The Bible is the most familiar text of Western culture, and the most ancient. The Bible constitutes the largest element of our collective inheritance—the vast web of meanings and metaphors in which we envision ourselves, our lives, and our culture. But is a purely literary study of the Bible possible? Ruth apRoberts argues that the answer is a decided yes in The Biblical Web. These lively and varied essays suggest that, even aside from its religious significance, the Bible has had a profound literary impact on Western culture.
The author employs literary-critical methods to examine language, metaphor, translations, and levels of literary interpretation in the Bible. These methods allow us to see the language of the Bible as the prologue to religious interpretations. The essays cover a wide array of topics in Biblical study but are united in their focus on the particular distinction and power of the English translation and its resonances in Western literature.
Topics such as the translation of Hebrew poetry gain immeasurably by apRoberts's new and important insights. She investigates the historical content of the best-known anthology of biblical quotations, the often-sung but rarely analyzed text of Handel's Messiah. The essay on the Book of Job as a Gödelian paradigm presents an original reading of that inexhaustible text, and another essay provides a study of England's great Bible critic, Robert Lowth. The final essay traces some little-known aspects and echoes of the Bible in English, from Matthew Arnold's edition of Isaiah to the poetry of A. E. Housman and G. M. Hopkins.
The Biblical Web presents the Bible not as religious doctrine but as a text that is wonderfully varied, inconsistent, and frequently distinguished by great literary art. The Bible, she reminds us, is amassed out of translations, and translations and modifications of translations; it is a text that has metamorphosed countless times, and yet endures as a basis of western culture.