The Bible is the best-selling book of all time (just in case you were unaware of that fact). It is the greatest work of literature that has ever been produced. And, when we study and interpret the Bible, our tendency is to investigate any number of fields (genre, original language, etc.), but often neglect the actual literary structure of the text.
Now along comes Leland Ryken with a series of concise volumes published by the Weaver Book Company which focus our attention the Bible as literature. Ryken’s goal is to get us to place our initial attention on how the authors of Scripture as they were guided by the Holy Spirit placed emphasis on the “how to” of telling a story.
Ryken, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon, is Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College and a literary expert extraordinaire. He has written a number of books connecting the Bible as literature. How Bible Stories Work: A Guided Study of Biblical Narrative is the initial volume of six focusing on Reading the Bible as Literature.
The “Series Preface” says it all for the intent of this volume and the ones to follow: “ … to equip Christians to understand and teach the Bible effectively …” This book surpasses that intent.
Ryken walks us through the two components of a story and then the three elements that are included in every story. The book is structured in an orderly and logical fashion which help us not to get “lost in the weeds” of dissecting a story. But it is not a tedious outline with some academic explanation. Rather, each element is explained by the use of a biblical story. We learn by example. And at the end of each chapter Ryken has included a “Learning by Doing” section in which we can apply the principles taught in that chapter.
I will confess that I have already – consciously and unconsciously – used several of Ryken’s principles in preparing sermons and Bible studies. Therefore, I highly recommend this volume to pastors and anyone involved in teaching the Word of God to others. It will add a valuable tool to your study and education of the Scriptures.
Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Weaver Book Company for a fair and honest review.