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Reading Biblical Narrative: An Introductory Guide [Paperback]

By Fokkelman (Author)
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Item description for Reading Biblical Narrative: An Introductory Guide by Fokkelman...

Narrator, character, action, hero, quest, plot, time, and space...the best approach to the scriptures takes seriously the literary character of biblical texts and understands the features, ground rules, and structure of narrative and poetry. This engaging introduction enables readers who do not have knowledge of Hebrew and Greek to read the prose and poetry of both the Old and the New Testament with greater insight and imagination. Using carefully chosen examples, it offers step-by-step analyses that draw the reader deeper into the narrative worlds of the Bible, revealing the underlying dynamics of the text and uncovering layers of meanings that even experienced readers can miss.

Publishers Description

Narrator, characters, action, hero, quest, plot, time and space, entrances and exits--these are the essential components of all narrative literature. This authoritative and engaging introduction to the literary features of biblical narrative and poetry will help the reader grasp the full significance of these components, allowing them to enter more perceptively into the narrative worlds created by the great writers of the Bible.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages   220
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.04" Width: 5.98" Height: 0.55"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2005
Publisher   Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN  0664222633  
ISBN13  9780664222635  

Availability  105 units.
Availability accurate as of Nov 19, 2017 08:49.
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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference

Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Reading Biblical Narrative?

methodological precision for readers of biblical narrative  Jul 25, 2005
This book is meant to teach people to 'read with understanding'. It accomplishes its objective by inviting its reader to go back over the same biblical narratives numerous times, viewing the text through a different lens on each visit. One is trained to seek out each story's hero, a concept that is linked to the notion of quest (the effort to solve a problem). Fokkelman believes that the distance separating us from the biblical stories is not to be feared, since a well-written story will 'come into its own' when it meets an attentive reader. The book places the concepts and nomenclature of narratology in the hands of the Bible reader, whose subjectivity is not to be lamented. Rather, it is the sphere in which he encounters the text's art. Meaning is conferred in the interplay of the reader who bestows it and the text which in some sense 'has' it.

A skilful narrator uses both 'narrative' and 'narrated' time. That narrator is a pose, an attitude, omniscient and anonymous, indeed a veritable ringmaster, a master over characters whose truth may or may not be that of the narrator himself, a puppeteer manipulating his characters and his readers 'who hardly knows when to stop'. In this narratalogical world, even God is a character who answers to the narrator's sovereign whim. It is our responsibility to ferret out the storyteller's ideology by means of the way he intervenes in his stories to provide information and description.

Fokkelman returns time and again to the genius of a good narrator, who by selecting elements of action and passion constructs a plot that enables us to detect its hero and that hero's quest. The way he structures a narrative-astutely employing time and space, entrances and exits-allows him to conceal his values where the well-trained (and structuralist?) reader will find the treasure. The narrator himself is a veteran of 'extensive training' in exploiting multiple forms of repetition, with their varying degrees of similarity and contrast.

The narrator also controls the flow of knowledge, manipulating the points of view his characters are permitted to disclose and thus shaping the menu of perspectives which his readers might choose to assume. Usually he is stingy with his own viewpoint and values, which may or may not match those of God, as the narrator perceives them. The narrator's work may be complemented at the level of act, cycle, and longer prose compositions by that of one or more editors, though Fokkelman appears to treat both of these literary actors under the rubric of the narrator. Certainly, the editor-also anonymous-is every bit as intentional about his purpose as the narrator, a feature which allows us to enjoy good books as well as good stories.

Fokkelman dedicates one chapter to exploring the 'collaboration' of prose and poetry, a topic which hints at his subsequent Reading Biblical Poetry. After establishing what differentiates the two forms of discourse, Fokkelman alleges that the hybrid style of the biblical writer 'relativizes, or even mocks and annihilates the distinction'. A penultimate chapter extends the 'main questions of narratology' to the New Testament's synoptic gospels. A final chapter offers helpfully suggestive questions for a reader to ask of is text, together with suggestions for further study.

Though this book is not the kind of easy read that its title might suggest, it is a worthwhile and occasionally unsettling book for the biblical critic. In the course of his descriptions, Fokkelman treats us to various masterful readings (for example, of the Gideon story, pp. 126-130). He underscores his fascination with the biblical narrator and his negative views regarding historical-critical praxis, convictions that do not escape a certain irony. For example, after rather severely limiting the space in which the text's and writer's intention may be taken into account, Fokkelman ascribes to the narrator a far more sophisticated intentionality than even those scholars whom he critiques normally allow. As for the reader, Fokkelman uses morally-charged language to refer to that person's labour (for example, his 'duty', p. 117; the need to 'perform our task correctly', p. 146; the counsel, 'Do not be tempted to speculate on "how it really was," there and then, so far away and so long ago, in that utterly alien culture', p. 207) Indeed, his chapter on the New Testament ends with the rhetorical question, 'What exactly is the difference between disciple and reader?'

There is no doubt but that the biblical narrator is the hero of Fokkelman's story. Careful reading of this book will provide fresh insight into that person's craft, quest, and product.
A literary approach to the Bible  Nov 15, 2000
Fokkelman believes that reading is the action of conferring meaning to a text, is only realised through the mediation of the reader and scarcely taken into account by those who seek to interpret texts as coming from a different place, in a different day and a different culture. He thinks the biblical texts deserve better. Tell them to a good listener and they will quickly come into their own. So subjectivity is `in' and what follows is a training manual for readers with no knowledge of the original languages.

After applying his principles to selection of biblical stories he suggests a further hundred on which the reader can exercise his imagination, together with ten productive questions and suggestions for further reading.

The gap between Fokkelman's theory and execution will present no problems to the literary professionals but may prove a handicap to those less skilled, while the emphasis on hero, plot and winners, though helpful to beginners, may stifle more imaginative and creative approaches in others, and it is sometimes easier to see the value of his challenge to the traditional interpretations than to appreciate what is added by his alternatives. A better translation and more careful editing would have helped

An outstanding primer on approaching the scriptures.  Jul 3, 2000
A recommended pick for religious library collections, J.P. Fokkelman's Reading Biblical Narrative provides a basic primer on how to approach the scriptures. The poetry and prose of both Old and New Testaments are detailed in examples which offer step-by step analysis to help readers understand how to analyze the passages.

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