Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pullman as a Biblical Gateway

His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman is a great trilogy, combining classical images and symbols with modern worlds, but with fantasical events. Since it's release, it has proven to be poplar among all ages. Children and adults both love the series for the same reason so many people loved Hary Potter: It combines likeable characters with a wonderful story that features situations and events that have multiple layers of meaning. Since HDM draws so much on Biblical history and imagery, it is a great bridge to getting people to read the Bible from a more scholarly point of view.

At SUNY Fredonia, there is a course offered called "the Bible as Literature." In this course, Dr. Theodore Steinberg teaches students of the symbolism and literary elements throughout the Bible's stories. Not only is this important for a scholaryly understanding of the Bible, but it is an invaluable tool for understanding most classical literature. Dr. Steinberg says that a lot of people nowadays are Biblically illiterate. In the past, the Bible was taught to people from birth in schools, church, and home. In fact, even in the mid and late Medieval Ages and onward, the Bible was a book that almost every household owned; this is quite a feat considering the literacy rate back then.

With an understanding of the Bible, people are better able to understand such classic literature as The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, Don Quixote, and many, many more. This study would also help with understanding some modern texts as well, such as The DaVinci Code, Harry Potter, and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood just to name a few. Of course, it would also help with His Dark Materials, and that's why this series would function so well as a gateway to Bible studies: It's an entertaining way to get people wondering about the references and stories that Phillip Pullman used when writing his magnum opus.

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