New Testament parables as literature?
August 1, 2006 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of a book that analyzes the New Testament as literature?

I'm specifically hoping for books or articles that discuss the parables: what makes them work as narratives, different methods by which they convey moral messages, any common threads that run through all of them and that sort of thing. Thanks, MeFites.
posted by CRM114 to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Something by Alvin A. Lee might fit the bill. His book The Garden and the Wilderness was one of our high school textbooks. It addressed biblical themes as literary themes -- but I can't remember whether it covered the New Testament in addition to the Old Testament. I don't know he has anything specifically about the parables.

There are several books by Mr. Lee listed on
posted by sueinnyc at 8:57 PM on August 1, 2006

Not an answer to your question directly, but the Slate series Blogging The Bible has got to be of interest to you.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:19 PM on August 1, 2006

There's a great book called Christ: A Crisis in The Life of God. As Amazon says, it

offers a purely literary reading of the New Testament--rendering Jesus as a character whose history spans all of time, from the beginning to the end.

It's such a long time since I've read it that I can't remember whether it deals with any of the parables specifically, but it's the best book I've read that treats the Bible as a literary work.
posted by bunglin jones at 9:21 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I asked a vaguely similar question a while back and got some helpful advice; I wound up getting the Asimov book and I like it.
posted by adamrice at 10:01 PM on August 1, 2006

Second the Jack Miles book "Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God".

And it's an even better read if you've read his previous book, "God: A Biography" which gives the Old Testament the same treatment and does plenty to set up the "Christ" book-- particularly his interpretation of the book of Job, which you should definitely read.
posted by hermitosis at 10:58 PM on August 1, 2006

the key book is auerbach's 'mimesis', compares old testament to homer
posted by londongeezer at 1:20 AM on August 2, 2006

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart has a chapter on interpreting the parables.
posted by davcoo at 3:28 AM on August 2, 2006

How about The Literary Guide to the Bible? Edited by Robert Alter and Frank Kermode and published by Belknap Press (Harvard University), it was very well reviewed upon its publication fifteen years ago.
posted by zootramp at 4:08 AM on August 2, 2006

I found Isaac Asmiov's Guide to the Bible to be a really interesting companion when I decided to take on the task of reading both testaments. More historical analysis, but
very interesting.
posted by lucidreamstate at 6:39 AM on August 2, 2006

I remember reading an Atlantic Monthly review a couple of years ago about a new Oxford edition of the bible, heavily footnoted in the way that those books usually are (explanations of allusions, obscure language, etc., and with essays at the back). Problem is, the reviewer noted, neither this particular edition nor any other that the reviewer had ever come across treated the bible as strict literature; all, the reviewer contended, included quite a bit of analysis from a religious angle. From this, it seems to me like you may have a harder time than you'd hoped of finding what you want.

Whoops... Went looking for that review. You probably need to have a subscription to follow that link. Turns out that the reviewer's frustration stems only from finding a secular take on the King James Bible, which he is convinced is the only version with literary merit. But my memory holds about that topic. From the review: "That is, they all advance a particular theological viewpoint—and the best ones (the Scofield Study Bible, the Ryrie Study Bible, and the King James Study Bible) uphold a fundamentalist viewpoint that often heavily colors the notes, glosses, and cross-references. "

The reviewer further states that "the New Oxford Annotated Bible and the HarperCollins Study Bible, ... represent[s] the best in ecumenical British and American Bible scholarship but use the New Revised Standard Version as their text—a far more accurate translation, but one that utterly lacks literary distinction."
posted by msbrauer at 6:54 AM on August 2, 2006

Seeing as some states or districts teach the Bible as a literature class, you might be interested in researching what texts they use for analysis. Or, better yet, read one of the aforementioned resources and then read the school-book to personally see how well it comes off as a literature resource.
IIRC, I remember reading something in the Atlanta paper a few months back when I still lived there about the state or a county now allowing teaching the Bible as a literature course. They listed two possible texts for use in the classroom. Or I may have been thinking about someplace else?
posted by jmd82 at 6:54 AM on August 2, 2006

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