Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 1998
  • Online publication date: May 2006

11 - The Bible in literature and art

from Part 1 - Lines of approach


Any discussion of the Bible in relation to the arts carries its own not-so-hidden agenda. As the extensive range of biblical stories in Islamic painting reminds us, not all biblical art is Christian, or even Judaeo-Christian. Just as it is impossible to speak of the Bible as a 'neutral' piece of writing free from a particular hermeneutic context, so it is impossible even to begin to speak of its artistic interpretations without realizing that these have always constituted a two-way exchange. What may look at first sight like the Bible casting a wide cultural penumbra was, in fact, a dynamic interpretative relationship through which the perception of the text was itself transformed. If the Bible helped to create a particular aesthetic, what was understood by the Bible was, equally, a creation of that aesthetic - indeed, it is my thesis here that biblical interpretation has historically followed, rather than created, aesthetic interpretation.