Some Friends and I were out for a Girls Mom’s afternoon recently, when the topic of Biblical Fiction came up. Now if you know me at all, you know I read a lot. My favorite categories are historical and Biblical fiction. I was surprised by how many of my friends were afraid, or at least nervous, about reading Biblical Fiction. I certainly understood their reasons, primarily, not wanting to get the Truth and a fictional account confused and mixed up in their minds. Combine that with the uncertainty of denominational assumptions and other issues, this can be dangerous, if you’re not well grounded in the Truth.
Benefits of Biblical Fiction
When Biblical Fiction is done really well, you can immerse yourself in the culture and customs and see what Life was like, which helps put some of the pieces of the puzzle together. When the author takes the time to do the research well, they can shed some light on different laws and situations, that may or may not make sense to us. Our frame of reference is so different, that often we make more (or less) of stuff we encounter in the Scriptures, based on our own national culture and denominational environments. Yes, there will most likely be some denominational slant in most works of fiction, whatever the genre. That is natural, and kind of cool, to see how others view life. Then we can see others more clearly too, and be able to relate with our neighbors.
Sometimes Biblical fiction poses questions I never really thought of, and answers them well. Not integral to the story, because it doesn’t alter WHAT happened, but maybe helps us to understand the contributing factors of WHY. Don’t we all want to know WHY this or that person did what they did? Here we can safely suppose, with what isn’t spelled out in the Bible. Many of the authors have done their homework, into culture, tradition, history, and human nature, and come up with incredibly realistic stories. They don’t always focus on a Main Bible Character. They let the peripheral or fictional characters take center stage, and talk about what may have gone on AROUND that Big Name. This also protects our fact-memories.
Examples of Biblical Fiction Done Well
I found these to be safe entertainment, and they also were enough of a devotional, that they caused some serious self-examination along the way, what a bonus!
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Lynn Austin’s Restoration Chronicles
Here Lynn connects facts and events from different time periods, and from different perspectives than the typical places we look from.
First we have Zechariah’s story, where I found a very plausible explanation for all the added Jewish laws, and the heart behind them (granted, that was not what God desired, and grossly miss-handled as time passed). The passion for rebuilding the Temple, and how easily distractions and difficulties persuade us to set down what we know is right, and do nothing, or do what’s convenient or safe.
Next is Ezra’s Story. Have you ever thought of how the Jews in Babylon, or Judah, would have dealt with Haman’s decree? I had never thought of it from any perspective other that those mentioned in Esther. Then there come the struggles with calling for repentance and obedience. How painful the consequences of our choices can be.
Last, Nehemiah‘s timing, so close to Esther’s-Did you ever consider how that may have effected Nehemiah? Or how Nehemiah’s job as Cupbearer equipped him to do the job of rebuilding the walls/Governing Israel?
These can be read individually, but make an awesome series!
Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings
King Hezekiah and his family are brought to 3D, painfully human life, fears, hopes and all. How do you think Hezekiah felt when his brother was ‘offered’ to Molech? Or Hepzibah, when she found out she was to marry the King’s Son (especially any son of THAT King?) How did an Egyptian get that high up in a Jewish government? What let Hezekiah to make so many Amazing decisions in between some real Doozies? Have you considered the adventures of building the underground water tunnel, without modern equipment? With all those examples, did you ever wonder about Hezekiah’s son? He definitely had his ups and downs!
Leading Women in Biblical Fiction
Kim Stokely does an amazing job with Woman of Flames
Have you ever thought about how the prophets had a choice? Yes, we all know about Jonah, choosing to run, and being “Caught” and returned to obey. But they ALL had to choose to obey. Just as we have to choose.
Deborah is no different. As a woman in her culture, her choice was definitely more controversial, but no less necessary. This story shows the time of the Judges very well. How everyone “did what was right in their own eyes.” And Hey, have you ever really wondered why the wife of Heber the Kenite killed Sisera, after offering him hospitality? This book has a reasonable suggestion.
*Note, there are a couple of near misses in the ‘involuntary romance’ department. Use your judgement here. They are handled well, but for young teens, or those who’ve been hurt in that way, it may be too much.
Tessa Afshar’s Pearl in the Sand
Here is a very interesting take on Rahab’s Story. If we didn’t already know the outcome, we’d probably wonder at how this could possibly work out for anyone! The drama is so well handled, the faith of the Caananites (the ones who knew they couldn’t win, their hearts melting with fear), transition from Outsider to believer, and how hard it can be on BOTH sides (We often forget to be welcoming and accepting, don’t we?) I also found the lessons on marriage and communication to be helpful!
Tessa Afshar’s In the Field of Grace
This is Ruth’s Story. We all know Ruth left her people, and followed Naomi, even against Naomi’s advice. But what was her home like, that she was eager to go to Bethlehem, where her people were NOT popular? Why was she so eager to go live as two widows alone without support? What kind of witness was Naomi and her family? What kind of welcome did Ruth receive? We read of Naomi’s friends reacting to her return, but not so much how Ruth was treated, other than by Boaz. This story also helps us understand the whole Kinsman-Redeemer thing, in Ruth’s time, and Jesus’ fulfillment.
Tessa Afshar’s Harvest series is more Historical, but touches on some Biblical events.
In Harvest of Rubies, we focus on Nehemiah’s cousin. Sarah becomes a scribe for the Queen. She solves Mysteries, Learns to Trust God more as time goes on. God puts her in just the right place at just the right time. Several times. Even when she’s ABSOLUTELY SURE He has made a mistake, and she doesn’t belong there. Scribe to the Queen. Married to that Noble.
In Harvest of Gold, after solving another mystery, Sarah and her husband accompany Nehemiah on his journey to Jerusalem, to rebuild the walls. Sarah learns some more lessons about God’s Timing, Faith, and being Honest (with herself and with others)
The Bronze Ladder by Malcolm Lyon
This is Not Quite Biblical fiction, being set just over a hundred years too late, but is worthy of mention here, for sure! It’s based on a prison diary from a Christian woman, martyred in Carthage in 203 A.D. The last 3rd of the book, is almost word for word from her diary, which is an accepted part of church history. The first two thirds of the book are Malcolm’s own idea of what led to the need for a prison diary in the first place. This book is Fantastic, Dramatic, and Inspiring.
Again, these are Biblical FICTION, and not to be taken as fact, but I found them all to have the truth, well told, with many good points. I hope you take the time to read a few, and really give it a chance. If you do, please let me know what you think!