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Indian Poetics (Kāvya Śāstra) and Narratology Towards the Appreciation of Biblical Narrative


G. Ayyaneth

Though the biblical and the Indian literary traditions had independent origin and growth in terms of spatial and cultural milieux, there are literary landscapes of confluence where the literary fabrics of their collective wisdom are interwoven. Both narrative traditions have rich oral and folk prehistoric traditions in their records and this attribute provides a substratum where their narrative patterns and paradigms can find a common ground. A Hebraic reading of the Bible does not exhaust the meaning of the biblical texts; on the other hand, an Indian reading of the Bible could bring more flesh and blood to the living text. Ancient Indian Kāvya Śāstra (Poetics) and its modern rendering narratology being multifarious and mutually integrative will be able to supply a variety of poetical tools and devices with which the great and vast miscellany of biblical narrative can be approached and appreciated. Indian religious tradition is more narrative/story rather than doctrinal or dogmatic. This demands an Indian reading of the Bible endowed with a narratological and synchronic approach to disentangle the biblical narrative from the burden of dogmas and doctrines and to re-launch its primordial narrative/story culture. The application of the canons of Indian Kāvya Śāstra with its narratological elucidations to the biblical narrative has categorically proved that it can open up a new horizon to an Indian reading of the Bible. Various such narrative approaches, heuristic devices and models thus evolved have been applied to selected narratives in the Davidic Episode of the Books of Samuel.

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Introduction to Part Two


In the Books of Samuel, like any other book of the Bible, different sources are merged to form a story, narrating the origin and development of kingship in Israel. In this story, David is the protagonist and the pivotal character. The first book of Samuel can be seen as the prologue to the Davidic Episode and the second one as the climax of the Davidic monarchy, which goes through a decline towards its end. Samuel, to whom the books are ascribed, acts as the kingmaker and king-breaker of Yahweh.

Historical criticism has given much thought to the sources that were incorporated in the final form of the text, the traditional settings of individual sources, and the ways and means the editors used to combine sources in the process, etc. It has meticulously brought out the nuances in the series of appendices to the main plot of the Davidic Episode. The differences in style and ideological options from that of the main narrative made the historical critics come to the conclusion that the books of Samuel are a collection of loosely fabricated disparate sources.

Thanks to a new rection in biblical scholarship by various narratological approaches in the last two decades or so, the narrative dynamics of the Samuel books have been given more focus. The so-called compositional discrepancies which the historical critical methods consider as interpolation of and superfluous interference in the mainstream narrative are no more seen as such, but as...

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