The Bible and the Narrative Tradition

The Bible and the Narrative Tradition

The Bible and the Narrative Tradition

The Bible and the Narrative Tradition


In his introduction to this book, McConnell describes the Bible as "less a book and more a living entity in the evolving consciousness of Western man." Until recently, studies of the Bible centered on finding sources for historical knowledge, theological insights, or ethical advice, overlooking the true beauty of the words in the "book of books." This collection of six essays by noted literary critics and biblical scholars--including Harold Bloom, Hans Frei, Frank Kermode, James Robinson, Donald Foster, and Herbert Schneidau--breaks new ground by exploring the Bible as poetry, rhetoric, and narrative. The authors treat such issues involved in biblical narrative as its genesis, its revisionist dynamic, its fictional character, its interpretive nature, and its contradictions, prejudices, and claims. McConnell's lively, readable introduction elucidates and unifies the book's themes.


Early on in the Mahabharata, the great Hindu epic and arguably the greatest of all epics, the monk Utanka announces that "whatever is found in this story may be found somewhere else; but nothing found anywhere else will not be found in this story."

It is an astonishing claim--"I am the book of books"--and an unprecedented one. A book, for once, not only admits that it is a book, but announces itself to be the book of books, the compendium and summary of all the stories of mankind. Where else do we find such arrogance?

In the Koran, maybe. The second chapter or sura of the Koran-- the first sura being merely a traditional, ritual prayer to Allah-- begins, "This book is not to be doubted." Nowhere--not even in the Mahabharata--do we come across such an unmediated assertion by the text itself of its own holiness. Indeed, later on the Koran will promulgate the doctrine of the Ijaz: that is, the article of faith that the style of the Koran is inimitable, a doctrine that has exercised a permanent (and not altogether felicitous) influence upon Islamic poetry.

But the Mahabharata is an epic--a narrative poem with no serious claims to sacredness. And the Koran is a sacred text--a book to which narrative is merely an incidental concern. Both these strong works have their claims to a kind of cosmic encyclopedism. But the Indian epic makes that claim in terms of mythmaking, while the . . .

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