Friday, November 3, 2006

Rummaging Around my Creative Outlets

I have a confession.

I like historical fiction. Moreso, I like historical fiction where the author has exhaustively researched the culture, practices, and actual events of the time that is being depicted. It makes history come alive for me - though I will say that I am enough of an independent thinker that these kinds of stories don't become equitable to fact for me - something that proves to be a difficult distinction for others - given all the hullabaloo on The Da Vinci Code.

After reading Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, I decided I really liked the idea of bible-times historical fiction, particularly that containing thought provoking, true to the culture of the times, and somewhat shocking suggestions about Bible characters we either 1.) Don't know much about, or 2.)Have idealized into great men and women with little to no flaws.

The gist of The Red Tent involves in-depth speculation about the house of Jacob and his 4 wives. It's interesting to hear Diamant's fictional take, as a Jewish scholar/historian. The story focuses on Dinah, Jacob's daughter who is barely mentioned in Genesis.

I loved this book, and have testified as such on here before. It made me think about the plurality of God's people at this point in time (i.e. before Moses and the Law), and how, particularly for the women - lacking status in the ancient world, thus very uneducated and "unchurched" so to speak - pagan rituals were still a rich part of their world. Also, just how much Jacob battled God in his own life - as there is an amazing account in the book re:his wrestling match with the Lord. Yet another aspect that struck me was the earthy sensuality of the story - but considering the Hebrew lifestyle, rich with animal husbandry, multiple wives and children, with no solid walls to sound proof, etc., sex was a big part of life, and in a very in your face manner.

Recent ponderings of the mind have had me examining the David/Bathsheba story, wondering about its potential as such a story. Regarding their affair, all the Bible says is this:

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then [a] she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, "I am pregnant."

Now, I'm aware of the whole "He was the king, wouldn't you have been totally flattered and done it?" argument for Bathsheba's acquiescence. Not to mention that in those days, women often did as they were told. But this passage leaves me wanting more.....


- What was David's internal dialogue like between seeing her and sending for her? As a "man after God's own heart," I'd like to think that there was a tremendous amount of turmoil in his mind, but that's just me - and I do tend to overthink things a wee bit ;-) Instead, we read about what looks like a snap judgment.

- Was it customary for women to bathe openly as Bathsheba was doing? Or did she perhaps have an earlier encounter with the King that inspired her to seduce him from afar? This possibility could be a story in iteself....

- What was their time together like? Did they just get right down to the sex, or was there some form of romance here? Like beyond foreplay even? Like a fast-track courting of sorts? A compilation of chance encounters that inflamed their minds with the other and then, the episode in Scriptures was the straw that broke the camel's back?

As a responsible writer, this would of course, require a tremendous amount of research into gender roles of the ancient world, other writings about this infamous couple, the original Hebrew of this passage, etc. before the story could be written somewhat convincingly. But, don't you see an intriguing story here? Especially if you add to it the later details of Uriah's death, David and Bathsheba's children (the death of this child, and later the birth of Solomon), and their relationship with the Lord..... All of the elements of a good soap opera; lust, murder, deceit, tragedy and eventually a redeeming triumph in Solomon.

My wheels have been spinning for a while on this, but I also know that a lot of Christians have issue with this kind of writing. They forget to see that it is an artist's rendition of history - aka FICTION. It is not an attempt to rewrite scripture, rather an attempt to portray interpretation, which is highly personal and not at all doctrinal. People don't want anything to challenge their deeply rooted views of the men and women of the Bible - even if this view does nothing to change the doctrinal issue at hand.

I saw evidence of this when my church's Ladies Book Club talked about reading The Red Tent, but witnessed much larger outcry with The Da Vinci Code - which, also was FICTION. I mean, if Jesus had been married, does that change the fact that He was the Son of God? Not to me. If Egyptian men looked at Joseph covetously, does that change my view of him? It might make him prettier in my mind's eye, lol - but just because other men- in an extremely idolatrous society- might have lusted after him doesn't mean that Joseph himself did anything ungodly. Know what I mean? Bible characters were real people, according to my belief system. Why then, do we paint them as pedastaled gods by not allowing in information which only poses the question of "what if?" I scandalous for being curious about David and Bathsheba?

Would this kind of book invoke more harm than good? I could see that some might look at it as an endorsement of infidelity - but doesn't this story's Bible count alone send a mixed message on the topic? In my very superficial studies on this incident, it does - because though David and Bathsheba are punished with the death of their first born - a horrible tragedy I can only imagine - they still get each other, and subsequent children - one of which was blessed tremendously by the Lord. But then, God does things like that....blessing sinners - who'd have thunk it?

Things that make you go Hmmmmm.......

please note the creative commons license on this blog - any books that come to be published based on my copyrighted ideas....well, you'll hear from me ;-)

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