In my last local writers’ group meeting, we critiqued an article by the esteemed Ava Pennington (author of One Year Alone With God, more Chicken Soup stories than you can count, and a whole lot more). She was writing about summer Bible study ideas, and she had some great ones. (By the way, you can pick up her devotional book on the names of God here. It’s endorsed by Kay Arthur!)As I was considering what to blog about on this faith-themed day, I got to thinking about another way to study the Bible. Through fiction! J Hey, I’ll create any excuse I can to read a good book. Have you read Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee? After I finished it, a pastor preached out of Genesis, and I felt like standing up and telling him he didn’t have a clue. Had he read Eve’s diary? J Tosca did an incredible job of picturing what bliss in the Garden might have looked like…and then the horror of leaving it. She brought up things I’d never thought about—like the fact that Eve had to live for so long, watching the world change from utter perfection she’d first known. What must that have been like?
Then there’s the Christy-Award-winning Madman by Tracy Groot. (Which is on sale right now!)This may be my all-time favorite biblical fiction book. Tracy really dug into the culture and the history around the time of the demoniac at the tombs, even helping me make sense of the significance of casting the demons into swine. Though the actual Bible story it’s built around takes up only a small amount of time on the page, wow, is it ever powerful.
Yes, I know these are works of fiction. But, like The Action Bible does for kids/teens, biblical fiction helps God’s Word come alive. And while I’m not advocating substituting novels for time spent in the Word, I think it might not be a bad idea to use it as collateral reading. J
My husband taught a high school Bible class for years. His favorite section covered the Temple. The attention God gave to each detail and the importance of them that we see in hind sight—everything comes together to make the coming of Jesus as the final sacrifice even more significant. Understanding the people and the times can lead to a richer understanding of God’s grace and His overarching plan.
There’s a lot of biblical fiction out there. Anything from the new wives series by Jill Eileen Smith, to stories given a twist by being set in different time periods a la Liz Curtis Higgs’ Scottish series, Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, and even Tosca Lee’s Demon: A Memoir, to Angela Hunt’s older series about Joseph—Legacies of the Ancient River.So here’s my little summer Bible study idea.
For readers—choose a biblical fiction book that appeals to you. Read it and answer the discussion questions at the back of the book, if there are any. If not, create your own. See if you can find any of the author’s sources and do a little research, maybe finding other sources of your own. Read the passages of Scripture that pertain to the novel’s plot. Look at the maps at the back of your Bible and trace the journey of the Bible character. Where is that today? What affect did that character have on biblical history? On world history? Why was their story important enough to be referenced in the Bible? What can you learn from their lives? From their relationship with God and others? Etc.For writers—This week in your devotions, see if there’s anything that gives you a story idea. Even the rules in Deuteronomy can spark some “what ifs.” Or maybe you already have a story nugget you haven’t gotten around to researching. Check out a book on the customs of the time period, find a timeline comparing historical and biblical happenings in that era, see if anyone else has written a novel on the same character or one who lived in the same time period. Do you agree with their interpretation of the character’s motives? How would you write it differently? What does God have to say to us today through this character/situation/custom/whatever?
Oh, and just for fun: What’s your favorite biblical fiction book so far?