The Bible as Literature

In discussing the Bible as literature, I am simply going to assume that the Bible, particularly in the King James version, is great literature. I am also going to take for granted the fact that its stories and themes have continually sparked the literary imagination of the West. From the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden to that of the Resurrection we have a set of symbols, motifs, and themes whose reworking has been the subject of the bulk of our literature. I am not going to discuss this influence, nor even discuss the Bible as a piece of literature, i.e., as a particular literary work. What I am going to do is to focus on what is involved in our taking it as literature. More particularly, I am going to look at how we approach questions of truth in a literary work. I am going to ask how far we can push this approach when we come to read the Bible. What are the limits in reading the Bible as literature? When does the notion of “truth” as it arises in a literary text begin to fail us. That it will fail us at a certain point is implicit in the Bible’s claim to be “sacred scripture” or “revelation.” If we take this claim seriously, we naturally have a special approach to the “truth” its text contains. But what precisely is this approach? This is what I want to explore. In other words, my goal in exploring the limits of the literary approach to the Bible is to gain some insights into the sacred character of its text and how we should approach it. §1. Truth and the literary text. The most common, if often overlooked feature of a successful literary work is that of presenting us with a world In a certain sense, it succeeds by having inherent standards for what can belong to it, of what fits in with its sense and what does not. Having such standards, it presents us with that unified sense that makes a world a world, that is, that makes it an ordered whole..
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