Monday, April 8, 2013

Does the Bible Need a Facelift?

I leafed through a few pages of the newest CBD catalog today and for some reason, stopped to read the blurb about A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther by Joan Wolf.

This is, of course, a re-telling of the Biblical story of Esther.

I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction against this sort of thing, so I thought I'd read more and see if it really was as offensive as I thought it might be.  

To be fair, I should read the book for myself, but I'm not certain this is worth reading.  Let's see what others say about it.

The CBD catalog proclaims that in Wolf's story: "...Esther captures the heart of King Xerxes with her beauty and spirit."  

Hmmm.  So, it sounds as though Wolf has gutted the original story and made it about a human romance.


And terribly sad.  

We (humans) are experts at looking at anything and reshaping it into our own image.  We can look at a story which clearly demonstrates God's hand of Providence and the incredible way He uses people for His good purposes, and yawn.  Then "fix it up" so it's about something interesting.  A woman, destitute but brave and beautiful, who makes a man, lonely and aimless until she comes along, fall in love with her.  And they live happily ever after.

Please don't think I'm some sort of literature snob, either.  I love a good romance as much as the next!  I love when the H/H get their HEA.  I cheer when Elizabeth and Darcy come to an understanding, when Jane and Rochester are finally reunited, when Han and Leia kiss among the Ewoks (guess what characters are on Sam's lunch box beside me?).  

So, why does this bother me so much?

I looked it up on Amazon where reviews clearly state that Wolf has changed the original story for her own story-telling purposes.  No bait and switch; all clear and above-board.  This is the same thing many - if not most - historical fiction writers do.  I love Sharon Kay Penman and she has a disclaimer in the back of her books to say which facts were rearranged or ignored in order to tell her story, and that doesn't bother me in the least.  She uses most but not all of the truth as she finds it in extensive research through the archives of England, Wales, and Scotland, and I don't mind.  She is telling a story, after all, and real life doesn't always work the way a novel does.  

So then why am I bothered by Wolf's doing the same thing with Esther?

From Publisher's Weekly: "Wolf has succeeded in tidying up the biblical account, reconstructing its people and events while preserving its essential elements and producing an attractive love story." 

"...tidying up the biblical account..."  

Okay.  There it is.  Let's not forget that this is the Bible, the inerrant Word of God.  The archives of medieval Europe are valuable and fascinating and truly important, but they are not the Word of God.  Playing fast and loose with history is one thing.  Playing fast and loose with God's Word is another thing entirely.

Or is it?

If we take the Word at all seriously, shouldn't this bother us?  "Tidying up" the Bible?  "Producing an attractive love story?"  I do believe that God wrote that story the way it is supposed to be and I'm pretty uncomfortable with thinking we can improve upon that.  

But am I being too rigid?  Too much of a stickler?  Should I loosen up?  Should I read the book?  Would you?

I'm really wondering.  What do you think?


  1. I can see where "tidying up" is offensive. I probably wouldn't read it but it just isn't my sort of thing. I do find it interesting to wonder about some of the details that are not included in Scripture...

  2. That's true. I have read some fiction based on Scripture but to my recollection they didn't mess with known facts. Csn't toss the whole genre I suppose.