Setting in Biblical Narrative
- The action of every story takes place somewhere, and that place is called the setting.
- Biblical authors use the setting as a tool in biblical narratives to evoke memories and emotions and to generate expectations about what could happen in the story.
- Physical places and locations serve as settings, but time also serves as a type of setting.
- As the biblical story develops, places and situations begin to take on a symbolic or meaningful significance based on what has happened there.
- Example: think about common settings in modern Western films and how each location has a genre associated with it like action movies set in New York, romances set in Paris, or westerns set in dusty ghost towns.
- In the Bible, “the east” represents the human spiral of sin and selfishness as people moved from the garden of Eden to Babylon. Adam and Eve are banished “to the east” in Genesis 3. Adam’s son Cain is banished “to the East” in Genesis 4, and people move “to the east” to build the city of Babylon in Genesis 11:1-2.
- Other places that hold significance in the overall story of the Bible include Egypt, Moab, the wilderness,Bethlehem, and Jerusalem. These settings become loaded with more and more meaning as the biblical story develops over time.
- Time, or how long things take, also serves as a type of setting in biblical narrative.
- Example: In the Gospel of Mark, chapters 1-10 cover some three years of Jesus’ life and ministry, while chapters 11-16 cover seven days in Jerusalem. 30% of the story focuses on those seven days, and this emphasizes the importance of those days.
- The number 40 is a meaningful time period in biblical narrative that represents a period of waiting and testing.
- Noah spends 40 days and nights on the ark,
- Moses spends 40 days on the top of Mount Sinai, and the Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years (Num. 14:34) as punishment for rebelling after the Israelite spies investigate the promised land for 40 days (Num. 13).
- And because we have become familiar with this idea of 40 days as a time of patience and testing, when Jesus is tested in the desert for 40 days and overcomes the test, he reverses our expectations.
About Setting in the Biblical Narrative:
- Place and Time have spiritual symbolism in the Bible.
All the materials on this website are copyrighted by their respective authors.
"Bible Smart" is a ministry of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church of Farmington Hills, Michigan. It is used as a platform of learning for the Bible Study as well as Church School classes.