PG 495 - Exploring Biblical Narratives

Module Level

9 /10 PhD / MTh / STL

Time Allowance

Pedagogical Approach: This course has two dimensions: five intensive seminars at Maynooth over one week from 14th-18th January 2019. These seminars will be prepared by a number of preparatory online assignments during the first semester (October – December 2018). The Maynooth seminars will consist of expert presentations, the exploration of key biblical texts, as well as presentations from the student participants. Under the direction of the Module Coordinator, participants will prepare a 5,000 word assignment in the weeks which follow.


Preparatory Assignments (2,000 words in toto) 30%; In-course Seminar Presentation 20%; Final Synthesis Paper (5,000 words) 50%

Module Aims

This seminar course, an introduction to narrative criticism, examines key concepts and tools of narrative methodology and showcases their use in the narrative analysis of a selection of biblical narratives. The seminar will examine, character, plot, point of view, the importance of time, timing, order and gaps, and the levels of narration.

Indicative Content: 

  • Character

Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22) – a character study of Abraham.

Paul’s Combat with Barjesus (Acts 13:4-12) – a character study of Paul and Barjesus.

  • Time and Plot

Joseph “Meets” his Brothers (Genesis 42-45) – a study of time, gaps and levels of narration.

Paul’s Failed Jailbreak (Acts 16:11-40) – a study of time and locations.

  • Settings and Locations

David and Bathsheba (2 Sam 11) – Time, gaps and locations.

A dynamic reading of Mark’s Gospel – An examination of plot and point of view.

  • Point of View

Nathan’s Parable (2 Sam 12) and the Woman from Tekoa (2 Sam 14) – the narrative function of stories within stories. 

Disciples as Models of Belief (John 20) – synkrisisor the art of comparing and contrasting characters.

  • Direct and Indirect Speech

Jesus and the Narrator in Mark: shaping and resistance.

Isa 7:1-17 and Luke 7:18-35 – the dynamics of direct speech. 

  • Narrative Between History and Theology

Cultural Anthropology and Narrative Criticism

Discourse and Theology

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be familiar with narrative criticism including the most recent developments
  • Students will be capable of applying the method to a variety of biblical narratives
  • Students will be proficient in presenting the results of their analyses


  • Marguerat, Daniel and Yvan Bourquin. How to Read Bible Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Criticism. Translated by John Bowden. London: SCM Press, 1999.
  • Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith. Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. London: Methuen, 1983. Repr., London: Routledge, 2002.
  • Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative. Basic Books, 1981.
  • __________. The Art of Biblical Poetry. Basic Books, 1985
  • Bar-Efrat, Shimon. Narrative Art in the Bible. 2nd ed. London: T&T Clark, 2004. Repr. 2008.
  • Berlin, Adele. Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbraums, 1994.
  • Bennema, Cornelis. A Theory of Character in New Testament Narrative. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2014.
  • Bosworth. David A. The story within a story in Biblical Hebrew narrative. CBQMS 45. Washington (D.C.): Catholic Biblical Association of America, 2008.
  • Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse. Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca, NY: Cornell, 1978.
  • Fokkelman, Joannes P. Narrative Art in Genesis: Specimens of Stylistic and Structural Analysis. Biblical Seminar 12. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.
  • _________________. Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel: A Full Interpretation Based on Stylistic and Structural Analyses. 4 vols. Studia Semitica Neerlandica 20, 23, 27, 31. Assen: Royal Van Gorcum, 1981-1993.
  • Fowler, Robert. Let the Reader Understand. Reader-Response Criticism and the Gospel of Mark. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996.
  • Genette, Gerard. Narrative Discourse. Oxford: Blackwell, 1980.
  • Iverson, Kelly R. and Christopher W. Skinner, eds. Mark as Story: Retrospect and Prospect. SBL Resources for Biblical Study 65. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.
  • Malbon, Elizabeth Struthers. Mark’s Jesus. Characterisation as Narrative Christology. Waco, TX: Baylor, 2009.
  • Merenlahti, Petri. Poetics for the Gospels? Rethinking Narrative Criticism. Studies of the New Testament and its World. London: T&T Clark, 2002.
  • Perry, Menakhem. “Literary Dynamics: How the Order of a Text Creates its Meanings: with an analysis of Faulkner's ‘A Rose for Emily’.” Poetics Today 1 (1979): 35.
  • ___________ and Meir Sternberg. “The King through Ironic Eyes: Biblical Narrative and the Literary Reading Process.” Poetics Today 7 (1986) 275-322. Revision of Hebrew article published in Hasifrut 1 (1968) 262-91.
  • Schneiders, Sandra M. Jesus Risen in our Midst: Essays on the Resurrection of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2013.
  • Schipper Jeremy. Parables and conflict in the Hebrew Bible. Cambridge; New York; Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Ska, Jean-Louis. “Our Fathers Have Told Us”: Introduction to the Analysis of Hebrew Narratives. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 2000.
  • Sternberg, Meir. The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press 1985.
  • Yamasaki, Gary. Insights from Filmmaking for Analyzing Biblical Narrative. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2016.
  • ___________. Perspective criticism: Point of view and evaluative guidance in Biblical narrative. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2012.


We're always fundraising to improve Saint Patrick’s College so why not donate and help make us better!