June 2021 Featured Article
What is Biblical Fiction?
Biblical Fiction is a sub-genre of Christian Historical Fiction. It is not merely Christian Fiction with Biblical values. In fact, I prefer the term Historical Fiction Set in Bible Times, but alas, the genre is Biblical Fiction (Bib Fic)
Bib Fic takes place during the timeline of the Bible, New or Old Testament. It can be a real person mentioned in the Bible (Miriam by Mesu Andrews—about Moses’ sister and the plagues on Egypt) or a fictional character who interacts with the historical people or events (Harvest of Rubies and Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar— the fictional cousin of the prophet Nehemiah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem)
Doesn’t that take away from the power of the Bible message?
My goal is to point people to the Bible. The Scripture has ultimate authority in my writing. I use fiction to expound on the culture, and character choices. Why did this person make this choice? What culturally would have influenced that decision? This aides my study of the Scriptures, because suddenly they are real people and not just a name in a list of genealogy.
Culture, customs and conversations.
Like other historical novels, you don’t know every word this real person said. The cultures have shifted and the customs are non-existent. An author’s job is to bring you back to that era through time travel.
Why I like Biblical Fiction
I have to admit I am a skimmer. I skim over scripture that I think I know already and especially genealogies. Are you with me?
I love when the Lord opens my eyes to the suddenly different wording practically jumps off the page at me.
Balaam and the Talking Donkey
Do you recall the story of Balaam and the talking donkey? We read in Numbers 22-25, 31 about the story of Balaam and his talking donkey.
Balaam is commissioned to curse the Israelites—and he ends up blessing the nation instead (after the angel of the Lord and the talking donkey bit). Here’s the crazy thing—- No where in the text does it say Balaam crossed paths with the Israelites. According to the text, he was a pagan seer–a curses for hire type of guy. Yet God used him to richly bless Israel four times.
So how do we know about Balaam’s blessing and crazy adventures? How is there documentation in the Israelite’s scriptures?
In Numbers 22 we see
Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.
So, we see he had servants with him. What else could make this story logical to appear in our Bible?
So [King Balak] took [Balaam] to the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah, and there he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.
Check out this passage where Moses and “they” (elders? The whole nation?”) went up to Mount Pisgah. Numbers 21:20
And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah, from Mattanah to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth, and from Bamoth, in the valley that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah which looks down on the wasteland.
Both sets of men were up on Mount Pisgah. As far as the gap in chapters, the Bible tends to group together a story until it is completed. We are hearing about Balaam from Numbers 22-24 but it isn’t telling what is happening in the world around him. To me that is plausible.
With those couple of tidbits, it’s easy to connect the dots.
I imagined Balaam crossed paths with the Israelites there and they exchanged stories of God’s power. I imagine one of those servants was a boy who saw the glories of the one true God and wanted to follow Him.
And when Balaam gets himself in trouble with the Ladies-of-Midian-Seducing-the-Israelites-in-Moab-Fiasco, the boy transfers his allegiance.
Sadly, Balaam, by all appearances made his choice–despite meeting God on desolate heights and viewing His power. Balaam is mentioned throughout the Bible all the way through Revelation as a stumbling block and a byword.
What do you think? Did you grow up thinking Balaam was a hero of the faith?
What Biblical Fiction have you read that has opened your eyes to the culture of the Bible?
****All Scripture is used from the New King James Bible