Wednesday, August 13, 2008

crap/not crap: Reading the Bible from a Literary Point of View

Either the authorial fallacy, as in "did you know that the Evangelist Mark was actually three men in Galilee, born some some seventy years after His Majesty?"

or a 'new criticism' approach a la "maybe it's just the blank verse translation of Psalms hitting me here, but I feel as though a certain leitmotif of shadow and light, sort of, i dunno, undergirds this section of scripture. subsequent authors pick up on it, and gain moral (read: rhetorical) authority merely by maintaining a thematic consistency."

or, "careful study of competing Messianic texts made available after the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls allows us to understand perfectly the ellipsis between early tales of Christ as a child and his subsequence emergence as a thirtysomething."

that sort of thing. is it "crap"?


dave3544 said...

Not crap.

The Bible, like any ancient text should be studied for what it can reveal about the cultures that wrote and endorsed it.

This seems pretty obvious, what's the hold up?

lex dexter said...


'sounds like you're talking more about _historicizing_ the bible. for clarification, i'm talking about treating the bible less as an artifact or a fossil - tho those conceits certainly show up in literary-minded analaysis, naturally - and more of reading it as above-all "a piece of writing."

and by the way there's nothing in the crap/not crap charter that forbids referring a favored topic
to the list.

Anonymous said...

I began to eagerly anticipate responding to this one until I actually started writing my response and thinking about the people I met while getting a degree in this general field, at which point my answer changed from not crap to crap.

On the search for the "historical Jesus": crap

Anonymous said...

I should also point out that distaste for literary analysis of the bible has nothing to do with questioning the validity of finding authors, literary forms, or trails of translation/transmission, etc.

My distaste has everything to do with disliking the tone of much of the writing and the people writing it, in the same way I dislike New Formalism in poetry. Cocks.

Chaz said...


although i must admit that this view has been molded by the fact that the majority of my exposure to biblical literary analysis has been in the context of middle-aged sunday school teachers trying to convince me of the glory of god through "all those beautiful images" in the gospels. In other words, the "critiques" were so obviously biased that my inner contrarian would never let me see any literary substance, even if there was some.

it also doesn't help that i've always found the bible really boring to read.

ps. historical/academic reading of the bible a la Asimov's Guide to the Bible--100% not crap.

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