As we continue to look at Leland Ryken’s recent publication A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we are considering the content of chapter 4, in which Ryken treats the greatest classic of literature, the Bible.
Previously, we looked at what this means in general (that the Bible is a literary classic). Then we considered some objections that can be raised when viewing the Bible this way. For the third and final time we consider some of the literary traits of the Bible, which are what Ryken discusses in the next section.
This is how he describes the third trait of the Bible as classic literature:
In addition to taking human experience as its subject matter and packaging it in familiar literary genres [the first two literary traits of the Bible], the Bible is literary in its style. Regardless of its specific genre, a literary text displays special resources of language that set it apart from ordinary expository writing. Literary writing flaunts its figures of speech, its rhetorical patterning (with techniques such as repetition and contrast), and its stylistic flair. Literary authors are wordsmiths, and their writing has an aphoristic sparkle that makes it striking and unforgettable. The Bible is the most aphoristic book that we know, and it naturally rises to the level of literary discourse as a result.
And then Ryken concludes this section with this comment and fine quote:
More could be said about the literary nature of the Bible, but all that is required here is to establish the place of the Bible in the category that this book covers, namely literary classics. A good summary statement comes from C.S. Lewis: ‘There is a… sense in which the Bible, since it is after all literature, cannot properly be read except as literature; and the different parts of its as the different sorts of literature they are’ (Reflections on the Psalms), [pp.39-40].