The Bible contains much narrative material that tells a grand, overarching story.
As with all
stories the biblical narratives consist of plot, characters, settings, point of view etc.
interpretation essay will focus on the aspect of characters in the biblical story.
According to Powell (51), “characters are the actors in a story, the ones who carry out the
various activities that comprise the plot” of a story.
Characters not only include people, but may
also include God, angels, demons, animals (such as the serpent in Genesis 3), or other nonhuman
entities (such as the trees in Judges 9:8-15).
A group of people may also function as one
For example, in the Gospels the crowds, the disciples, and the religious leaders often
function as one character.
is the process by which an author or narrator reveals the traits and personality
of characters in a story.
Characters can be revealed in a number of ways.
The author (or
narrator) can directly
us about a particular figure (for example, the narrator tells us that
“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation” in Genesis 6:9 or that “Moses was very
humble” in Numbers 12:3).
The author (or narrator) can also indirectly
us a particular
figure, that is, characters are revealed through their speech (what they say and how they say it) or
actions (what they do and how they do it, or even their failure to do something).
also be revealed through their names (or anonymity), age, gender, appearance, clothing,
possessions, gestures and postures, ethnicity or nationality, occupation, socio-economic status
A character may also be revealed by the way in which other characters in a story react towards
that character, that is, through the speech, gestures, actions, attitudes, etc. of other characters.
such instances one must ask whether the viewpoint of other characters in a story is reliable or
For example, the viewpoint of God about Jesus in Matthew 3:17 (Jesus is His beloved Son)
is reliable, but the viewpoint of the Pharisees in Matthew 9:34 (Jesus casts out demons by the
ruler of the demons) is unreliable.
Characters can also be revealed through the comparison and contrast of two or more individuals
(for example, Cain and Abel are contrasted in Genesis 4; Jacob and Esau are contrasted in
Thus, for instance, the goodness of a particular character can be revealed by setting
him or her in contrast to an evil character.
Characters can also be revealed by contrasting the
characters with themselves.
Characters’ motives or speech can be contrasted with their actions,
or actions of characters may be contrasted with earlier actions, thus highlighting inconsistency
(for example, the wise Solomon of 1 Kings 3-4 versus the idolatrous and polygamous Solomon
of 1 Kings 11) or change (for example the pre-conversion Paul versus the post-conversion Paul
in Acts) in those characters.
Finally, characters can be revealed through a variety of literary techniques such as similes,