with Christmas. For those not in the know, Christmas marks and
celebrates the birthday of the baby Jesus. The events surrounding his
birth and some background information on both his family and John the
Baptist are presented in the first two chapters of the Gospels of Luke
and Matthew. An interesting way to approach (re-)reading these
chapters is to draw up a list of the ten things you most associate
with Christmas, and then to see how many of them come from these pieces of Scripture. Where do the other ones come from? Are they personal? Tied to country-specfic traditions marking the time of the year? Or do they stem from canonical interpretations of these texts?
Emeritus of Classical and Modern Hebrew Literature at Harvard
University has carried out a similar exercise for the Tanach, also
known as all or most of, depending on where you stand on these things,
the Old Testament. He traces many of the stories in the Old Testament
back to their historical roots, and explains how both authors and
later scholars shaped those to facilitate and inform modern-day
readings. In the process he discusses many scenes foreshadowing the
events narrated in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2.
3. The Discovery of Heaven – Harry Mulisch (1992): The plot of this
opus magnum of post-World War II Dutch literature centers around God’s
intelligent design and careful execution of a plan to undo… well,
this one is a novel, and the plot is infinitely less well-known than
that of at least some parts of the Bible, so I’ll leave it at that.