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Literary Study of the Bible: An Introduction


£ 13.99


Literary Study of the Bible: An Introduction

Christopher Hodgkins

ISBN: 978-1-118-60449-6 March 2019 Wiley-Blackwell 496 Pages


The most comprehensive and accessible introduction to scriptural art yet written 

Literary Study of the Bible: An Introduction approaches each book of the Bible (including several of the apocrypha) with non-sectarian literary questions, exploring the meanings that the Bible reveals when we read it like a poem, narrative, or play. As a unique hybrid of introductory guide, essential handbook, historical survey, and absorbing commentary, this book fills a gap in literary Bible study with its fresh perspectives on the biblical writers’ many arts. Readers will engage in wide range of textual approaches and interpretive traditions through this broadly informed, accessibly written text.

Dr. Christopher Hodgkins has taught Literary Study of the Bible for 25 years, over which time he has field-tested the many lenses—of genre, image, language, characterization, plot, and craft—used throughout this book. Tracing the sources, composition, and influences of the Biblical text, this book places the Bible in a tradition of ancient near eastern, Hebrew, and Hellenistic literary art, giving new depth to the way we understand the familiar stories of scripture. Unlike other literary introductions to the Bible, this book uniquely combines these elements:

  • Approaches the Bible as a richly collaborative and coherent work of literary art, exploring how earlier books influence the creation and interpretation of later ones
  • Provides illuminating commentary supplemented by explanatory textboxes, maps, illustrations, and study questions to enhance interest and expand learning
  • Introduces poetic and narrative devices like doubling, juxtaposition, and irony within the context of scriptural art and editorial design
  • Gives extensive attention to each biblical book, resulting in the most comprehensive introduction to literary Bible study to date
  • Presents these materials through an accessible and lively text permeated with references to both high and popular culture

Literary Study of the Bible will be a welcome addition to personal, school, college, and congregational libraries, as well as an excellent text for students of the Bible in both secular and faith-based settings. 

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xix

Part I Beginning 1

1 “The Dream Was Doubled”: Reading Like a Hebrew 3

1.1 Seeing Deep and Whole: Stereoscopic Vision 3

1.2 Tabernacles for the Sun: Biblical Genres 10

2 “In the Scroll of the Book”: Composition and Canonicity 15

2.1 The Documentary Hypothesis: Its Origins, Assumptions, and Evolution 15

2.1.1 Hypothetical Documents: Divine Names, Disputed Dates, and the “Polychrome Bible” 17

2.1.2 Toledoth: Generations of Genesis and Torah 22

2.2 New Testament Sources:“Q”and A 23

2.3 “In His Hand Was a Measuring Rod”: Community, Councils, and Canons 23

2.3.1 Tanakh, Old Testament, the Deutero‐Canonicals, and New Testament Apocrypha 24

2.4 Literary Study of the Bible: A Way Forward 29

Part II The Old Testament/Hebrew Bible/Tanakh 31

3 Hebrew Poetry: Deep Calls to Deep 33

3.1 “In the Great Congregation”: The Many Voices of Psalms 33

3.1.1 A Pentateuch of Poems: The Five Books of the Psalter 35

3.1.2 “Create in Me a Clean Heart”: Interior Drama and Psychological Discovery 39

3.1.3 “Play Skillfully”: Figure and Form 45 Figurative Language 45 Form: Parallelism – Synonymous, Antithetic, Synthetic 46 Form: Refrain and Litany 46 Form: Juxtaposition 47

3.2 Love Strong as Death: The Song of Solomon 48

3.2.1 Lyric Sequence or Dramatic Narrative: Whose Story? 48 Allegory? 51 Literal Love Story? 52 Earthly Desire and Heavenly Longing 54

4 Wisdom Literature: Understanding Their Riddles 57

4.1 “Take Hold of Her”: Wisdom and Desire in Proverbs 58

4.1.1 “She Calls Aloud in the Streets”: Wisdom and Folly Personified 59

4.1.2 Folly Made Flesh: The Loose Woman 60

4.1.3 Wisdom Incarnate: The Good Wife 62

4.1.4 “The Beginning of Wisdom”: How to Read a Proverb 65

4.2 “Enjoy Your Toil”: The Counter‐Wisdom of Ecclesiastes 67

4.2.1 “Under the Sun”: Living by Mortal Light 69

4.2.2 “The Wind Whirls About”: Cycles and Cynicism 70

4.2.3 “Remember Your Creator”: The End and the Beginning 73

5 Origin Narrative I: Divine Images in Genesis 77

5.1 Biblical Narrative Style: The Elements 77

5.1.1 Minimalism 77

5.1.2 Wordplay 79

5.1.3 Doubling and Repetition 79

5.1.4 Juxtaposition 80

5.1.5 Deferred Judgment 80

5.1.6 Irony – Sad, Happy, Complex 83

5.2 Day of Days: Creation in Stereoscope 84

5.2.1 “And It Was Good”: The Quiet Polemic Against Creative Violence 85

5.2.2 “In Our Image”: Man or Manikin? 88

5.2.3 “Male and Female”: Gendering Genesis 89

5.2.4 “Flesh of My Flesh”: Biblical Erotics and Marriage 91

5.3 Nakedness and Knowledge: Deception, Folly, Fall, and Curse 93

6 Origin Narrative II: Patriarchy and Its Discontents in Genesis 101

6.1 “Arc” of the Covenant: The Story of God’s Contracts 102

6.1.1 Kinds of Covenant: Bilateral and Unilateral 102

6.1.2 Keeping Covenant: Promises, Conditions, Signs 103

6.1.3 Specific Covenants: Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic 104 Adamic Covenant 104 Noahic Covenant 107 Abrahamic Covenant 110

6.2 Warts and All: Abraham and Anti‐Patriarchal Patriarchy 114

6.3 “The Older Shall Serve the Younger”: Against Primogeniture 120

6.4 “What Will Become of His Dreams”: Joseph and His Brothers 131

7 Biblical Epic I: Making the Nation in the Pentateuch 145

7.1 Mosaic Epic: The Priestly Kingdom 145

7.1.1 Moses: A Man Drawn Out 148

7.1.2 The Exodus: Let My People Go 151

7.1.3 Exodus and Leviticus: Covenant Law and Liberty 155 Mosaic Covenant: Moral, Civil, and Ritual Law 158

7.1.4 Numbers: Rebellion and Wandering 169

7.1.5 Deuteronomy: The Law Renewed 172

8 Heroic Narrative: Remaking the Hero in Joshua, Judges, and Ruth 177

8.1 Joshua’s Conquest: Taking the Promised Land 177

8.2 “When the Judge Was Dead … They Reverted”: Cycles of Decay in Judges 183

8.2.1 Alternative Heroes: Ehud, Deborah, Jael, and Gideon 185

8.2.2 “Weak … Like Any Other Man”: The Tragedy of Samson 191

8.2.3 The Anti‐Hero: “Right in His Own Eyes” 195

8.3 “Famous in Bethlehem”: Ruth and Boaz, Local Heroes 200

9 Biblical Epic II: Making the Kingdom in 1 and 2 Samuel 207

9.1 Saul’s Epic Tragedy: “A King … Like All the Nations” in 1 Samuel 207

9.1.1 “The Glory Has Departed”: Samuel, the Ark, and Israelite Survival 208

9.1.2 Cross Destinies: Saul, David, and Chiastic Plot Structure 212

9.2 David’s Epic Tragicomedy: A Sure House, a Lasting Covenant in 2 Samuel 225

9.2.1 A Biblical Elegy: The Song of the Bow 225

9.2.2 “From Strength to Strength”: King in Hebron, King in Jerusalem 226

9.2.3 Cross Destinies Times Two: David, Absalom, and Double Chiastic Plot Structure 230

9.2.4 Coda: “He Who Rules Over Men” 238

10 National Narrative: Chosen Stories of Chosen People in Kings, Chronicles, Ezra‐Nehemiah, and Esther 241

10.1 Sad Stories of the Death of Kings: Kings and Chronicles 241

10.1.1 “Cast Down the Mighty”: Highlights of Misrule and Divine Intervention in Kings 252

10.1.2 Doubled, with a Difference: The Book of Chronicles 260

10.2 Return and Rebuild: Ezra and Nehemiah, Restorers of the City 261

10.3 “For Such a Time as This”: Esther in a Strange Land 268

11 Drama: The Divine Tragicomedy of Job 277

11.1 Job as Primal Theater 278

11.1.1 Prologue: Nakedness and Knowledge, Again 279

11.1.2 Act 1: Debate Begins – Job 4–14 282

11.1.3 Act 2: The Pace Quickens – Job 15–21 284

11.1.4 Act 3: Climax, Sullen Silence, and Summation – Job 22–31 287

11.1.5 Act 4: Elihu, Angry Young Man – Job 32–37 289

11.1.6 Act 5: The LORD Answers – Job 38–42 290

11.1.7 Epilogue: Theodicy vs. Theophany and Satan’s Real Absence – Job 42 292

12 Prophecy: Who Speaks for God? 297

12.1 Nevi’im: Prophets Former and Latter, Major and Minor 298

12.1.1 Forthtelling Prophecy: Elijah, Elisha, and Social Justice 298

12.1.2 Foretelling Prophecy: The Scandal of Prediction 300 Messianic Prophecy: The Anointed One 302 Apocalyptic Prophecy: Visions of the End, and the Beginning 303

12.2 The Major Prophets: Isaiah Through Daniel 304

12.2.1 Isaiah: The Art of Prophesying 304

12.2.2 Jeremiah and Lamentations: The Weeping Prophet of Hope 307

12.2.3 Ezekiel: “Son of Man, Can These Bones Live?” 313

12.2.4 Daniel: “Man Greatly Beloved” 315

12.3 The Minor Prophets: “The Day of Small Things” 318

12.3.1 Hosea: “Take Unto Thee a Wife of Whoredoms” 318

12.3.2 Joel: “The Day of the Locust” 319

12.3.3 Amos: “Let Justice Run Down Like Water” 319

12.3.4 Obadiah: “Concerning Edom” 320

12.3.5 Jonah: “Should I Not Pity Nineveh?” 320

12.3.6 Micah: Birth Pangs of the Kingdom 321

12.3.7 Nahum:“Woe to the Bloody City!” 322

12.3.8 Habakkuk: “On the Day of Wrath, the Just Shall Live by His Faith” 322

12.3.9 Zephaniah: “I Will Gather Those Who Sorrow” 323

12.3.10 Haggai: “The Desire of All Nations” 323

12.3.11 Zechariah: “Behold, Your King” 324

12.3.12 Malachi: “Who Can Endure the Day of His Coming?” 325

Part III The New Testament/New Covenant 329

13 Gospel Narrative: Kingdom Coming 331

13.1 Make It New: Another Covenant 331

13.2 “A House Divided”: Intertestamental Developments and Religious/Political Parties in Jesus’Day 332

13.3 Synoptic and Johannine: Stereoscopic Vision Revisited 336

13.3.1 Mark,“Q,” and Synoptic Composition 337

13.3.2 Jesus of History, Christ of Faith? 338

13.4 “Tell No Man”: The Messianic Secret 340

13.4.1 Parables: Kingdom Secrets,“Ears to Hear” 343

13.5 Gospel vs. Biography: Chosen Stories of the Chosen One 347

13.5.1 Matthew: Jesus, Son of Abraham 348 Toledoth Y’shua: The Generations of Jesus 348

13.5.2 Mark: Jesus, Son of God 350 “Render Unto Caesar”: Mark and Romanitas 350

13.5.3 Luke‐Acts: Jesus, Son of Adam 352 “Most Excellent Theophilus”: Luke’s Testimony 354 Discoursing Wonders: Luke and the Marvelous 354 Acts of the Holy Spirit: “The World Turned Upside Down” 358 Preacher, Martyr, Evangelist, and Convert: Peter, Stephen, Philip, and Saul/Paul 360

13.5.4 John: Jesus, Son of the Father, Word Made Flesh 366 “And Dwelt Among Us”: Gnosticism Refuted by the Word Made Flesh 367 “What Sign Do You Show Us?”: The Semeia of John 370

13.5.5 Ordinary Splendor: The Miracle of the Everyday 374

14 Epistle: Divine–Human Correspondence 377

14.1 Sent to the Nations: Pauline Epistles 379

14.1.1 Paul’s Letters to Churches 380 At the Center of Power: Romans 380 At the Center of Trade: 1 and 2 Corinthians 385 The Law of Grace: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians 390 Paul’s Apocalypse: 1 and 2 Thessalonians 398

14.1.2 Paul’s Letters to Individuals 400 Pastoral Epistles: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus 400 “More Than a Slave”: Philemon 402

14.2 General Epistles: Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, Jude 403

14.2.1 Better Than Moses: The Letter to the Hebrews 403

14.2.2 Trials of the Faith that Works: James 405

14.2.3 The Forge of Persecution and the Cancer of Corruption: 1 and 2 Peter 407

14.2.4 Fire and Hope: Jude 410

14.3 Johannine Epistles: “God is Love” 411

15 New Testament Apocalypse: Kingdom Come 417

15.1 Little Apocalypses: The Gospels and Epistles 418

15.2 “An Angel Standing in the Sun”: The Brilliant Difficulties of Revelation 420

15.2.1 Fearful Symmetry: Structuring the Vision 421

15.2.2 Theatrum Mundi: Staging the Vision 423

15.2.3 “The Words of This Book”: Speaking the Vision 424

15.2.4 “If Anyone Adds … and Takes Away”: Interpreting the Vision 425 Preterist: Apocalypse Then 426 Historicist: Apocalypse Then to Now 427 Futurist: Apocalypse Soon 428 Spiritual/Symbolist: Apocalypse Now – and Always 430

15.2.5 The Three‐Fold Answer: A Symbolic Drama of Past, Present, and Future 432

15.3 Full Circle: A Tree in a Garden 433

Appendix 1 Suggestions for Further Reading 437

Appendix 2 Boxes and Illustrations 439

Index 443