Take a guided tour on how to interpret biblical narrative. Leland Ryken shows pastors and students and teachers of the Bible how to appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty of Scripture. In How Bible Stories Work, he explores the intersection of the Bible and literature. And he goes one step further than merely explaining the literary approach to the Bible—he includes exercises to help students of the Bible master it.
In the Reading the Bible as Literature series, Leland Ryken explores the intersection of the Bible and literature. In the series preface he writes, “It is my belief that a literary approach to the Bible is the common reader’s friend, in contrast to the more specialized types of scholarship on the Bible.”
Leland Ryken has been a pacesetter in the literary study of the Bible, especially within the evangelical community. Those of us who find this approach to Scripture especially enriching are always ready to listen when Ryken speaks. Readers who master Ryken’s principles will find the Bible open up to them in new, exciting ways.
—Robert B. Chisholm Jr., Chair and Professor of Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
“To sum up, at an interpretive level, settings serve three overlapping functions in a story: they enable the events that happen in them, they serve as a container for and extension of characters and events, and they take on symbolic overtones.” (Page 30)
“We can assign this dominance of narrative in the Bible to at least three causes. First, it is rooted in the character of God, who is the God who acts. Second, biblical writers are preoccupied with history, and they overwhelmingly want us to know what actually happened. To record what happened is to tell a story. Third, life itself has a narrative quality, being comprised of exactly the same ingredients that stories possess (setting, characters, plot, progression in time, and so forth). The narrative quality of the Bible is part of its truthfulness to life.” (Page 12)
“A story has two components known as form and content” (Page 17)
“It is a truism that history books and the daily news tell us what happened, whereas literature tells us what happens.” (Page 19)
“To summarize, at any moment in a story the characterization is being done by one of four possible agents—the author or narrator, another character in the story, the character himself or herself, and the action.” (Page 43)
Leland Ryken (Ph.D., University of Oregon) is Professor of English Emeritus at Wheaton College, where he has taught since 1968. He is the author of more than 50 books, including How to Read the Bible as Literature, Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible, Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective, and A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible.