Value The Bible as a Literary Work

The Bible’s literary relevance to books throughout history is undeniable


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Thousands of literary works orbit around The Bible


Thousands of literary works orbit around The Bible

  Earlier this year, I read a majority of The Old Testament. I’m not religious, nor do I have any interest or intention on being religious. Personally, I don’t believe in God. I never have, and it’s unlikely that I ever will. Why read The Bible then? 

   I wanted to understand John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. 

   The Bible’s relevance is undeniable. Yet, more undeniable than that is its literary relevance to books throughout history. Books like Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and other famous novels take direct inspiration from The Bible

   East of Eden, for example, is heavily inspired by the story of Cain and Abel. While they partially explain the story in the book, reading and understanding it in context adds another layer to Steinbeck’s writing.

   However, I would argue The Bible influences most stories — as well as Shakespeare and Greek Mythology. Modern movies, television, and books have Biblical allusions or influences, whether it’s the concept of Jesus-figures in Succession to references to Exodus in the movie Magnolia. Almost everything has some reference to the stories contained in The Bible.

   Most English classes are based around making connections between works, finding different influences, and while Biblical influences are covered at times, the book is never read.  

   I propose that The Bible should not be read as a religious work, but rather a work of literature – viewed in the same light as Julius Caesar or Prometheus. It is essential to Western culture and media. And if someone wants to be knowledgeable about literature, television, or film, they need to be aware of the fundamental stories.

   I am also not claiming that this work should be read in its entirety; however, a basic understanding of the stories in The Bible is essential in order to be able to understand The Scarlet Letter, another work in the school curriculum filled with Biblical allusions. 

   It’s not just The Bible that should be read; many different religious texts have influence on present day literary works, and any religious text could–and perhaps should–be read under the right context in order for people to be knowledgeable about religious influences in modern day texts. Just as Christianity influences works like East of Eden, Buddhism influences works like Siddhartha, and Islam influences works like The Book of One Thousand and One Nights. 

   There’s a distinct difference between studying religion versus studying religious texts. It only makes sense that, if we want to understand any works based on religious works, we should actually read the works referenced.