Saturday 23 May 2009

Tony W. Cartledge on 1 and 2 Samuel in Literature

Tony W. Cartledge, 1 and 2 Samuel, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary 7 (Macon: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2001).

The publishers make available online the Introduction to this volume as well as the comments on 1 Samuel 1.

In addition to covering the expected ground (the place of the book in the canon, its authorship and date of composition, its historical setting, interpretation and theological significance), Cartledge also devotes a section to ‘the Samuel Narratives in literature’ (19-21), noting that retellings are also remakings of the story as readers filter the biblical material through their own presuppositions and concerns.

David has appeared in literature as a ‘type’ – of Christ (e.g., in the early church fathers), of a penitent sinner (common in the Middle Ages), and of a model king (again, a feature of interpretation in the Middle Ages).

In 17th-century England, David was appealed to as the archetypal king by both sides in the Puritan-Royalist conflict.

The Renaissance and post-Renaissance periods saw an explosion of literature based on the books of Samuel, along with the sculptures of David by Donatello, Verocchio, and Michaelangelo, which celebrated his beauty and physical prowess.

The twentieth century saw a number of significant ‘rewritings’ of the Samuel narratives, including D.H. Lawrence’s play David (1926), William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936), Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country (1948), and Stefan Heym’s The King David Report (1973).

Cartledge notes that the materials are ‘uncommonly rich in suggestive themes, and readers continually “remake” the biblical stories to address modern-day concerns’ (21).

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