The Bible and Literature (SCM Core Text)
SCM Text £30
Church Times Bookshop £27
(Use code CT719)
THE author writes that the aim of this book is "to read biblical
and literary texts fruitfully alongside one another". She explores
two academic worlds that are marked by variety, contradiction, and
insight, and shows how they can be complementary rather than
separated. Literary theory may assist our reading of scripture, and
the biblical text can illuminate writing outside itself.
Her method is to explain some current theories and to apply each
of them to a biblical passage and to one or more literary texts
that were influenced by it. Intertextuality, reader-response
criticism, and feminist readings are some of the ideas considered.
She uses biblical passages from the King James Version, as the one
that is still most widely familiar, and that was the only English
translation known to most of the creative writers who are
discussed. She recognises its intrinsic literary quality, and the
varieties of narrative, history, belief, and poetry which can
relate it to other writings.
This book is presented as an introduction to comparative study
for students of both disciplines. Some of it may be hard going at
first for those better acquainted with the Bible than with
literature, but each chapter leads the reader on from the familiar
to the new, and ends with questions for discussion and a short
reading-list on the topic just covered. The author is a Church of
Scotland minister, and an academic well acquainted with the needs
problems of students. Like a good teacher, she makes no
assumptions about the previous knowledge of readers, and expects
only a willingness to learn.
The price is high for a paperback particularly intended for
students. It is regrettable that a Christian publisher should use
BCE and CE for dating (the Church Times leaves the choice
to the individual reviewer). But this book is a welcome addition to
the growing interest in inter-disciplinary studies.
Raymond Chapman is Emeritus Professor of English in the
University of London