Bible as literature

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Leland Ryken wrote in his Washington Times article The Bible as literature

The first reason to read the Bible as literature is that it is a work of literature. Because the primary sphere in which the Bible has been read through the ages is the religious sphere...

...format is the literary anthology—a collection of varied literary genres written by multiple authors over the span of many centuries. In its details, too, the Bible is a literary book. Most of it is embodied in the genres of narrative, poetry, letters, and visionary writing. Dozens of smaller genres accumulate under those big rubrics.[1]

The Bible teaches the sovereignty of God and indicates that God is a planner. The Bible teaches history is unfolding the plan of God. The Bible is a masterpiece of storytelling where the story is true/historical (see: Bible history and Biblical archaeology and Christian historical apologetics). Five important elements of a good story are: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. The biblical account of the fall of man introduced the classic conflict of good vs. evil. The Book of Revelation is the capstone book of the Bible where good triumphs over evil.

Even the new atheist Richard Dawkins admits the Bible has had an impact on great works of Western literature and has great literature within it.

Richard Dawkins wrote:

For some reason the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) was not approached for a donation in support of Michael Gove's plan to put a King James Bible in every state school. We would certainly have given it serious consideration, and if the trustees had not agreed I would gladly have contributed myself. In the event, it was left to "millionaire Conservative party donors".

I am a little shocked at the implication that not every school library already possesses a copy. Can that be true?...

Ecclesiastes, in the 1611 translation, is one of the glories of English literature (I'm told it's pretty good in the original Hebrew, too). The whole King James Bible is littered with literary allusions, almost as many as Shakespeare (to quote that distinguished authority Anon, the trouble with Hamlet is it's so full of clichées). In The God Delusion I have a section called "Religious education as a part of literary culture" in which I list 129 biblical phrases which any cultivated English speaker will instantly recognise and many use without knowing their provenance: the salt of the earth; go the extra mile; I wash my hands of it; filthy lucre; through a glass darkly; wolf in sheep's clothing; hide your light under a bushel; no peace for the wicked; how are the mighty fallen.

A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian.[2]


  1. The Bible as literature by Leland Ryken, Washington Times
  2. Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible by Richard Dawkins