The Bible in English Literature

Some years ago when I was enrolled in a graduate English course on the writings of Hawthorne and Melville, I was shocked by how little my fellow graduate students knew about the content of the Bible. These were English majors, a discipline that should know how pervasive the Bible is in the vast literature written in English. When we came to the famous opening sentence of Moby-Dick (“Call me Ishmael”) the class did not recognize the biblical allusion, nor did they see how pervasive biblical references are throughout that book. To see this vividly just find a copy of A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, by David Lyle Jeffrey, General Editor. Open it to any of its over 900 pages, and you will be greeted by the rich influences of the Bible on literature written in English. Not only will you learn about English literature, but also about the Bible.