The Bible is great literature and an inspiration for artistic expression


In his op-ed, Roger Guffey uses the progressive’s favorite technique when arguing against something — misdirection and ridicule.

He asks: Since King James was gay, there are many translations of the Bible, earlier translators were abused, and Song of Solomon speaks of sex, what was the legislators’ real purpose in allowing schools to study the Bible as literature?

It is, says Guffey, to indoctrinate. None of what Guffey enumerates addresses in any manner the reality that the Bible is the foundational literary work of western culture. He hopes to obscure that reality. It is very disturbing to many that people might become aware of that reality for that awareness might hinder the creation of a new world in the progressives’ likeness with a very different ethos.

The Bible is one of the world’s greatest works of literary art. It tells a story, with many subplots. It has a setting, plot, action, protagonists, heroes, villains, dramatic tension and resolution. As noted by scholar Thomas Cahill, it is the source of such ideas as “new, adventure, surprise; unique, individual, person, vocation; time, history, future; freedom, progress, spirit; faith, hope, justice.”

The Bible is filled with high drama, comedy and tragedy. It lays down the great lines and themes that have held the attention of hearers and readers of all stories since its compilation who seek to know about themselves by identifying with characters in those stories. There are words that convey “in the beginning” and “then for a long time,” and action sequences that move the story along to its conclusion. Along the way characters face great adversity, duplicity and disaster with courage. There are scenes of estrangement and reconciliation and heartbreaking love. Men and women find and lose themselves and home.

Western scripture provides deeply imbued-with-meaning words and phrases that are so much a part of everyday existence they need no explanation or exposition.

Such archetypal words include: Eden, forbidden fruit, the Ark, the rainbow, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jacob’s Ladder, the Ten Commandments, crossing Jordan, David and Goliath, the apple of his eye, Zion, chariot of fire, the golden bowl and silver cord, Daniel in the lions’ den, heavenly hosts, lamb of God, transfiguration, walking on the Sea of Galilee, resurrection, on the Damascus road, New Jerusalem.

Throughout the centuries since the completion of the Bible, such western civilization lodestars or archons keep reappearing in sculpture, music, painting and writing.

These reappearances include St. Augustine’s City of God, the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend, Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” Milton’s “Paradise Lost” (with its own famous line “All Hell broke loose”); William Shakespeare’s tragedies; Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper; Michelangelo’s David and the Pieta, and his frescos of creation and last judgment on the Sistine chapel’s ceiling and wall; George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah;” John Newton’s “Amazing Grace;” Abraham Lincoln’s prose on judgment and mercy; Theodore Roosevelt’s telling his 1912 political supporters that they were standing at Armageddon and fighting for the Lord; Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible-verse laced sermon about his dream; and John F. Kennedy’s and Ronald Reagan’s harkening back to a “city on a hill.”

In recent decades, there has been such iconic songs as Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” from its Joshua Tree compilation, Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Into the Fire” with its I Corinthian 13 refrain, and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

The story of God provides the ethos of the Western World: the nature of man; the meaning of linear history; the sacredness of life, sex, the individual, the family, the community; the dignity of work; the law’s necessity; the command to administer justice and extend mercy; the ongoing call to step out of Eden toward the future.

Studying the Bible as a masterpiece of literature is an effort to know yourself and the world around you.

James L. Hood, of Nicholasville, is a retired state worker who has taught American and Kentucky history. Reach him at jhood188@windstream.net.