Biblical Fiction enriches the stories of the Bible adding context and making their themes relevant to modern readers. But is it still the truth? Is it even right to make up stories about biblical characters and events? Or does this 'enriched' biblical retelling merely confuse at best and distort at worst?
Nothing New in Retelling Bible Stories for New Listeners
Biblical retelling and adding to the Bible narrative, isn’t new. It was going on even while the Bible was still being written. Read almost any of the New Testament letters, and you’ll find the writer retelling Old Testament stories to make a particular Christian point. In Hebrews, the writer condenses the entire epic of Jewish history to make his message relevant for to the lives and times of the readers.
Even Jesus does some biblical retelling; in John 3:14 he retells the story of Moses lifting up the snake in the wilderness, and puts the interpretation on it that his followers need if their to understand it fully. Although, to be truthful, most of what Jesus does and says is to 'write in' the ending to the great unfinished biblical story of salvation. But then, he can do that - he knows how it ends!
Meaning That's Still Meaningful for Today Readers
There’s a thin line - if indeed there’s any line at all, between explaining a Bible story with extra words or writing and what we label as biblical fiction. The best of today’s biblical fiction writers do much the same thing as the epistle writers. Taking on trust that today’s authors have an experience of God at least as genuine as your own – if it’s even for us to judge such a thing, their biblical fiction attractively and engagingly retells scriptural truths that highlight the original’s meaning for present day readers.
If there’s a problem, it’s probably with the word 'fiction'; which implies malicious fabrication and even lies. But that’s a legal definition; and we know what Jesus had to say about mere legalistic interpretation. Here’s a better one: “A literary work whose content is enhanced by imagination but, without undermining, the essential truth.”
Best Biblical Retellings Engage New Bible Readers
If you’re just starting out on biblical retellings, or want to introduce a keen reader to the richness of Bible stories, the authors to watch out for are Francine Rivers (A Lineage of Grace, Sons of Encouragement), Diana Wallis Taylor (Mary Magdalene, Martha) and Mesu Andrews (Love Amid the Ashes).
Currently, most biblical retelling authors are women, so tend to address issues and emphasise storylines of interest to women readers. Their retellings not only add depth to the emotions of Bible personalities, they also explain the historical and cultural context that underpins the impact of biblical events in their time and shines a new light on their meaning in ours.
In today’s world, where story rather than dogma and narrative rather than preaching are the most effective ways to communicate truth and meaning, sensitive biblical retellings by bestselling Christian authors is an evangelistic expression and devotional channel whose time has come.
Hungry for more Biblical Fiction? Read our article - 7 Reasons To Try Biblical Fiction - to discover 7 reasons and 7 brilliant books.
March 1st, 2013 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison