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How to Read the Bible as Literature Paperback – December 21, 1984
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) is professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois, where he has twice received the "teacher of the year" award.
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Top Customer Reviews
With this said, though, perhaps the greatest weakness of this book is that same characteristic. Traditional categories are a good place to start, but the reader must, at some point, go beyond these into the more Hebrew-specific realm of reading. The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament truly is, despite some opinion, a masterful work, but to understand it as such one must become familiar with just how it works. Wonderfully, there are writers, such as Robert Alter and Adele Berlin, who have written well on precisely this topic.
In the end, this book is a great place to start. It offers a well-grounded foundation for reading the Bible literarily, and as long as the reader knows its strengths and limitations, it will serve him well.
Reading involves more than words and grammar, we have to learn how genres work. Some genres we have to learn to appreciate (such as how to "read" the poetry of Emerson). Others are written so close to our methods of normal communication they come easily (such as newspapers or popular novels). The Bible contains genre which seems familiar (historical narrative), but some of the narrative leaves the reader with the feeling that she didn't quite "get it." Other genres in the Bible are terribly foreign; Hebrew poetry is dramatically different than English, prophecy is often completely alien to Western readers. By helping us understand how these types of literature communicate their message, Ryken helps us read the Bible in a way which makes it understandable.
I have not yet found an Evangelical book which accomplishes this task better than Ryken's. I heartily commend it.
Ryken seeks to provide an introduction to the literary forms of the Bible (9). On a number of occasions he warns his readers, “The one thing the Bible is not is what it is so often thought to be - a theological outline with proof texts attached (9).” Based on Eccl. 12:9-10, Ryken argues, “the Bible is an artistically beautiful as well as a truthful book” and because of this, “it demands a literary approach...(9).”
To prove this thesis, Ryken begins by answering the question: Is the Bible Literature? An important idea in answering this question is first to say that there is more than one hermeneutical approach necessary when reading the Bible (12). Next, he appeals to scholarship, which is more sensitive to the literary nature of the Bible (12). Rather than combating ideas that would suggest the Bible is not literary in nature, Ryken instead seeks to prove his case positively. He does this with “case studies” of texts where he walks the reader through a passage of Scripture to point out how “Everything about [the] passage makes it a piece of literature (15).”
Much of the book is organized around literary genres of the Bible. He begins with the dominant genres, narrative and poetry. With narrative, he gives extensive training in how to read narrative well. For example, he stresses the need to be an “active reader (34).” This means “identifying with characters” and visualizing scenes (34).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not particularly scholarly or expository and really does not contain any original thinking. The book is OK but I was not impressed by the content at all. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Dale Knight
This book is good, but I would recommend you bite the bullet and read the fuller treatment in Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible. Read morePublished 15 months ago by B. Valentine
Clean and clear and easy to understand with solid theology and helps for everyone. I have recomended this to a number of people both for understanding the bible but also of... Read morePublished 16 months ago by ojisama