Academic Resources on Biblical Narratives

Bible Scrolls

This page is continually undergoing construction as new resources are added.

There are wonderful academic resources on the subject of biblical narratives that would enrich anyone who wants to delve into the biblical stories on a deeper level.  The term “narrative” is being used broadly across a number of academic fields and carries a wide array of meaning, even within individual fields of scholarship (including theology and biblical exegesis.)  I am operating from an emphatically evangelical Christian perspective that assumes the inerrancy of Scripture and honors the basic theological positions that were defended in the Protestant Reformation.  The articles and books recommended here share those commitments. [This page is still under construction with the hope of eventually providing a useful annotated bibliography.  Please forgive the mess in the meantime!]

Articles on biblical narratives:

Ryken, L. (Jan.-March 1990). The Bible as literature Part 1: Words of delight. Bibliotheca Sacra, pp. 3-15.

Ryken, L. (April-June 1990). The Bible as literature Part 2:”And it came to pass”: The Bible as God’s Storybook. Bibliotheca Sacra, pp. 131-142.

  • This is an excellent, highly accessible overview of what it means to understand Scripture as narrative.  Ryken has been a foremost scholar on the subject for decades (coming out of Wheaton) and writes with clarity and depth.

Ryken, L. (July-Sept. 1990). The Bible as literature Part 3:Words of delight. Bibliotheca Sacra, pp. 259-269.

Ryken, L. (Oct.- Dec. 1990). The Bible as literature Part 4:Words of delight. Bibliotheca Sacra, pp. 387-398.

Christian books addressing biblical narratives:

Sternberg, Mier  The Poetics of Biblical Narrative

  • This is the best academic, evangelical treatment of the biblical narratives I have come across personally, and Sternberg is highly regarded by his peers in scholarship.  His writing is very dense, but wow, the riches are well worth it. His concepts on how divine inspiration operated with the authors of the text to depict God’s discipleship of the biblical characters as well as the readers of the text across time is amazing.  Sternberg’s explanations of how the literary conventions work to provoke discipleship in the reader is pretty amazing as well.

Osborne, Grant  The Hermeneutical Spiral

  • This is another dense book that is well worth the work. Osborne is one of the most respected scholars on hermeneutics (the fancy term for interpreting meaning of the Bible).  He addresses every genre of Scripture, deals with the many different scholarly positions and draws intelligent, clear conclusions, and answers a lot of questions about how to read and teach the Word

Vanhoozer, Kevin The Drama of Doctrine and Is There Meaning in this Text? 

  • The Drama of Doctrine is one of the most enjoyable, informative, and transforming books I have ever read apart from Scripture.  Kevin Vanhoozer presents a new way of approaching Scripture as a drama wherein we read the grand story of Scripture and enact it’s meaning in our own lives as a Church.  I argue the entire time I read it that “drama” should be changed to “narrative,” but Dr. Vanhoozer so brilliantly articulates the most beautiful things about faith, Christ, and the Word that this mattered little in the end.  Pages 49-52 are marked in my 2005 edition as the most beautiful description I’ve heard of the sweeping story of Scripture.  Fair warning, however.  Vanhoozer engages the issues of theological interpretation of Scripture and it’s application across the academic disciplines, so be ready to put your learning cap on with this one.

Wright, N.T.  The New Testament and the People of God

Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

Ryken, Leland The Literature of the Bible

Edwards, Kent Effective First-Person Biblical Preaching

Evangelical texts on Bible exegesis and biblical theology:

Vanhoozer, Kevin (Ed.) Theological Interpretation of the New Testament and Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament

Pennington, Jonathon  Reading the Gospels Wisely

Strauss, Mark  How to Read the Bible in Changing Times

 Bible Commentaries used for writing His Glory in Our Story:

Morris, Leon The Gospel According to Matthew

Secular books on narrative:

Ricoeur, Paul Time and Narrative (Vol. 1-3), Hermeneutics, and Figuring the Sacred

  • Paul Ricoeur was an influential French philosopher of the last century.  He was also a Christian.  He offered valuable contributions to understanding the meaning of texts and the process of interpretation itself in an intellectual climate where those issues were (and are) all the rage…complete with all of the confusions and distortions that come with the fads of intellectualism.  Ricoeur’s robust and well formed arguments asserted that there is legitimate meaning in the text itself according to the intent of the author.  (This as opposed to postmodernists such as Derrida who say we can’t truly know anything but our own interpretation, so seeking author’s intent is irrelevant because it is unknowable.  One doesn’t have to think very hard about how this deconstructs all of human connection and communication…including our reading of the Word.  Common sense and logic refute Derrida pretty quickly…if we can’t know what others mean, then how do we know what Derrida means?)  Ricoeur offered scholarly insights, explaining how the author writes from their own cultural context and expresses meaning which is taken up by their audience and reinterpreted to their specific situation.  This provokes changes in the reader’s perspectives on the world and potentially their behavior, which they then bring to bear on their world.  In this way, texts (and here Ricoeur was specifically addressing narratives) have power to transform culture.   (See Time and Narrative Vol. 1).   Ricoeur is brilliant but very challenging to understand because of how he constructs his arguments and leaves off points.  A helpful companion book to read alongside him is William C. Dowling’s Ricoeur On Time and Narrative (2011).

Dowling, William Ricoeur on Time and Narrative  Dowling helps explain Ricoeur’s thought, which is notoriously challenging to follow.

Auerbach  Mimesis

Alter, Robert The Art of Biblical Narratives.  Alter was one of the great secular literary scholars who broke the mold for how Old Testament narratives were approached in the last century.  As source critics and language scholars tore apart the biblical story according to the parochial limitations of western scholarship, treating it as a piecemeal, poorly written document, Alter demonstrated that however the authors might have been taking from a number of sources to construct the stories they portrayed, they did it with the highest levels of poetic skill.  They conveyed images and archetypes that rightfully dominated human thought for many millennia because of their resonance and rich meaning.

Frye, Northrop


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