The Literary Guide to the BibleRobert Alter and Frank Kermode, editors (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1987) 678 pp., $29.95
The Bible as Literature: An IntroductionJohn H. Gabel and Charles B. Wheeler (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1986) 278 pp., $24.95
The Bible has been read in many different ways throughout the last two millennia: as divine revelation, as myth and legend, as history and, relatively recently, as literature. Scholars have debated endlessly whether a particular verse is to be ascribed to one author or another, or when, or in some cases if, a particular “historical” event happened. To the lay reader, many of these debates seem arcane or silly: Does it really matter if the work of one, two or three prophets is incorporated into the Book of Isaiah, or whether the First Temple was destroyed in 587 or 586 B.C.E.?a
The new “literary” approaches to the study of the Bible are thus especially welcome to the general community of Bible readers since they offer an opportunity to understand the Bible in a way familiar from everyday life.