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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



General Bible Studies

The Bible and the Comic Vision: Exploring the Depths of a Seldom-Noticed Aspect of Biblical Literature by J. William Whedbee (Fortress) Whedbee develops a more adequate anatomy of biblical comedy, an anatomy that is grounded in contem­porary literary criticism. As an epigraph for his presentation he cites Baudelaire's provocative assertion, "Holy books never laugh . . ." -- an assertion that I have chosen ironically as a backdrop against which to argue a contradictory thesis: the Holy Book we call the Bible revels in a profoundly ambivalent laughter, a divine and human laughter that by turns is both mocking and joyous, subversive and celebrative, and finally a laughter that results in an exuberant and transformative comic vision.

Whedbee argues that what gives this comic vision its passion and vital depth is precisely its recognition of the place and power of tragedy, of that vision of the dark, jagged side of human existence which unveils the stark presence of unre­deemed death, of unjustified disaster, of unmitigated despair. But tragedy is generally episodic in the overarching movement of the Bible, though no less terrifying in its effects. The comic vision can embrace the tragic dimension without eliminating or negating it ‑ let alone explaining or totally healing its destructive effects. Yet comedy cannot be felt in its full force apart from tragedy, nor can comedy be delineated and fully appreciated without tragedy. So it is in general, and so it is in the concrete forms of the biblical heritage.

Contents: PART I: The Genesis of Comedy—The Comedy of Genesis;  The Comedy of Creation (Genesis 1–11);  Domestic Comedy in the Household of Faith (Genesis 12–50); PART II: Biblical Texts and the Drive to Comic Regeneration; 5. Exodus and Esther as Comedies of Deliverance; 4. Jonah as a Comedy of Contradiction, Caricature, and Compassion; 5. The Comedy of Job: Creation, Chaos, and Carnival; 6. Paradox and Parody in the Song of Solomon; 7. A Comprehensive View of Biblical Comedy

The Bible As Theatre by Shimon Levy (Sussex Academic Press) Shimon Levy, who teaches theatre at Tel Aviv University, has found a highly original new approach to the Bible: to treat the narrative portions of the Old Testament as dramatic texts that can by analyzed in terms of dialogue, stage directions, scenic design, gesture, plotline, dramatic tension, characterization, and all the other viewpoints applicable to dramatic texts.

Parts of the Bible, such as the Book of Job, have long been regarded as dramatic texts on a par with a Greek tragedy. But Shimon Levy's approach opens up a vast field of analysis. That is not to say that he thinks these texts can be performed without adaptation, he merely shows that, looked at as dramatic texts ‑ and he deliberately refers to the authors of such texts as "the playwright" ‑ they open up fascinating and very unusual perspectives on the role of women, both when depicted as despised pictures and as proto‑feminist models, the prophets as performers, the nature of political leadership and, above all, the figure of God as the protagonist, on­stage and off‑stage of all these dramas.

To these fascinating disquisitions Shimon Levy brings what must be a truly unique combination of total mastery of stagecraft and the vocabulary of dramatic criticism with an astonishing knowledge of the Bible and its Hebrew language.

This is a book to be read with the Bible at one's side: by treating these texts on a strictly factual, down‑to‑earth basis, with due reverence but without uncritical devotion, it not only deepens one's understanding of a multitude of cultural, social and historical aspects of its contents, but also re‑tells these tremendous stories with riveting detail, emotion and suspense. --Martin Esslin

Shimon Levy's study The Bible As Theatre is a fascinating study. Its consideration of a wide variety of Biblical materials from a dramaturgical point of view adds a rich new dimension to many familiar stories and brings fresh prominence and fresh perspectives to an even greater number of less familiar ones. Character relationships and motivations are explored in striking and memorable detail and the attention to the physical settings and symbolic properties that frame these actions provides illuminating contextualization. The consideration of how women are granted or denied a dramaturgical voice in these narratives produced in a masculine‑dominated literary and cultural tradition is particularly interesting and well presented.

The dramatic potential of the stories of job and Esther, and occasionally Daniel and a few other figures have been considered by previous scholars, with interesting and worthwhile results, but no previous study has considered so wide a range of Biblical material from a dramaturgical perspective, nor considered it so thoroughly and profitably as this. The book will be an important contribution both to Biblical and theatre studies.

This Christian evangelical guide to Bible verses offers a useful devotional approach to scripture reading. However anyone who has a sophisticated and non-evangelical attitude toward scripture may find this guide perverse. We feel Logos represents the best in serious evangelical scholarship and hypertext resources.

What the Bible Says About...
Starts With (Example: "love" finds Love, Lovefeasts, Lovers.)
Exact (Example: "love" finds Love.)

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