Book Chapter

Modern Literature



Hass A (2015) Modern Literature. In: Beal T (ed.) The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and the Arts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

First paragraph: All modern forms of Western art have been immeasurably influenced by the Bible—this we can take as a given, even if we include contemporary forms such as video and other recent technological media. But literature, one of the oldest artistic forms, holds a special place. This is because the Bible is itself  literature. And this in two senses: the texts of the biblical canon, however construed, are obviously literary in their form; but those very texts are also “literature” in the sense of a genus of art. And herein lies one of the great and ongoing controversies accompanying any discussion of a sacred text and literature: At what point does the art stop and the sacred take over? Or, if we should not speak of art and the sacred as mutually exclusive, how should we understand the relationship between the sacred canon, with its divine seal, and subsequent creative works of writing that draw, directly or indirectly, their influence or their material from it? The art form we call “literature” poses these questions in a most amplified manner. For literature shares, formally and constitutively, the very essence of the sacred text. “The Bible is literature” is therefore a proposition theologically fraught.

Bible; Literature; Modernity

Publication date31/12/2015
Publication date online31/12/2016
PublisherOxford University Press
Publisher URL…7L22y&result=110
Place of publicationOxford

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Dr Andrew Hass

Dr Andrew Hass

Reader, Religion