Whatever you think regarding the actual truth of the Bible, you can’t deny it’s a pretty good story. It has love, murder, fire, battles, whales; it’s blood-thirstier than Game of Thrones and more romantic than The Notebook. It’s no wonder that these stories have such a hold over us whether or not we were raised with religion; after all, most of us have performed in an embarrassing Nativity play at some point in our school life. So, when it comes to writing a novel, is it any surprise that Bible stories find their way in?
Reimagining the Bible is a hugely popular literary genre, which can be particularly fascinating when authors tackle Bible stories from previously unheard perspectives. But not all Bible-inspired novels contain bearded men in linen tunics; in fact, some can look suspiciously like modern-day.
These eight novels give the Bible a whole modern update. Some of them are blatant retellings of the Bible (ahem, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, I’m looking at you), whereas others nod much more subtly to the book that influenced them. Either way, it can make you feel like a literary genius when you spot that biblical allegory hidden away in a novel seemingly about harmless talking animals.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling was borrowing religious themes throughout the whole Harry Potter series, but it wasn’t until the last few chapters of the final book that any of us actually noticed. SPOILER ALERT for anyone who’s miraculously escaped hearing how this series ends: in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows , Harry ends up willingly sacrificing his life to save everyone, and then being “resurrected.”
The Stand by Stephen King
The Stand is a post-apocalyptic, good versus evil novel that draws heavily from the Bible’s vision of how the world will end. I told you, the Bible has some crazy-exciting stories.
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The magical world of Narnia is so imaginative that it makes this Bible story seem brand-new. Aslan, the gentle and loving Jesus figure, is sacrificed on the stone table to save his followers — but when they come back to rescue the body, it has vanished. The resurrected Aslan later leads his followers to Heaven, but that comes later in the Narnia series...
J.B. by Archibald Macleish
God and Jesus weren’t the only characters in the Bible, you know — there was also Job, the obedient man whom God put through a series of hardships to test his character. In J.B. , Macleish transforms Job into a New York banker, who goes a little off-script at the end.
The Green Mile by Stephen King
And he’s done it again: in The Green Mile , Stephen King references the crucifixion story by having his misunderstood, healing protagonist executed alongside two thieves.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
How The Golden Compass and the rest of the His Dark Materials books should be interpreted has been a serious source of debate. The anti-Christian elements are clear: the Church is portrayed as a force for evil, and the Bible’s sacrifice stories are retold in ways that highlight the horror behind them. Some Christians, however (such as the former Archbishop of Canterbury), view the novel as an important part of Christian discussion.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time is a sci-fi novel about a young girl whose father has gone missing while working on a mysterious government project. Not an obviously Biblical story, then. But you can seriously impress your teacher/professor/book club by pointing out all the recurring Genesis imagery — like when two of the characters eat apples in the garden just before they learn about the presence of evil, or the time they actually read the Book of Genesis...
Superman by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Hear me out, here. Superman was sent to Earth by his father, adopted by a humble family, and then grows up using his superhuman abilities for good. Sound familiar?