Tag Archives: the Bible

The Bible As Literature

by AmyBeth Inverness

AmyBeth Inverness Bible as literatureThe Christian Church was central to my upbringing. No one could beat me at Bible trivia. I could recite the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments (I can’t anymore) the twelve sons of Jacob (still can) and I was pretty good with the books of both the Old and New Testaments. I can still name all the minor prophets, but I have to sing them. (I prove this via Youtube.)

It wasn’t until I was in high school and allowed the indulgence of choosing an English class that went beyond basic grammar and sentence structure that I began to put together the random trivia and assorted stories into some kind of perspective. The class was “The Bible as Literature.”

I had never before realized how much an author’s own society and environment affect their writing. It’s not something that can be avoided, unless the story is reduced to a set of inarguable facts. Even then, a writer might describe something they see in terms they and their contemporaries can understand, even though it is not entirely accurate. We don’t know whether the ladder in Jacob’s vision (Genesis 28:10-17) was a literal ladder, an analogy, or his best description of something else that was beyond his comprehension.

My husband and I read some not-so-ancient fiction out loud to our youngest daughter starting on the day she was born. I’ve always loved L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, but it wasn’t until reading them out loud as an adult that I realized just how different the language is. These books were written in my own language in my own country only a hundred years ago, yet the sound and the flow of the words is markedly different from anything written today.

The stories in the Bible were written not just hundreds but thousands of years ago. It’s not just the flow of words that is vastly different. Rather, it is the very way that ideas are conveyed in those words that has changed across time and cultures.

In my high school English class, one book we read in its entirety was the story of Job. Job is unique in that it isn’t written as a historical account but as a story with God, Satan, and the angels as characters with dialog. This story meant something else to the ancient Hebrews than it means to me. For example, I’m not okay with the idea that all Job’s children died, even if he did end up with more offspring at the end of the story.

The Christian Church is still a large part of my life today, but it’s no longer just a collection of neatly encapsulated narratives to me. I can see the words that ancient peoples were inspired to record, both for their contemporaries and for history. The New Testament’s letters were written specifically to individual churches in various cities. Yes, there are lessons to be learned from them, but the reader must keep in mind who was writing the letter, to whom it was written, and why it was written. Paul wasn’t sitting around thinking “Well, I’d better make darn sure this thing is still relevant two thousand years from now!” He was writing to his fellow Christians in fledgling churches.

Whether studying the Bible from the point of view of a Christian believing it to be the inspired Word of God, from the point of view of a secular scholar who does not believe God exists, or from anywhere in between, the Bible as literature is a varied, epic work. From the straightforward listing of who-begat-whoms (which held extreme importance for the ancient peoples) to the wild visions of Revelation, seeing what our ancestors chose to preserve for posterity and how they chose to present it informs us when we strive to do the same.

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice, and an outcast of Colorado by temporary necessity, AmyBeth Inverness is a creator of Speculative Fiction and Romance. She can usually be found tapping away at her laptop, writing the next novel, or procrastinating by posting a SciFi Question of the Day on Facebook and Google Plus. When she’s not writing she’s kept very busy making aluminum foil hats and raising two energetic kids and many pets with her husband in their New England home. AmyBeth Inverness is a featured writer in Garden Gnome Publications’ Garden of Eden Anthology.

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What Is Biblical Speculative Fiction?

Using “Biblical” as an adjective can get you into a lot of trouble. I suspect this might be one of those occasions.

The problem lies in how you interpret the adjective. The easy way out is to simply say that “Biblical” means literally interpreted. That is, if you call something Biblical, then you are implying that you are referring to the traditionally orthodox interpretation of the Bible. That’s not what the Garden Gnome is doing in this case.

“Biblical” simply means “based on the Bible.” Whatever that means.

What Is Speculative Fiction?

The real bone of contention is, What do you make of speculative fiction? Garden gnomes almost always seek the broadest interpretation possible. In fiction and in real life.

Speculative fiction, for our purposes, is any fiction that encompasses a fantastical element. That could include – but isn’t limited to – science fiction, fantasy, horror, weird literature, supernatural tales, utopian or dystopian stories, alternative histories, Bizarro, and anything with a weird, surreal, or irreal element to it. Feel free to expand on that.

As a matter of principle, most garden gnomes like stories that cross genre definitions.

Getting To The Heart Of ‘Biblical’ Speculative Fiction

The Biblical Legends Spec Fic Anthology Series is an attempt to bring together short story and flash fiction writers from a variety of sub-genres within the speculative fiction category addressing particular Biblical-based themes or settings for each anthology. In other words, contributors have a lot of freedom to take their stories in any speculative direction as long as they stick with the theme.

The first anthology theme in the works is the Garden of Eden. We’re all familiar with the story, no doubt.

In case you haven’t heard about it, let me give you a quick synopsis.

    According to Genesis 2:4-3:24, newly created Adam was placed in a newly created garden called Eden. Through this garden ran four rivers. And, amid all the other foliage and fauna, there were two significant trees – the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Adam was instructed by his creator not to eat of the first tree.

    God then created all the animals and sent them to Adam to receive names. Then he put Adam to sleep, took a rib, and created Eve.

    A serpent came along and tempted Eve to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree. Eve ate the fruit from the tree and tempted Adam to do the same. After doing so, they realized they were naked and covered themselves with fig leaves. God came looking for them, and when he found them he wasn’t happy. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. God punished them all.

    God told Adam his punishment was work. The woman’s was pain during childbirth. And the serpent lost his legs. Then God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden and blocked the entrance with a flaming sword.

So what is the task of each writer who contributes a story to the Garden of Eden anthology?

What’s So Damned Speculative About This Garden?

garden of eden speculative fictionThe Garden of Eden is a strange place. Not much is known about it. There aren’t any historical records. Adam hadn’t invented papyrus yet.

We’ve deleted Adam, Eve, and the serpent as potential characters. That would be too easy. Instead, we want to know who else might have been in that garden. This is where you can get speculative. Use your imagination. Be broad in your thinking, and be creative. You don’t have to stick with the literal details of the Biblical text, but you should try to maintain the integrity of the legend. In other words, don’t make it a desert, because it wasn’t. That said, you can describe the garden as you wish.

The garden gnomes are giddy with excitement about the stories we’re expecting to receive. We’d like one of them to be yours. Get the submission details at

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