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Due to its tremendous and undeniable impact on society, The Bible is to no surprise, the most referenced text in all of art, literature, music, film, etc. Therefore--and all personal religious views aside--it is essential that as scholars of the humanities (that’s you: language arts students), one has, at the least, a basic understanding and familiarity with The Bible’s core narratives. Just as it would be impossible to fully understand a piece of pop music without recognizing its subtle references to the world from which it came, the same is true for many classic pieces of literature and the biblical allusions they contain. Listed below are some highly summarized versions of references and narratives that are cleverly woven into Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. Do keep in mind that these are by no means expert versions of the narratives and that many religious denominations maintain their own importance and interpretation of each. Consider this simply a cheat sheet to get you thinking…
Garden of Eden: According to many Judeo-Christian faiths, this is where it all began. In the Old Testament book of Genesis, God molds Adam (from the Hebrew Adama, a word that means Earth) from the Earth, then forms Eve from one of Adam's ribs (or from his side). He places them both in the in the Garden of Eden. Life in the garden is pretty good and God charges both Adam and Eve to tend the garden in which they live. Again, there is not much to complain about. The only rule is that God specifically commands them not to eat from a specific tree. It turns out this is a pretty good rule—the tree contains the knowledge of both good and evil. Without a taste, Adam and Eve get to continue as innocent and pure creatures. With a bite however, they are doomed to know the other side—the evil side, the disobedient and not-to-be-trusted side of man. The two do their best to avoid it.Connections to OMatS: The Fall of Man: …Eve however, is quizzed by a serpent who inquires as to why she avoids the fruit of the tree. In the dialogue between the two, Eve explains the sole rule and commandment of God. She says that even if she touches the tree she will die. The clever serpent however, responds that she is highly mistaken and rather, she will become like a god, full of knowledge--knowing both good and evil. The serpent’s explanation seems pretty convincing and Eve goes for it. After she does, she persuades Adam to do the same. After their snack, the two become aware…that is, aware of everything: each other, their nakedness, their mistake, disobedience, etc. All their innocence is instantly lost. They become ashamed. No longer are they entirely pure. God finds them, confronts them, and judges them for disobeying. Adam and Eve are cast East out from the Garden of Eden and man is left to deal with both good and evil forever.
…on a little side note, this leads to the concept of Original Sin. Original Sin is a term that gets thrown around quite a bit and can refer to either Adam and Eve’s first bite or…(and as it is most commonly used)… as a concept that because of Adam and Eve’s action, mankind is inherently bad, evil, and ready to go against God’s will. Although this seems like a pretty basic idea, it’s huge and has divided religious faiths for centuries. Some think man’s born good, some think man’s born bad (remember the Puritans?).Connections to OMatS: Cain and Abel: According to Genesis, Cain and Abel were the first and second sons of Adam and Eve. Born after The Fall, these two are the first to deal with result of their parent’s actions in Eden. The story goes like this: Cain was a farmer; Abel (the younger of the two) was a shepherd. Both make offerings to God. Cain’s (grain) is rejected; Abel’s (a sheep) is accepted. Cain becomes extremely jealous and is given a divine caution not to give into the temptation to commit sin against his brother. Unfortunately, the jealousy is too much and Cain kills Abel. When asked about Abel’s whereabouts, Cain pretends ignorance. As a result he is driven even further East of Eden (much like his father, Adam), never to work the land again. He is marked with a sign as a warning to others.
Connections to OMatS:
Jesus: The story of Jesus’ life is told in the New Testament (the latter half of The Bible). His life, teachings, and philosophy are at the core of Christianity. While there is certainly not enough room to include all of
the beliefs or history here, we can attempt the basics. Below is a highly abbreviated version of the combined events of his life.
Jesus is born to Joseph and Mary (a virgin) after an intense walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Due to Christmas, this is the story we are most familiar with—the guiding star, the wise men, the manger, etc. The wise men believe that Jesus is the messiah and Mary reports to have been informed by the angel Gabriel that she has been chosen to bear the son of God.
Jesus grows up in Nazareth. Although the gospels vary on the details, Jesus encounters John the Baptist
and is baptized in the Jordan river. This is a big event, in which Jesus’ role as God’s chosen messenger, servant, and son is established.
Jesus is led to the desert by God and fasts for the traditional 40 days and 40 nights. During this time, he is
tempted by the devil 3 times. Each time he refuses. Jesus travels the land spreading the message of God, performing miracles (walking on water, turning water
into wine, exorcising demons, resurrecting Lazarus from the dead, etc.). Through it all he is humble and offers forgiveness and redemption
During this time, Jesus has a close following of 12 apostles who stick closely to his side and help spread his
word and message. Jesus’ popularity and following grows and he continues to spread his message. He accomplishes much of
his teaching through stories, actions, and parables in which the message of love, forgiveness, and acceptance are at the core. Jesus spreads his message wherever he goes, talking with people (often society’s outcasts), debating religious leaders, and making public speeches. He eventually reaches Jerusalem.
Following an incident where Jesus casts away some “money changers” from the temple, he has dinner with
his disciples. During this “Last Supper,” Jesus foreshadows his death and announces that he will soon be betrayed. After dinner, Jesus is arrested (it should be noted that Jesus’ message and claims were highly controversial) when one of his apostles, Judas Iscariot betrays him by revealing his presence with a kiss.
At Jesus’ trial, he is questioned about his claims of being God’s son, the messiah, and his overall “chosen”
status. Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, literally washes his hands in the manner and decides to leave it up to the people to decide Jesus’ fate.
Another “criminal is pardoned” and Jesus is crucified in the traditional manner and dies on a cross. According to the Gospels, Jesus rises from the dead on the 3rd day after his crucifixion and appears to Mary
Magdalene. Some of the Gospels report that Jesus appears to others for 40 more days and that he promises that he will someday return.
As Christianity and its various sects and denominations grew, Jesus’ teachings, message, and status as God’s chosen son remained at its core. He is seen as the savior to his followers—one who suffered and was sacrificed so that the faults and sins of man would be brought into the light and revealed. To no surprise, this idea of an individual sacrificing him or herself for the good of others is common in literature. Often referred to as a Christ Figure, many easily recognizable examples exist. (Neo—The Matrix, Gandalf and Frodo—Lord of the Rings, Luke—Cool Hand Luke, Aslan—The Chronicals of Narnia, etc…)
Connections to OMatS: Lazarus: Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary of a little town called Bethany. Unfortunately, Lazarus died. The good news however, is that his sisters were good friends with Jesus. Upon their request, Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead. Later, Lazarus attends a banquet thrown in Jesus’ honor.The whole situation impresses a lot of people and wins Jesus a number of dedicated followers.
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