People of the Book: Christian Identity and Literary Culture

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By what means can the original scriptural purpose of Word and Book be more accurately reflected in contemporary analysis? How might that purpose better inform discussion on all sides concerning the central place of the Book in Christian identity and literary culture? Perhaps, Jeffrey suggests, by recognizing that for Christian "people of the Book," at least, the proper function of the text, like the function of words themselves, is to be instrumental to human redemption, the redemption not only of personal ...
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Overview

By what means can the original scriptural purpose of Word and Book be more accurately reflected in contemporary analysis? How might that purpose better inform discussion on all sides concerning the central place of the Book in Christian identity and literary culture? Perhaps, Jeffrey suggests, by recognizing that for Christian "people of the Book," at least, the proper function of the text, like the function of words themselves, is to be instrumental to human redemption, the redemption not only of personal meaning but of community meaning and, finally, of that communion with the Author that begins when the Word is taken to heart, ingested, incorporated, and made flesh in the actions of everyday life.
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Editorial Reviews

Calvin Theological Journal
Jeffrey's book is without question a valuable contribution to hermeneutics, intellectual history, and literary theory. Its interdisciplinary outlook is combined with careful scholarship.... An outstanding work.
Choice
"In an impressive attempt to answer literary critics who mistrust the "logocentrism" of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, Jeffrey singles out Harold Bloom's Deconstruction and Criticism and Susan Handelman's explanation of Derrida in Slayers of Moses as typical of the criticism he opposes.... [Jeffrey] contends that in the development of Western literature since ancient times, the word itself was not so important; rather, it mattered because it led inevitably beyond itself to God, and to the expectation that the author would speak ethically to the human condition. Therefore, concentrating on the word rather than on that to which it referred was always a form of idealism, even idolatry, that the Christian tradition never countenanced. Jeffrey offers a fascinating survey of this tradition, from the biblical writers to recent American fiction and poetry, persuasively tying together this disparate material while showing the price such critical theories as deconstruction have paid for abandoning the text, and with it the word. One need not have any personal Christian belief to learn a great deal from Jeffrey's arguments. His evident faith position leaves him with little patience for the American Puritan influence and its recent political manifestations. A number of illustrations, thorough notes, and two indexes enhance the usefulness of this book."
Church History
"Erudite and pleasantly instructive.... There is much that is engaging and illuminating in this book, and its display of Christian history as the cultural history of reading is edifying."
First Things
Jeffrey has written a fascinating and provocative book, one that deserves wide reading not only among Christians but also among those literary scholars and cultural historians for whom the power of the Bible is an unfortunate historical accident they would prefer to neglect or forget.
Grant Wacker
David Lyle Jeffrey writes with clarity and power, and his erudition is simply awesome. His text moves deftly from Augustine to Goethe to Flannery O'Connor to Harold Bloom. Jeffrey seems to have read everything ever written about the role of the Bible in the formation of Western culture. Fortunately for us, he wears his learning lightly, as truly first-rate scholars always do. Jeffrey himself surely ranks as one of the premier Christian thinkers of the late twentieth century.
Publishers Weekly
An elegant literary critical study in the tradition of Matthew Arnold, Geoffrey Hartman and Wayne Booth. It will be instrumental in recovering for humanistic literary studies the deep significance of reading literature from a religious perspective.
Studies in Religion
An important contribution to the study of Christian poetics.
Theological Studies
A convincing, deeply and widely informed reading of almost 2000 years of a book-oriented culture.
Theology
People of the Book is something of a tour de force, not only in terms of the extraordinary range of illustrations from literature and art, all of them sensitively introduced and discussed, but also in the way the whole work is held together by the relentless working out of a single argument. Not all will necessarily agree with the argument in all its aspects, but such a masterly array of fascinating evidence, marshalled here for the first time in this readable form, will in itself ensure that literary theorists as well as theologians and students of the history of biblical interpretation, will read and enjoy it for many years to come.
Touchstone
Jeffrey has written a fine volume attempting to restore an understanding of Western literary culture as having the Bible as its deepest source. In the process he offers a trenchant challenge to the moral and spiritual shortcomings of much in contemporary literary theory. Jeffrey's erudition is vast, and he takes the reader deftly from early biblical commentary to Augustine, to Flannery O'Connor and Harold Bloom with a rich clarity and vigor. A view of literature that, while embedded in tradition, is also patiently relevant to modern literary theory and practice.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802838179
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 4/1/1996
  • Series: Studies in a Christian World View
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
1 Logocentrism and Scriptural Tradition 1
2 Scripture upon Scripture 19
3 Secular Scripture: The "Beautiful Captive" 71
4 Evangelization and Literacy 97
5 The Book Without and the Book Within 139
6 Authorial Intent and the Willful Reader 167
7 Symbolism of the Reader 209
8 Authentic Narrative 265
9 The Bible and the American Myth 317
10 Theory and the Broken-Hearted Reader 353
Epilogue 375
Index of Names and Subjects 383
Index of Scripture References 393
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