The Logos Bible Software Free and almost free books of the month are three excellent books by Leland Ryken. Ryken was professor of English at Wheaton College written extensively on classic literature from a Christian perspective, including the The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing and the classic How to Read the Bible as Literature (Zondervan 1984). Ryken served as the “literary stylist” for the English Standard Version (Crossway 2001) and was edited IVP’s Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (1998).
Ryken’s How Bible Stories Work is one of six volumes originally published by weaver but are now part of the Lexham Press catalog. Each are relatively short books (125-135 pages) and well-designed for quick reading.
- The Subject of Every Story: The Embodiment of Universal Human Experience
- Setting in Bible Stories: Seeing the Particulars
- Characterization in Bible Stories (Part 1): How Writers Do It
- Characterization in Bible Stories (Part 2): What Readers Need to Do
- Plot Structure and Unity: The Beginning, Middle, and Ending of Each Story
- Plot Devices: How Storytellers Tell Their Story with Beauty and Skill
- Hero Stories: A Neglected but Fruitful Narrative Genre
- From Story to Meaning: How to Find Significance in a Narrative Text
Each chapter focuses on specific narratives and include an exercise (“learning by doing”). For example, in the chapter on Hero Stories, Ryken outlines the way hero stories usually work, then reads Daniel 6 as an example of a biblical hero story used to teach moral virtue. Then he suggests Esther as an example of hero story, prints a series of verses from the book and asks the reader to do the literary analysis for themselves. For some readers, describing Daniel 6 or the Book of Esther as “hero stories” sounds like they are “just stories” and not really “true stories.” Ryken acknowledges this objection in the preface to the series: “the literary approach to the Bible needs to be defended against legitimate fears by evangelical Christians, and through the years I have not scorned to clear the territory of misconceptions as part of my defense of a literary analysis of the Bible.” For Ryken, “a literary approach to the Bible is ready to grant value to the biblical authors’ skill with language and literary technique, seeing these as an added avenue to our enjoyment of the Bible.” But a literary approach to the Bible is not used in isolation, rather it is “takes its humble place alongside the two other main approaches—the theological and the historical.”
In Jesus the Hero: A Guided Literary Study of the Gospels ($1.99 for the month) Ryken first argues the Gospels are narratives and as such, the insights of literary studies are helpful in tracing the themes of the book. In Short Sentences Long Remembered: A Guided Study of Proverbs and Other Wisdom Literature ($2.99 for the month) Ryken examines a different genre of literature, that of proverbial wisdom. The book deals primarily with the Book of Proverbs and describes how short, proverbial sayings function in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, but also in Beatitudes and other contexts (James).
The bottom line is that you can add three excellent, academic books to your Logos Library for about $5. Any of these books are worth the investment at full price, so a big thanks to Lexham and Logos for making them available so inexpensively. As of today, the giveaway is not open, but the Free Books page indicates Logos will do their usual context to give away a 40 volume collection of books published by originally Weaver (which was purchased by Lexham, so maybe this giveaway will be updated soon?)
In case you have not seen the announcements, Logos released a major upgrade to their Bible Software. I did a “first look” review of Logos 8 here. There are plenty of new features to justify an upgrade and the software runs much more efficiently than the previous version. Everything seems to run faster than Logos 7 and the upgrade is well worth considering. As always, there are less expensive paths to upgrading and there are paths that will require you to mortgage your house.