With permission I have re-blogged this post by Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt. Having stumbled across her post I loved her comments about Biblical novelists. This is just a section of it. The link to the original is at the end. (Confession: I have re-formatted it slightly and added some images but the text is as the original.)
Why do novelists write the stories of the Bible and call them “fiction?” I can give you several reasons
First, the Bible is a big collection of books, and the biblical authors were not novelists. They wrote facts, events, and dates from their perspective as they were moved by the Spirit of God. When they recounted events, however, they tended to write sparely, rather like an artist who does a pencil sketch. They relied on nouns and verbs, using few adjective and sometimes using few names. Very rarely do they mention supporting characters, and even more rarely do they mention supporting women. We shouldn’t be surprised–they came from patriarchal societies.
What a trustworthy biblical novelist does is take the scripture and bring it to realistic life with layers of color and texture and sensory details. We research the historical time period and read dozens of works written in that time period whenever possible, so we can get a feel for how people actually wrote, lived, and spoke. When we encounter conflicting expert opinions, we choose the most logical. We consider human nature, which does not change. People still get angry, frustrated, and depressed. Even biblical characters make awful mistakes, and if the Bible doesn’t avoid recording them, why should a novelist? Most of all, we keep the scriptural account as our touchstone, taking care not to violate it. But the parts that spring from our imagination, we freely admit are fiction.
Based on real life
Part of being true to Scripture involves not always crafting the perfect ending. Not every biblical story has an “HEA” (happily ever after) conclusion. I know readers love them, but biblical stories are based on real life, and real life often leaves us sadder, but wiser . . . yet always filled with hope. Because our hope is found in God, who never changes or fails.
Why not forget fiction and read only the Bible? Because the human spirit resonates to STORY. When I was a little girl, before they had invented children’s church, I had to go into the adult service with my parents. As a four-, five-, and six-year-old, I tended to fidget and often put my head in my mother’s lap to sleep. But whenever the preacher said, “Reminds me of the time when . . .” I sat up, all ears and wide awake. Why? Because those words signaled the beginning of a STORY, and I loved story. Nearly everyone does.
Jesus used stories to teach His followers–that’s what the parables were. Through the work of the Spirit, some people caught the true meaning of Jesus’ stories, and others didn’t.
Most of my stories–even the contemporary, non-biblically based novels–are parables. Like onions, there’s an outer layer and several inner layers, and readers will take from it what they were ready to receive. Some grasp the deeper meaning, others do not. But that’s okay. Their understanding depends on the Spirit.
So why read fiction based on biblical events?
- Because a trustworthy author will not violate Scripture.
- Because the fictional elements should be logical and based on historical facts.
- Because human nature is consistent over time. We often think our problems are unique, and we’re relieved to discover that we aren’t alone. Others have been in similar situations.
- Because historical fiction helps us better understand the culture and history of familiar story events.
- Because we learn from the lives of other people.
- Because God Himself recorded stories, and Jesus taught with them since humans are hard-wired to appreciate story. Who would know that better than the God who created us?
God gave us Scripture, and the doctrine of biblical sufficiency states that the Bible gives us all we need to know about God. But it does not give us all we want to know, and our quest for knowledge is a God-given gift. We yearn to know more, and well-written biblical, historical, and contemporary fiction can meet that need.
So don’t hesitate to open your heart and mind to a well-written biblical novel. You may be surprised to learn a truth you had never before considered.
I am grateful to Angela Hunt for permission to repost (part of) her post. She has given such great, clear reason for reading Biblical fiction.
Have a wonderful week ahead,