Posted by: Phil Anderson | August 11, 2013

Influences – the Bible

Since I write frequently about the similarities between being a writer and being God, it only makes sense that God’s Word is one of my major influences. Let me be clear that I believe the Bible to be a non-fiction autobiography of the creator of the universe, co-written by selected men who worked under his direction. But I don’t intend in this forum to address the spiritual implications; I’ll leave that to theologians. Instead, without diminishing its veracity, I’d like to examine the Bible in literary terms.

Many times the Bible is treated like a collection of fables. Look at the children’s section of any Christian bookstore and you’ll find picture books about Noah in his cute little boat full of animals, or Daniel surrounded by cuddly lions. The titles we give the stories often sound like fairy tales: “David and Goliath”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Jonah and the Whale”, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. I realize that children need to hear these stories in a way they understand, but if we don’t dig deeper and find the true meaning of the story, what’s the point in reading it?

I have several different copies of the Bible, and one of my favorites is an Archaeological Study Bible with cultural and historical notes and articles about ancient peoples, lands, and rulers. These give context and clarify the historical meaning of the Bible, but I’ve found that the extraneous facts can also distract me from getting to the root of the story itself.

When we look beyond the storybook elements and the historical facts of the narratives recorded in the Bible, we learn much about the author and creator himself, but from a literary viewpoint we also find a unique perspective on the human condition. For example, “Noah’s Ark” isn’t just about a big boat full of animals, nor is it merely a record of a global deluge; as a writer I see at its core a man surrounded by depravity who remained faithful and found salvation. Most other stories in the Bible can also be similarly pared down to a basic human element. Jonah’s story is not really about a big fish; Moses’ story doesn’t hinge on the Red Sea; and the animals around the manger are not the focus of the Christmas story.

Several weeks ago I posted a three-part short story called “Forbidden”, and at the end there was a subtle challenge to identify my inspiration for the story. No one offered any guesses, but this post has given a valuable clue. Read the story again with this in mind, and comment below with your thoughts. Next week’s entry will be: “Forbidden Secrets Revealed”.

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  1. […] week I wrote about the Bible as a literary influence, and I suggested that it might help identify my inspiration for […]


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