I’m reading The Art of Biblical Narrative, a fascinating book by Robert Alter addressing the Bible’s precise literary techniques used to convey meaning and emphasis. His works seems pretty groundbreaking (according to Alter ) in terms of how we can read the Hebrew Bible. I’m gaining a lot of insight in the use of direct speech, the lack of scenic detail, and the patterns and repetitions in words and phrases.
However, the author also prefers to refer to the Old Testament as historicised fiction, and doesn’t hold to the belief that the Bible is divinely inspired. He places the books of the OT in a spectrum of narratives, each end representing disorder and design. He writes,
Somewhere toward the middle of this spectrum would be Genesis, where the sketchiness of the known historical materials allows considerable latitude for the elucidation of a divine plan… [In] the Book of Ruth, Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz are fictional inventions, probably based on no more than names, if that, preserved in national memory…. while the Book of Esther seems more a comic fantasy utilising pseudo-historical materials. (Chapter 2 Sacred History and the Beginnings of Prose Fiction)
I’ve seen Robert Alter quoted by Bible scholars quite often, which is why I’ve picked up his book to read. However, I wondered how others who have encountered this type of perspective have handled the denial of scripture being God-breathed, as I take this to be? Understanding the cleverly laid out narratives as exquisite examples of literature is genuinely fascinating, but knowing this was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit makes it mind-blowing. I feel like this sense of awe has been lost when removing the supernatural element.
Just wondering on people’s thoughts on this, and how you have read around this issue?