Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Quote of the Day (44)

“One of the things that convinces me of the reality of the Bible is that the level of the writing is so phenomenal. The only thing that has even a fraction of the storytelling power of the Bible is maybe The Complete Works of Shakespeare, and it’s not even close. Most of the writing of stories, and the dialogue and so forth, is absolutely superlative.”

— Vox Day

Here is a subject I have been wanting to get to for a while. Also, it lets me use the title “Quote of the Day” as a double entendre. Can’t beat that twofer!

Vox Day is known more for writing fantasy novels than for his theological ruminations, but he has produced The Irrational Atheist, the book that laid bare the lie that Christianity causes wars, demolishing the argument with actual data so comprehensively that versions of his rebuttal to Hitchens et al even appear these days (uncredited, most of the time) in mainstream publications.

We should all be grateful for that.

Write What You Know

Professional writers know good writing when they come across it. Some are even able to replicate it. In addition to his fantasy and SF novels, Day has written more than ten non-fiction works (and edited dozens more), hundreds of syndicated newspaper columns and multiple daily blog posts since October 2003 on subjects ranging from politics to economics to social justice to Jordan Peterson.

So then, when Day calls the level of writing in scripture “phenomenal”, he is not talking out his ear. His appreciation for the subtlety of the characterization in scripture and the complexity and authenticity of the relationships it describes prompted him to bang out 20,000 words recently on the complicated relationships between Saul, David and Jonathan that he hopes to publish at one point.

Like Day, more and more I am coming to believe the Bible stands apart by orders of magnitude from every other document ever penned and circulated by members of the human race. Here I am not so much talking about the internal consistency of a book with more than 35 human authors from all walks of life and different times and cultures over a period of 1,500 years — which is in itself unprecedented — but rather about the storytelling power Vox Day refers to. While the supernatural aspects of scripture are not everyone’s cup of tea, the Bible’s characters are impeccably plausible, their motivations deep and relatable, and stories about them can often be read on many levels depending on how deep you want to dig. When you are writing about real people confronting real moral issues, you don’t have to manufacture authenticity.

Nosing In

Let me insert myself here, because we all love to do that, however annoying it may be. Every few months or so in the last decade, I have found myself writing a blog post that turned into a portrait of a Bible character I felt had not been accurately or comprehensively represented to me in my formative years. (To be fair, this may say more about my level of attention or the assumptions I made as a child hearing these stories than about what people actually taught concerning them.) But as I devour the word of God voraciously in later adulthood, I continue to come across stories that once seemed one-dimensional to me, but which turned out to have way more to them once I began to look at them closely.

I actually thought about turning these blog posts into a series at one point, but they seem to have grown up here and there so organically that it is probably better to simply list the posts and characters in case anyone is interested in pursuing them. I did not set out to be deliberately contrarian in my analysis of these stories. These are not so much retcons as they are attempts to include all the relevant information scripture provides about a character into our understanding of what motivated them to do what they did.

More Complicated

My favorite of these is the story of Michal, David’s wife, but you may find others of interest:

More Complicated Than It Appears Samson October 2016
An Unguarded Minute Gehazi July 2018
What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (11) Onan September 2018
Five Times as Much Joseph April 2019
Relative Righteousness Tamar April 2019
The Other Side of the Story Michal December 2019
Anatomy of a Genocide Mordecai May 2020
Too Clever For Their Own Good Dinah January 2021
Burning Sons Abraham March 2021
A Thwarted Coup d’√Čtat The Lord’s Family July 2021
Things Hidden in Darkness Reuben December 2021
Acts of Faith That Aren’t Jacob May 2022
Revisiting Lot’s Wife Lot’s wife July 2022
Improbable Last-Minute Comebacks Boaz July 2022
Try Reading It First Adam and Eve September 2022
A Fair Chance to Fail Judas March 2023

Every one of these Old and New Testament characters testifies to the superlative, phenomenal storytelling power of the word of God. There is literally (and literature-ally) nothing like it.

No comments :

Post a Comment