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Eli Gutierrez Christian Scriptures 1

02/25/2019 – Alter outlines Dr. Lai Ling Ngan

Chapter 3 – Biblical Type-Scenes and the Uses of Convention

I- The importance of convention in reading the biblical narrative.
a. Some conventions are no longer available.
i. Analogy from western movies.
b. Same story told various times in different characters and/or situations.
i. Duplication of one source, distortion of transmission, or purposeful use of
literary convention.
II- The presence of type-scenes in the biblical narrative.
a. Fixed constellation of predetermined motifs in biblical narrative.
b. Literary convention vs the Gattum of form criticism.
III- Betrothal as a type-scene in literary convention.
a. The fixed order of particular situations and motifs.
b. Artful application of the schema of convention with imaginative purposes.
c. The example of Genesis 24: connection with the rest of the story.
d. The example of Genesis 29: consistent characterization of the protagonists.
e. Type-scene as flexible instrument for characterization and foreshadowing.
f. The example of Ruth: artful modified literary convention.
g. Theological meaning: further working-out of the original covenant.
h. The example of Saul’s story: motif aborted to foreshadow future failure.
i. The absence of betrothal convention in David and Samson’s stories.
IV- Conclusions on the use of convention and type-scenes in the process of literary
creation in biblical narrative.
a. Tension in the necessity to communicate a message to the audience:
i. The use of established forms in order to communicate.
ii. No automatic repetition in order to convey a message.
b. Literary convention as the best explanation for repeated motifs.
c. A call to appreciate the sophisticated artistry of biblical narrative, to grasp what
the narrator intended to say.

I really enjoyed the reading of this chapter. At the end of the chapter, I had this sense that I
wanted to keep reading how Alter would deal with other literary conventions found in the
biblical narrative. On the one hand, seeing the biblical stories as an artful and purposeful work
help to understand better what the author was intending to say. It is easier for me now to see how
the protagonists of the story are characterized and in doing so we find treasurable lessons. On the
other hand, I am a little bit confused about how is the best way to read the Bible. When I read
about biblical criticism such as form and source criticism, the Bible seemed as a composite
document and the best way to read was to find the different parts that formed it in order to look
at the different sources and traditions. But when I read Alter’s literary approach it seems almost
unhelpful to see the Bible as a composite document and there is no need to break it into different
sources or traditions. Is there any way to hold both approaches and gain a better understanding of
the Bible? I wish I could have a clearer response.
Eli Gutierrez Christian Scriptures 1
02/25/2019 – Alter outlines Dr. Lai Ling Ngan
Furthermore, I am still dealing with the question of divine inspiration. If the Bible is the
artful result of the narrators’ imagination then in what sense can we call it the inspired word of
God. In other words, what is the role of God and the Holy Spirit in the process of literary
creation? Of course, I want to regard the Bible as my authority of faith and practice, as a literary
work in which God revealed himself in a unique way. However, I do not know if I could answer
with clarity in what sense the Bible is unique and different from any other literary work. I believe
that the particularity of the Bible is in the kind of message that it conveys. The message of a
people that trusted in God and that shaped their identity upon who God is and what he has done.
Unlike other people, the Israelites view the origins of their identity as a people not in great
heroes and their big feats, but in God’s character, power, and mercy.
Eli Gutierrez Christian Scriptures 1
02/25/2019 – Alter outlines Dr. Lai Ling Ngan

Chapter 4 – Between Narration and Dialogue

I- Introduction. Narrative and dialogue in Bible events.
II- The primacy of dialogue in biblical events.
a. 1 Samuel 21: direct speech is the chief instrument.
b. 1 Samuel 24:5-6: avoidance of indirect speech.
c. 1 Samuel 27:1: thought as actual speech, “quoted monologue”.
d. Bible narrators ponder connections between words and feelings/intentions.
e. The bias of stylization: narration through dialogue.
i. In the biblical world words underlie reality.
ii. Visual elements are sparsely represented.
iii. What is significant about a character is manifested in speech.
iv. Dialogue reveals individual character.
v. Technique of contrastive dialogues.
f. Conclusion: rendering of narrative events as dialogue.
III- The use of narration in biblical events.
a. Narration as element of the historicized fiction.
b. Narration woven through and around dialogue.
i. The narrator summarizing.
ii. Expository information: conveying of actions to unfold plot.
iii. Communication of data regarding the plot.
iv. Dialogue-bond: confirming or focusing on narration events.
v. Examples.
c. Various modes of narrative presentation in 1 Samuel 1.
IV- Conclusions.
a. Rendering of a narrative event in the Bible is the writer’s desire to give to each
fictional situation, with minimal authorial intrusion, a thematic direction and
moral depth.
b. Narrative impassivity points to the overarching dominion of God.

This chapter focuses on the narration of events in the Bible. I really have not noticed before the
fact that the narration of events in the Bible is done primarily in dialogue, and I find it very
interesting. That means that the narration is not an accurate account of things just as they actually
happened but the artful and purposeful creation of conscient, imaginative, and creative writer.
However, that does not mean that the events are not based on an actual historical occurrence. It
only means that the story that we have has been embellished, the wording and the final narration
is a literary product. For me, that is something huge. That means that God speaks through the
creativity of the biblical writers. The biblical documents are not the word of God dictated but the
product of God's inspiration through the artistic work of the writers. Also, reading the biblical
stories as literary products resulting from an artistic process opens my eyes to a whole new
perspective that allows me to find insightful lessons that I could not see otherwise. Alter’s view
of the Bible requires a close reading to the details of a narration. I really love the way in which
Eli Gutierrez Christian Scriptures 1
02/25/2019 – Alter outlines Dr. Lai Ling Ngan
he explains how all the details of each story are interwoven and serve to specific purposes.
Sometimes I wonder if that is not only speculation but most of the times he is very convincing.
That challenges me to prepare myself for a life-long endeavor of reading the Bible closely and
faithfully. Above all, may the Spirit of God lead me to read it always according to his will.

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