The Bible and Western Literature and personal conversion


I saw this note by Maggie Dawn this morning about a class that attempts to introduce students of western lit. to the biblical themes that infuse so many of the texts:

“I’ve been in contact with various agencies over the last year or so on the issue of the relationship between the Bible and various streams of Western culture. I have an abiding interest in how the Bible – its compilation and translation, and how it has been understood and nuanced at different stages in history – completely affects Western culture. The Bible is often neglected by people who think it’s only relevant to religious people, but without knowing something about the main themes and stories of the Bible, you’ll have a limited understanding of English literature (and art, music, law, and language).”

Read the full article here.

I love this idea. I love it mostly because it was just this sort of questioning on my own part that led me to read the Bible when I was in 10th grade. I didn’t read the Bible because of religious interest. I read it because I was plowing my way through Dante and I recognized that there was an awful lot of biblical references that I couldn’t follow.

I picked up my 2nd Grade Sunday School attendance reward RSV Bible and I started to read. That simple act changed everything in my life and is still changing things today. I was in 10th grade, on the school bus coming home for the day when I read the words in Exodus about how God led the people of Israel as a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. For some reason that I still don’t understand those words hit me. And right then I decided that I needed to choose whether or not I was going to take God seriously. (It wasn’t till a few months later that I realized it was even more important that I do the same for Jesus.) I got off that bus that day as an intentional Christian.

And all that happened because I was reading the classics of literature that year and decided to follow the path to which they pointed.

Maybe if they’re lucky, some of the students who decide to take the class Maggie references above will too.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Matt Marino says

    That is a great story, Nicholas. I will resist the urge to ask if you were riding the “shortbus. It is strange/funny/amazing what God uses to get our attention. I had a similar experience when I picked up a bible because I was bored while ditching high school.

  2. Funny, I had something like the opposite reaction when I read the Bible cover to cover a few years ago. I spotted many familiar signs of whole-cloth storytelling, plastic memory, and possible ‘spin,’ both in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament. The experience solidified my lack of confidence in the historical underpinnings of Nicene Christianity.

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