THE MEANING OF NARRATIVE
Well over one-third of the whole Bible is narrative. Narrative in its broadest sense is an account of specific space-time events and participants whose stories are recorded with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Unlike prose, where things are stated directly, narrative presents thing indirectly. Its style derives from the writer’s selection, arrangement, and rhetorical devices. The last includes pivotal statements taken from the mouth’s of the narrative’s key figures, thereby allowing the author to make the points that reveal the focus and purpose for telling the story. Readers and interpreters of stories sometimes become so involved in the characters and the plot of the narrative that they forget to consider what the message from God to the contemporary church is. More frequently, however, we find the opposite problem where readers project some moral or spiritual truth over a biblical character or even, paying more attention to the moral lesson than to the actual story itself. Interpreting in a moralistic, exemplary fashion for every narrative passage is that it destroys the unity of the message of the Bible. Rather than considering the whole event, character, and episode for what it contributes to the context in which it is set, a subjective process of analogy takes over, along with an individualistic isolation of selected details that happen to fit the fancy of the interpreter’s purposes. The only cure for such abuses is to come to terms with how these narratives are actually being presented and used by the writers of Scripture. Hans Frei argued that Christians must stop short of making any claims about the truthfulness of the stories narrated in The Bible; it was enough to say that these narratives were meaningful. His position was also that “realistic narrative” is not tied to a discussion of either the author’s or even the reader’s intentions.