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The Bible and Poetry

The Bible and Poetry

by Michael Edwards, translated from the French by Stephen E. Lewis

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The Bible is full of poems. In the Old Testament, there are the Psalms and the Song of Songs, the great exhortations and lamentations of the Prophets, and passages of poetry woven in throughout. In the New Testament, Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven with poetic epithets such as “a treasure hid in a field,” calling the Son of God “the true vine,” “the light of the world,” “the good shepherd,” and “the way, the truth, and the life.” The Gospels reverberate with allusions to the poetry of the Old Testament; the last book of all is Revelation, a visionary poem. The Bible, in other words, asks to be read poetically from start to end, and yet readers have rarely considered what that might mean, much less heeded that call.

In The Bible and Poetry, the poet and scholar Michael Edwards reshapes our understanding of the Bible and religious belief, arguing that poetry is not an ornamental or accidental feature but is central to both. He speaks personally of his early, unanticipated, transformative encounters with scripture. He offers close, insightful, and resonant readings of biblical passages. Poetry, as he sees it, is the vital and necessary medium of the Creator’s word, and the truth of the Bible is not a question of precepts and propositions but of a direct experience of its poetry, its power.

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681376370
Pages: 176
Publication Date:


Edwards’s book is nothing if not a passionate taking-of-sides, and all the better for it. The side he takes is ultimately the side of a faith that demands not obedience to human pressure – fundamentalist or ecclesiastical – but the imaginative delivery of the reader’s or hearer’s self to the new world of the Scriptural text, terrifyingly alien and also a place to find yourself at home as never before, with every corner of your humanity recognised and transfigured.
—Rowan Williams, Daily Telegraph

While there is much prose in the Bible, and people come to belief in many different ways, none the less, Edwards’s study, delivered with considerable passion, constitutes a profound challenge to the way in which theologians interpret the Bible.
—Anthony Phillips, Church Times

The conviction that drives this quite personal and quite passionate book . . . is that the Bible must be received as it presents itself—as a text thrumming through and through with the vibrations of poetry, which alone has the power to signal the invisible that secretly sustains the world.
—Anne-Marie Pelletier, Études

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