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The Art of Biblical Narrative 2nd Edition
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Alter reveals various techniques used by the Biblical writers to make the stories so compelling. One technique is the reserve of the narrator who often leaves unspoken the motives of the characters, thereby drawing us into the story by compelling us to try to supply what the narrator has withheld. Wordplay, the skillful repetition of words and phrases - so often lost in translation, connects seemingly disparate narratives into a fascinating montage. Type scenes, similar settings and stories such as meeting a future spouse at a well, play off each other, inviting the reader to compare and contrast what happens in one scene with its counterpart and to find meaning in these similarities and differences. The often laconic and subtle remarks of the narrator tend to support or undermine the words spoken and poses struck by the characters, which most of us will miss unless we learn to read the stories closely.
Perhaps the most delicious part of Alter's book is his frequent recourse to the stories themselves in order to demonstrate his points.Read more ›
Although recent scholarship has emphasized historical- and textual-critical methodologies, Alter chooses a literary-critical approach; that is, he asks how we should read the Bible first and foremost as literature. Ancient Hebrew storytelling conventions were often radically different from those we use today, so we must learn to be attuned to things like a character's silence, or minor, telling variations in a scene that is repeated several times. In this way, Alter takes much of what may make the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) seem "boring" today--its Spartan narrative style, the apparent redundancy of many of its stories--and shows how these elements are actually integral to how the Bible tells its story.
Alter's prose style is scholarly without being suffocating. It is, however, dense with ideas. I often found myself reading as little as five pages at a sitting, as each sentence seemed so full that it was all I could take in before I had to stop for a mental breather. (I recommend reading the Conclusion first, which ten pages provide an excellent summary of the book's main ideas and may make it easier to digest them as the author investigates each one in detail in the rest of the book.) His examples are profuse, and well-chosen to illustrate his points.
Alter mostly steers clear of ideological disputes about what the Bible is or isn't, sticking to his purely literary analysis of the text.Read more ›
Having started with these initial impressions, I am extremely glad that I continued to plow through Alter's book. Though I still find his writing style to be cumbersome, some of his assumptions to be wishful thinking, and his theology to be occasionally irreverent and unnecessarily disparaging of the genuine historicity of the biblical texts, Alter has much to offer all of us who read the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible, to use his preferred language). What he powerfully offers us is a series of observations to help us better understand the richness of this collection of religious documents that were written in a different era, with different intentions, with a different style, using different conventions, and assuming different expectations of the reader from what we are familiar.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Robert Alter has altered my view and deepened my appreciation for the artfull development of Scripture. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Philip Matthew Renner
As a theatre artist and storyteller, I found this book a wonderful exposition of how narrative techniques not only enhance the enjoyment of a biblical story, but in fact... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Dranas
Read this book after hearing Tim Keller reference it. I enjoyed it but I did not come away with the conclusions that Tim Keller did from this book. Thought provoking read.Published 8 months ago by Jonathan M Owen
There is no book like this. Will transform your understanding of the Hebrew narrative. The politically correct nods to the documentary hypothesis are somewhat annoying, even though... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Berend de Boer
A different way to look at the Old Testament that adds depth to the understanding of the Word.Published 9 months ago by Peace Reader
Absolutely outstanding, whether Christian or Jew, religious or secular. A great look at the Bible as literature, which allows us to escape the Charybdis of myopic... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry
This book provides a plausible, unique lens through which to view and understand this ancient text.Published 12 months ago by freddie