Published April 2020
Study the whole Bible through both literary and theological lenses.
Most literary works have one primary voice, a discourse that expresses an author’s dominant culture and ideology. The whole Bible, however, should be read by allowing numerous voices or discourses during a thousand years of literary imagination to emerge and interact. This dialogic reading process introduces theological insights that are larger than the individual parts of the Bible.
Many books about the Bible introduce students to this sacred literature through a critical tour of the historical events and cultures that were present when the authors were at work. Holy Imagination, however, groups sections of the Bible by genre, to include the whole canon.
This “reader’s introduction” is informed by literary theory and theological synthesis. For example, the first section will describe the primordial history in Genesis 1-11 as literary myth. How do we use the term myth when it is applied to the beginning of Genesis? The next section, the ancestral narratives in Genesis 12–50 is described as “formational narratives of identity.” How do the stories use sibling rivalry to shape national identity then and now?
Each section in the introduction will identify and describe the genre (myth, historiography, poetry, apocalyptic literature, and so on) and then move into a discussion about its literary characteristics. Once the range of materials within a genre is evaluated, the introduction will deploy literary tools useful in reading a particular genre. The application of these tools will be guided by a set of “literary rules.”
- Reading is always an act of interpretation.
- The Bible is a theological text.
- The Bible is a literary text in that it is written and uses literary devices.
- Scripture comes to us in a variety of forms/genres and knowing the genre helps the reader in the task of reading.
- Scripture comes from multiple sources, representing a variety of perspectives over time.
- These different sources form a dialogue from which greater meaning can be achieved..
- This dialogue is ongoing and never-ending (always making new meanings).
- Scripture is highly metaphorical, and metaphor is a distinct form of dialogue.
Holy Imagination can serve as the primary text for an introductory course on the whole Bible. For instructors who prefer an historical-critical structure, this book could be an appreciated supplementary text that gives new Bible readers the larger picture of the wider biblical literature.