The Tyrannical Nature of Biblical Narratives:

Eric Auerbach argues that the Bible has a literary quality that is significantly different than other types of ancient literature. As opposed to the oftentimes flat characters of ancient literature, Biblical characters are "fraught with background." There is a figural context to many of the characters seen in the Scriptures. This contributes to the fact that Scripture does not simply claim to portray reality, but rather to present the "only real world." Biblical narratives are not trying to help you understand your world, but are constructing for you an "alternate reality." The real world, the Bible claims, is the one that it alone presents. In the midst of a comparison between Homer's epics and Moses' Pentateuch, Auerbach notes,
The Bible's claim to truth is not only far more urgent than Homer's, it is tyrannical. It excludes all other claims. The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be a historically true reality. It insists that it is the only real world and it is destined for autocracy. All other scenes issues and ordinances have no right to appear independently of it. And it is promised that all of them, the history of mankind, will be given their due place within its frame, and will be subordinated to it. The scripture world stories do not court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us. They seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected, we are rebels. Eric Auerbach, Mimesis: The representation of reality in western literature, pp. 14-15.

In other words, the biblical narratives are there for a theological purpose. They claim to be authoritative, and Christians throughout the ages have joyfully devoted their lives to submitting to that authority. In the scriptures, there is a whole new level of reality that you can only know about or live in as you place yourself in the text of Scripture, and make its world, your world.
Eric Auerbach
March 9, 2007


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