All? Yes, even non-Christian writers of speculative fiction should read the Bible. Here are five very good reasons:
1. Reading the Bible improves your vocabulary.
This is particularly true if you read the King James Version. You may not understand it at first, but that’s okay. Once you get a sense of the language, it begins to roll like poetry.
With your new superior vocabulary, you will avoid allowing your fantasy queen to speak the mongrel dialect of today’s average Western youth: “Okay, guys, let’s go kick the enemy’s rear!”
Instead, you will opt for something more King James-ish: “Rise, my people, and let us smite our enemies into the dust!”
2. The Bible exposes you to ancient thought patterns.
Most modern writers have “culture-block.” The independent, democratic, atheistic spirit of the modern day represents a tiny fraction of the world’s historical viewpoints. In contrast, ancient cultures often had a strong sense of family, powerful authority patterns (such as monarchies), and deep religious roots.
Warning: If you believe yourself to be educated on ancient culture because you’ve read Beowulf and the Odyssey, but you haven’t read the Bible, you are like a tourist who believes that you understand Hawaii because you’ve visited the tourist hotspots.
Get out of your own culture and time, and open a whole history of possibilities!
3. Reading the Bible exposes you to story patterns.
Even if you aren’t a Christian, you’re probably familiar with David and Goliath, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Noah and the Flood, and, of course, Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
Even if you don’t believe they are true records, those stories have stuck with you. Why? Because the patterns are extremely effective, so effective that stories for centuries have molded themselves after the same patterns.
Who doesn’t love a good tale of a youth overcoming a giant? Or a man surviving a den of lions? If you’re serious about story writing, then study these patterns and see why those stories work so well.
4. The majority of classic authors were familiar with the Bible.
I challenge you to read Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Paradise Lost, Shakespeare, or just about any other classical work and notfind a Biblical allusion in it somewhere. Whatever their personal worldviews, the majority of famous authors were steeped in Biblical knowledge. For example, the readers of Melville’s day instantly understood what sort of man Ishmael (from Moby Dick) was supposed to be, simply because they were familiar with the Biblical character of Ishmael.
Modern readers have no such reference, and therefore are ignorant of the vast richness of meaning intended by these authors. How can one be a great writer without first understanding the great writers of the past?
5. The Bible is a treasure trove of ideas for the speculative fiction genre.
What would Indiana Jones be without the Ark of the Covenant? The Bible includes warnings against opening the ark, and tells tales of the curses that fell upon those who treated it lightly. The adventures of Indiana Jones borrowed these ideas and loosely reinterpreted them into the now-familiar supernatural thriller.
Consider the Valley of Bones (Ezekiel 37), the Ten Plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-13), the battle of angels against demons (Daniel 10)! Think of all the marvelous ideas a writer might miss without the wealth of histories recorded in the Bible!
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I write YA/adult fantasy & sci-fi that explores fantastic new worlds, with stories that burn through the darkest realities with hope and redemption.
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