Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Bible in literature

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sometimes it's amazing how the Bible touches literature.

Tonight we go to Bible study. We are studying I Enoch, a non-canonical writing which is sometimes quoted by Biblical authors. In other words, even though I Enoch isn't in the Bible, it has influenced the Bible and its writers. And I Enoch has influenced other writers too.

Last night, as I read The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman, I ran across clear references to I Enoch or at least to the traditions behind I Enoch. Pullman mentions a group of spiritual beings who cohabit with women. They are called Watchers. Their sons are giants. In Enoch, the Watchers and their sons bring evil to the world. In some way or another, Pullman's story is partially inspired by the Enoch traditions, down to the name Watchers itself.

The Subtle Knife is the second book in Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials. The first book is The Golden Compass. You may have seen the movie. That's what led me to the three books.

Not long ago, I finished writing a book called Murder and the Book of Revelation. The main character in that book is a minister, and while minister detectives are not unusual (a la Father Brown), my character actually uses his ability to interpret scripture as a way to help solve the crime. I thought maybe that would be a little different.

When I was studying literature in college (I took a number of graduate courses), I was amazed at how many of the poems and other writings led you back to the Bible. At lot were based on mythology and historical sources too. A lot of Shakespeare is just history rewritten to make it more personal. As sophomores in high school, we all read Julius Caesar.

So we are changed by everything we read. It becomes a part of us and makes us different. Ancient literature, especially the Bible in our western culture, has seeped into so much of our poetry and fiction.

So tonight, I go to hear an excellent teacher tell me about I Enoch. Without even knowing it, he will be preparing me to better read Phillip Pullman too.


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