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On Bible antiheroes

Summary

Iain Provan says the ordinary people of the Old Testament are unique in the ancient world.

Summary

Iain Provan says the ordinary people of the Old Testament are unique in the ancient world.

Transcript

I think biblical narrative is notably antiheroic. In the ancient world, the fundamental genres were myth and so on. And of course if the kings and the warriors are also godlike, then what you get is the kind of myths you later get in Greece, where it’s all about Achilles and all of those guys. And it’s about glory and honour and that kind of warrior ideal. 

The biblical story is unique in the ancient world because it’s fundamentally a story about ordinary people, and it’s told within normal frames of time and history and so on. And we recognise these characters as being exactly like us. And so this is a story told from the bottom up, it’s not a story told from the top down. So think of King David, one of the great heroes – the promise that God makes to David, entirely crucial to the whole story – and yet the story does not shrink from telling you that David had a very dark side, and that his behaviour caused enormous pain and difficulty and suffering, not least to his own family.