Adam and Eve . . . The Ten Commandments . . . The birth of Jesus . . . . Even people who never read the Bible know it. Its stories and psalms, phrases and proverbs, have seeped into our everyday lives. It is the book that has permeated Western culture more than any other. It is, in common parlance, the Good Book.
Of course, the Bible is a religious book, but it is also a work of literature. In fact, it is a literary masterpiece. The Bible can’t be beat for sheer diversity of form and content, for artistry, for affective power, and for the way in which it keeps springing surprises on us. It is not simply a good book; it is the best book. This book is dynamite.
In this course, we’ll look at ways to read the Bible for its literary qualities — its genres, its stylistic forms, its poetry and prose. You need not have a particular religious orientation to take a literary approach to the Bible. The literary approach to the Bible enables all people to meet on common ground.
You can pick up the Bible as you would a novel and delve into its world, get to know its characters, and follow its rich and wonderful stories. In fact, an important aspect of studying the Bible as literature involves bringing to bear on it what you already know about literature beyond the Bible. Even if you already know the Bible well, this course will give you an opportunity to engage with it on another level and view it through new eyes.
The literary nature of the Bible need not detract one iota from the fact that it is a religious book. Literature is the form through which the religious message of the Bible is communicated. The more you learn about the literary form of the Bible, the richer will be your understanding of the message. The Bible can be trusted to reveal its spiritual and moral message if we approach the literary form as we would when reading a story or poem generally. We do not need to look for ways to elevate the Bible above other literature; if we simply approach it as literature, it will elevate itself.