A few years ago when I read the famous book pictured at left, it changed the way I approach the Bible.
Robert Alter taught me to pay closer attention to the story of Scripture, that is, to the author’s intended literary elements, such as:
“the minute choice of words and reported details, the pace of narration, the small movements of dialogue, and a whole network of ramified interconnections in the text.”
In the OT book of Ruth, for example, Alter points out that the main character, Ruth, a foreigner from Moab, is similar to the patriarch Abraham in making a fateful trek to the promised land:
She “returns” to a place she’s never been. Abraham goes to a place he’s never been. Both are critical to God’s overall plan of blessing and salvation.
This connection can be found in standard commentaries.
But the contribution Alter makes is to show such connections in the actual story-telling of the biblical authors. Alter wants us to appreciate the brilliant detail of the narrative and not fall into thinking that if we could just clear away the story, we’d get down to what really matters — the brass tacks of doctrine.
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Inspired by the likes of Robert Alter, my forthcoming book, Faith Unexpected: Real Stories of People Who Found What They Never Imagined (February 2018) utilizes the power of story to inspire faith in others. The gospel message embedded in story is, indeed, powerful.