The Bible in Literature


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The Bible in Literature

  1. 1. The Bible – How has it impacted literature?
  2. 2. Enduring impact Tennyson considered Bible reading "an education in itself” Coleridge affirmed that ‘in the Bible there is more that finds me than I have experienced in all other books put together’ Josipovici (novelist 1988) wrote that the Bible ‘seemed much quirkier, funnier, quieter than I expected … it contained narratives which seemed, even in translation, as I first read them, far fresher and more ‘modern’ than any of the prize-winning novels rolling off the presses’
  3. 3. The next generation… • Fewer than half of teens (49 percent) knew what happened at the wedding at Cana.
  4. 4. Can you think of any phrases you know / use that might have originated from the Bible? David Crystal has found there are 237 examples, compared to 100 from Shakespeare.
  5. 5. ‘A broken heart’ ‘A cross to bear’ ‘A labour of love’ ‘A leopard cannot changes its spots’ ‘A peace offering’ ‘A sign of the times’ ‘My brother’s keeper’ ‘An eye for an eye’ ‘As old as the hills’ As you sow so shall you reap’ ‘At his wits end’ ‘Baptism of fire’ ‘Bite the dust’ ‘By the skin of your teeth’ ‘Don’t cast your pearls before swine’ ‘Dust to dust’ ‘Eat drink and be merry’ ‘From strength to strength’ ‘Forbidden fruit’ ‘Go the extra mile’ ‘Harden your heart’ ‘In the twinkling of an eye’ ‘Land of Nod’ ‘Love of money is the root of all evil’ ‘No rest for the wicked’ ‘The apple of his eye’ ‘There’s nothing new under the sun’
  6. 6. Bible translations – A risky business • Late 14th century, John Wyclif wanted to make the Bible available to ordinary Christians in a language they understood. (Bible translations banned in 1409). Wyclif was burned to death in 1428. • Reformation period, Tyndale aimed to follow in Wycliff’s footsteps, with the dream that ‘the husbandman might sing parts of it at his plow, that the weaver may warble them at his shuttle, that the traveler may with their narratives beguile the weariness of the way’. • Bible translation was still illegal and Tyndale was forced to work abroad – although he finished many books incl. the New Testament, before being strangled as a heretic in 1536 and burned as Wyclif had been. • Coverdale took biblical translation forward, and Henry VIII commissioned a brand new version to be used in churches and made available to the public. Other versions followed such as the ‘Geneva Bible’, ‘The Bishops Bible’ etc, before the introduction of the KJV in 1611. The KJV was not altogether well-received, but soon became widespread just a year later.
  7. 7. Old Testament New Testament - The Hebrew Scriptures - Jesus’ life & teaching - God’s relationship to people before Jesus - Idea of ‘ultimate sacrifice’ to end cycle of sin and new starts - Giving of the law, cycle of sin, sacrifice, new starts. - The early church - Letters to the early church - Prophecies of what is to come - Future Key characters: Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Sa ul, Ruth, Esther Solomon, David Joseph, Prophets. - Key characters: Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Mary, Judas, Paul.
  8. 8. Extended Allusions
  9. 9. Subtle references Many authors and poets use the bible to… - Give gravitas to stories / characters - Highlight experience of what it is to be human to deeply resonate with the audience - Challenge, subvert or be playful with well-known narratives and widely accepted ideas
  10. 10. Key areas of interest 1. Form and Language e.g. proverbs, style, parallel phrasing etc. 2. Character references e.g. Cain and Abel, Satan, Jesus, Judas, Esther etc. 3. Theme-based allusions and motifs Sin, Redemption, Apocalypse
  11. 11. 1. Form and Language Simple Language and Parallel phrasing Jean Rhys (1890 – 1979) ‘Let there be light’. Genesis 1:3 Rhys: ‘There is something short, snappy and utterly modern about this sentence’. This book distills its content into ‘stories expressed in this stark, modern manner’. The Bible depends for its effect on an intensity of feeling that is characteristic of ‘primitive’ or ‘oriental’ people. In the English system, these intense feelings are ‘forbidden’.
  12. 12. 1. Form and Language Parallel phrasing: Two or more words, phrases, or clauses that are similar in length and grammatical form. Jean Rhys Good Morning Midnight ‘The sage femme has very white hands and clear slanting eyes and when she looks at you the world stops rocking about… And there’s always the tisane of the orange flower water. But my heart, heavy as lead, heavy as a stone. He has a ticket tied around his wrist because he died. Lying so cold and still with a ticket around his wrist because he died. Not to think. Only to watch the branches of that tree and the pattern they make standing out against a cold sky. Above all not to think.. (116-117).
  13. 13. 1. Form and Language Parallel structure: ‘With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.’ Psalm 142:1 ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.’ Psalm 51:17
  14. 14. 1. Form and Language Proverbial Phrases Biblical proverb: ‘For better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.’ Proverbs 27:10 Rossetti: ‘Better by far you should forget and smile, than remember and be sad’ Remember, Rossetti.
  15. 15. 1. Form and Language Types and Foreshadowing Adam (The First Adam and the Last Adam) ’Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. Romans 5:18-21 Abraham and Isaac ‘And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, (…) and offer him there for a burnt offering’’ Genesis 22:2 ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ John 3:16. Snake and rod ‘So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.’ Numbers 21:9 ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:14-15
  16. 16. 2. Character references Macbeth Macbeth: Whence is that knocking? 
How is't with me, when every noise appals me? (2.2.72-3)
 References to Jesus: ‘He cometh and knocketh’ Luke 12: 36 ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door’ Revelation 3:20 ‘I will send a faintness into their hearts (…) The sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them’ Leviticus 26:36
  17. 17. 2. Character references Cain and Abel Hamlet Claudius, when attempting to pray: “O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t, A brother’s murder” (Hamlet 3.3.36-8) Genesis ‘And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’’ Genesis 4:8-9 ‘Now art thou cursed from the earth … When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee ... a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be.’ Genesis 4:11-12
  18. 18. 2. Character references Judas betrayal, sin, secrecy, cowardice. Macbeth If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly (1.7.1) 
 ‘And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.’ John 13:27
  19. 19. 2. Character references Judas betrayal, sin, secrecy, cowardice. that 
 Romeo & Juliet ‘Come hither, man. I see that thou art poor: 
 Hold, there is forty ducats: let me have 
 A dram of poison, such soon-speeding gear 
 As will disperse itself through all the veins 
 the life-weary taker may fall dead’ (Act 5.1) ‘Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. (…) And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.’ Matthew 27: 3-5
  20. 20. 2. Character references Nicodemus An Altered Look about the Hills' 'An altered look about the hills; A Tyrian light the village fills; A wider sunrise in the dawn; A deeper twilight on the lawn; A print of a vermilion foot; A purple finger on the slope; A flippant fly upon the pane; A spider at his trade again; An added strut in chanticleer; A flower expected everywhere; An ax shrill singing in the woods; Fern-odors on untraveled roads,-All this, and more I cannot tell, A furtive look you know as well, And Nicodemus' mystery Receives its annual reply.’ ' By Emily Dickinson
  21. 21. 2. Character references Esther The Royal Princess by Christina Rossetti (Excerpt): They shall take all to buy them bread, take all I have to give; I, if I perish, perish; they to-day shall eat and live; I, if I perish, perish; that's the goal I half conceive: Once to speak before the world, rend bare my heart and show The lesson I have learned which is death, is life, to know. I, if I perish, perish; in the name of God I go. Esther in The Bible: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.’ Esther 4: 16.
  22. 22. 2. Character references Prodigal Son Merchant of Venice – Jessica ‘How like a younger or a prodigal The scarfed bark puts from her native bayHugg’d and embraced by the strumpet wind! How like the prodigal doth she return With over-weather’d ribs and ragged sails – Lean, rent and beggar’d by the strumpet wind! (Act 2 14-19).
  23. 23. 2. Character references Prodigal Son W.B. Yeats - The Lake Isle of Innisfree I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet’s wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core. ‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father I have sinned against heaven and before thee’ Luke 15:18
  24. 24. 2. Character references Romantic Poets as Christ?
  25. 25. How well do you know Biblical characters? 009/feb/17/bible-quiz
  26. 26. 3. Theme-based allusions & motifs Alpha and Omega ‘’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8) ‘Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end’’ (Rev. 21:5)
  27. 27. 3. Theme-based allusions & motifs Alpha and Omega Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre ‘I longed for thee, Jane! Oh, I longed for thee both with soul and flesh! I asked of God, at once in anguish and humility, if I had not been long enough desolate, afflicted, tormented, and might not have soon taste bliss and peace once more. That I merited all I endured, I acknowledged – that I could scarcely endure more, I pleaded; and the alpha and omega of my heart’s wishes broke involuntarily from my lips in the words – ‘Jane! Jane! Jane!’ …’ As I exclaimed ‘Jane! Jane! Jane!’ a voice – I cannot tell whence the voice came, but I know whose voice it was – replied, ‘I am coming; wait for me’, and a moment after, went whispering on the wind, the words, ‘Where are you?’
  28. 28. 3. Theme-based allusions & motifs Blood, water, baptism Macbeth: It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood: (3.4.147) ‘Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed’. Gen 9:6 Lady Macbeth: Go get some water, And wash this filthy witness from your hand. (2.2.58)
 ‘When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.’ Matthew 27:24 ‘Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean’ Ezekiel 36:25 ‘Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood’ Revelation 1: 5
  29. 29. 3. Theme-based allusions & motifs Brevity and vanity of life ‘Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever’ Eccl. 1:2-4 ‘I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.’ Eccl. 2:11 ‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…’ Eccl. 3:1-2.
  30. 30. 3. Theme-based allusions & motifs ‘As he said vanity, so vain say I, Oh! vanity, O vain all under sky’ Bradstreet, The Vanity of All Worldly Things, (1650). ‘To everything - turn, turn, turn There is a season - turn, turn, turn And a time for every purpose under heaven…’ The Byrds, Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965) ‘For everything that's lovely is But a brief, dreamy, kind delight’ Yeats ‘Never give all the heart’ ‘The daily things we do For money or for fun Can disappear like dew Or harden and live on. ‘ Hardy, ‘The daily things we do’
  31. 31. Where to go from here…  Keep your eyes open for some of the character types mentioned (and look for names that sound biblical, e.g. ‘Moses’ in Animal Farm)  Look for key themes, especially of sin, sacrifice and redemption  Three key books to help you identify literary allusions - Genesis, Isaiah and Matthew.