahamic covenant. In both of these Noah and Abraham prove their righteousness to God and he saves and promises things to them such as land, riches, children, or a throne (such as in the Davidic covenant).

Other themes in the Bible are God’s mercy and God’s justice. There are numerous examples throughout the Bible showing God showing his mercy and love to his people, but then there are others where God punishes those who go against him. These themes seem to contrast each other. It seems like a puzzle because we cannot physically get at God to look and see how the two features manage to be the same. This is why it may be hard for us to understand why a loving and merciful God can also punish those for going against him and his laws. The Book of Hosea is a great example of God showing his justice and also his mercy. At first God is punishing the people of Israel by rejecting them for decades.  Then he shows his mercy by restoring Israel.

The last theme is that of the heroic quest. The heroic quest includes themes of alienation, initiation, exile, suffering, transformation, and rebirth. The quest envisions an end of social effort, a world of fulfilled desires, and a free human society. There are many examples of these quests ranging from Genesis to 2 Kings. The typical heroic quest includes separation, initiation, and return. The first three sets of heroes in the Bible realize identities and destinies associated with attaining the land that has been promised to them by God. Each takes on the nature of every mortal in its human struggle. Each of the pair evidences individual quest linked to the beginnings of a nation chosen against all expectation.

The Bible achieves a sense of unity and coherence through its themes and motifs. Many themes help to pull together the Bible’s many different stories together, such as divine-human relationships, human-human relationships, the one sovereign God and creator, the contractual nature of series of covenants between God and people, the love of God who intervenes in history, and the theme of justice.


                The goal of this chapter was to show the unifying themes and motifs in the Bible. I think the chapter did do a good job of accomplishing this goal. The book has been doing a good job of showing the unity and coherence of the books of the Bible thus far, but I think this chapter really drives that idea home. By showing the themes and explaining the themes of divine-human relationships, human-human relationships, the one sovereign God and creator, the contractual nature of series of covenants between God and people, the love of God who intervenes in history, and the theme of justice., it makes it much easier for me as the reader to understand how all the stories and books are interrelated. These themes keep occurring over and over throughout the text. By realizing this, I can see how they are all connected in ways I may not have realized before. The section on God’s covenants was very informative to me and also the section about the contrasting of God’s mercy and justice. I have always thought of God as being very loving and compassionate, but then I also always think of God as the supreme judge. I have never really thought of the comparison between the two roles of God in depth, but it’s easy for me to see now that God can be and is both of these roles in a way that doesn’t contradict itself. I felt there was a lot of information provided that really does make the connection of the books of the Bible more evident. I have been aware of the themes. I just didn’t really put much thought into how they helped to provide unity to the Bible. I think overall the chapter did a good job at showing theme’s role in providing coherence in the Bible.