The Bible and Literature


This unit will develop skills in the theological and ethical analysis of contemporary culture, mission and preaching. The unit focuses on building a theological, historical and literary-critical account of the Bible as it has shaped the ‘great tradition’ of western literature and language, especially in English. It will assist students in thinking theologically about culture and in applying what they have learnt in pastoral and missional situations. We will examine how biblical themes have been treated; but also study a number of great authors.

The purpose of this unit is to make the student aware of the significance of the contribution of the Bible – in an ongoing way – to the practice of writing works of literature in Western culture.


At the end of the unit, students should be able to:

  • have a grasp of the impact of the Bible on the Western literary tradition
  • analyse literary and cultural artefacts from a Christian theological and biblical point of view

thoughtfully critique the challenges to the Biblical worldview that have arisen in the literature


  1. The Great Code? The Bible in and as Literature

  2. ‘Simply’ Reading: Translating the Bible into English, with special reference to the Geneva Bible (1560)

  3. The Creation (Genesis 1-2): Jasper and Prickett, pp. 65-79

  4.  Sin and Fall: John Milton and William Blake

  5. Jesus of Nazareth in literature and film

  6. Literary readings of John’s Gospel

  7. Hell from Dante to Graeme Greene

  8. Uses of Allegory: Piers Plowman, Pilgrim’s Progress, The Chronicles of Narnia

  9. Hamlet – Shakespeare’s Protestant Prince

  10. The Sermon as literary genre

  11. Is there a Protestant Poetics? Sir Philip Sidney, John Donne, George Herbert

  12. T.S. Eliot, Martyrdom and Murder in the Cathedral

  13. Election and The American tradition: John Updike and Marilynne Robinson

  14. Les Murray, Tim Winton and the Australian soul


1. 3000 word essay on a topic proposed by the student in consultation with the lecturer. (Externally marked)     (60%)

This essay can be either

a critical analysis of an author or a single substantial work from the Western literary canon (broadly defined in consultation with the lecturers) from a biblical and/or theological perspective, OR
the tracing and analysis of a biblical theme in literary works, comparing and contrasting different treatments.

2. A 800-1000 word book review intended for a mainstream secular readership of Tim Winton's Eyrie


The goal of this assessment is to develop skills in using literary works for making evangelistic and apologetic connections. The piece should be brief and to the point.

3. A 1500 word literary analysis of a passage or book of scripture, identifying and describing how it works as a piece of literature.

The goal of this assessment is to develop skills in reading the Bible in a way which appreciates its literary features.



Frye, Northrop  The Great Code: The Bible and Literature New York: Harvest, 1982

Josopivici, Gabriel, The Book of God, New Haven: Yale, 1990

Jasper, D. & Prickett, S. (eds.) The Bible and Literature: A Reader Oxford: Blackwell, 1999, pp. 65-79

The Gospel of John Authorised Version, 1611

Milton, John From ‘Paradise Lost’, Books I – II

Blake, William ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell'

Dante Alighieri Selections from The Divine Comedy: Inferno London: Penguin, 2002

Greene, Graham Brighton Rock London: Penguin, 1991

Bunyan, John Pilgrim’s Progress London: Penguin, 2008

Lewis, C.S. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, London: Puffin, 1966

Shakespeare, William Hamlet, Sydney, Sydney Univ. Press, 1984

Sidney, Philip A Defence of Poetry Oxford, OUP, 1991

Robinson, Marilynne Gilead, Picador, 2004

Updike, John Roger’s Version, Ballantine Books, 1996