Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is Biblical Fiction Fact or Fancy? by Mesu Andrews

I've been thinking about genres lately. One genre that I really enjoy is Biblical fiction. But how can we, as writers, write fictional tales based on a factual -- and holy -- book? Today Mesu Andrews tackles the tough questions. ~ Angie

Biblical Fiction. The term itself seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? The Bible is truth! Not fiction. Every biblical fiction author I’ve met would whole-heartedly agree. We write about the absolute Truth of God’s Word, adding the context of culture, history, and supporting characters to create a story that will imprint the message of Scripture on readers’ hearts.

So how much biblical fact qualifies as biblical fiction, and how can we ensure fiction never overshadows biblical facts?

Our first step is to recognize the wide spectrum of storytelling style in this genre. In Jill Eileen Smith’s first series, Wives of King David, she wrote the familiar biblical stories of Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba in bold strokes of fabulous detail. These women’s lives were well-documented in Scripture, and Jill brought the setting and culture alive with her research.

On the other hand, Davis Bunn and Janette Oke wrote a series, Acts of Faith, in which most of the characters were fictional, but they placed them in the early days after Jesus’ resurrection. Using real biblical characters as minor players and scriptural events as secondary to the plot, these proven masters of the craft wrote a series of biblical fiction that tugged at New Testament lovers’ heartstrings.

Both strategies would be deemed biblical fiction. The reader must determine which style of storytelling he/she desires. Which leads us to the crux of the issue:

Why write biblical fiction when the stories are already written in the Bible?

The Bible is the most exciting Book ever written! Each story is full of emotion and tension. Each character experiences crisis at a gut-wrenching level and makes life-altering choices.
But 99% of us don’t feel that excitement when we read the Bible, do we?

Why? Because most of us don’t understand the context in which the words were written. 
We don’t know the author or the audience, the occasion of the writing, or the standing of nations at that time. We’re thinking of our grocery list, a soccer game, the lost car keys.

The real value of biblical fiction is to place readers in the setting of the characters. Smell their smells, taste their tastes, hear their sounds. When we realize biblical characters didn’t live in a bubble, but they were surrounded by real people like us, it helps us identify with them more readily and allows God’s Word to sink more deeply into our hearts. Bible characters were surrounded by hundreds of people not recorded in Scripture, lived hundreds of days not chronicled, and imagined a gazillion dreams never expressed. But that imagination has purpose.

Good biblical fiction should always rouse the reader's curiosity and drive them back to God's Word for answers. A novel is never a substitute for Scripture. It's a bridge to transport the reader into the cultural setting in order to learn from the stories in God’s Word. 

I believe all inspirational fiction differs from the general market because it seeks to do more than entertain. Christian fiction seeks to inspire. As a biblical fiction author, I hope to entertain, inspire, and educate. My husband uses this fabulous word with his classes, and I’m stealing the term. I hope biblical fiction provides…Edu-tainment!

What are your thoughts on biblical fiction? What elements make up good biblical fiction? What authors do you enjoy most?



Mesu Andrews is an author and speaker who has devoted herself to passionate study of Scripture. Harnessing her deep love for God’s Word, Andrews brings the biblical world alive for her audiences. Mesu and her husband, Roy, have two grown children and (Praise God!) a growing number of grandkids. They live in Washington, where Roy teaches at Multnomah University. They have a Rottweiler-pitbull named Bouzer who keeps Mesu company while she writes. She's published two books, Love Amid the Ashes and Love's Sacred Song. Two more are scheduled for release with Revell in March of 2013 and 2014. 

Love's Sacred Song was released March 1, 2012. For young King Solomon wisdom came as God’s gift, but sacred love was forged through passion’s fire.

Check out  the Love's Sacred Song book trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYCpTmNVCQo

Connect with Mesu on her website or Facebook.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Mesu, so glad to have you here on SW! Great post. I enjoyed Love's Sacred Song very much. Your comments about how biblical fiction brings the context alive really fits. Authors like you and Jill Eileen Smith (and others) have done the research that helps us see what we can't see in the biblical text. Thank you sharing what you've learned and helping readers learn something. Write on!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Annette is right, all that research that you've done makes the stories come alive and helps us have a better picture what could have happened. Plus, it carries us away to another time, another era and a safe place to escape, just like all good Christian fiction.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think that's why I fell in with my NIV Study Bible when I was a new believer. I read EVERY intro to the individual Bible books and each verse explanation to get the cultural context. I craved all those little details, and the Lord has just continued to stir that hunger. It's so fun to research!!! (I'm such a nerd) tee-hee!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the great post, Mesu! I love the term "edu-tainment."

    The first book I read (many years ago) in the biblical fiction genre was the story of Mary and Joseph. It opened my eyes to what their lives could really have been like and helped me see them as real people instead of just characters in the Christmas story. I think that's one of the great things biblical fiction does for the reader--it helps bring the Bible to life.

    Francine Rivers's "Mark of the Lion" series will always remain a favorite.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I LOVE "Mark of the Lion" series! I actually read that whole series OUT LOUD to my girls when they were in middle school one spring break as we traveled to Tennessee. They fell in love with her writing on that trip, too!

    ReplyDelete

We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!