The Bible as Literature

October 30, 2008 § 1 Comment

In my Renaissance class today, although it had nothing to do with our Martin Luther readings except that Dr. Mack is a member of the English faculty, our beloved professor gave us some fascinating insights into the Bible as a work of literature that I thought I would share. Our professor was so moved by this analysis of the Bible (an analysis he performed several years back for a “Bible as literature” class) that he declared in all seriousness that “Only God could have written the Bible”. It is that intricate.

By way of example, he told us to look at the story of Noah in the Book of Genesis, particularly the arc between chapters 7-8. The story is formed in what is called a ring composition, where elements of the story are repeated in layers such that the story form looks like












where the point at the center – the most important point of the story – is framed by the elements on the outside. This form is also used by Shakespeare in his final and crowning play, The Tempest.

Chapter 7 begins with a description of Noah following God’s orders to take the animals and his family into the ark before the Deluge (Genesis 7:7-9). The Deluge comes, eventually ends with the dove bringing back the branch, and at the end of Chapter 8 Noah brings the animals and his family off the ark (Genesis 8: 16-19). At the very center of the ring composition comes the point when Noah, his family, and the animals are all buried in the dark and fear of the ark, and it says that “God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1). This is the New Testament story…a decent into the grave, followed by a resurrection.

Doesn’t that give you chills? I thought it was amazing, and made the entire class time today worthwhile, even though it wasn’t on topic. Thank you Dr. Mack!

§ One Response to The Bible as Literature

  • fran says:

    wow! well it’s no surprise that God’s an amazing genius, of course, but it’s nice to hear someone say so!
    i love how you can hear echoes of salvation from the beginning to the end of the bible. God didn’t need to do that, but he did, for us, so that we can see how it works again and again.
    thanks for that little reminder of his grace!
    fran x

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