I’m ending this run on genres in biblical literature with hero stories in the Bible. A hero story is close to the most basic form of narrative. The events revolve around one protagonist, the hero. Unlike tragedy, the protagonist of a hero story isportrayed, overall, in a positive light.
In this blog post we will be looking at a few things. First we’re going to see that the life and exploits of a hero is a comment on the values, morality, and reality of the society in which his story is set in. Second there are four types of heroes: the idealized, tragic, comic, and realistic. Lastly I will go over some examples of hero stories from the Bible.
Hero stories in the Bible as a comment on three aspects of life
A hero story is the summary of what a culture wants to say about itself. Think about American hero stories that have been popular lately. Within the super hero genre there have been many depicted in film recently.
In the Avengers you have the conflict of our old identity as a nation, represented by WWII war hero Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America), with our contemporary identity as a nation, represented by billionaire tech genius Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man). In the movie Rogers challenges Stark by asking him if he would be willing to jump on a grenade to save others? In other words, would the current generation be able and willing to make the sacrifices that generations past were willing to make?
There have been a few movies focusing on the exploits of the Navy Seals in the past few years. Most recently the movie American Sniper told the true story of Chris Kyle, the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history, and the psychological toil war took on him.
These stories, whether fact or fiction, are a comment on our nation’s sense of values, morality, and reality. Likewise in the Bible the hero stories are a comment on Israel’s and the Church’s sense of values, morality, and reality.
Types of heroes
In Words of Delight Leland Ryken writes that there are four kinds of literary heroes. The idealized hero represents the best of what a society thinks it should be. A tragic hero is someone who is not the antagonist of the story, but due to an irreparable moral failing plunges into tragedy. Then there is the comic hero who like the tragic hero is flawed as well but does not let their flaw keep them from overcoming. Finally there is the realistic hero. These heroes are like you or me. They demonstrate the same flaws and strengths common among ordinary people.
Some examples of heroes in the Bible
The story of Gideon is an example of a comic hero. Gideon struggles with confidence in himself and faith in God. As the story unfolds we see Gideon trusting more and more in the Lord.
Daniel is one of the few idealized heroes of the Bible. Even the non-tragic heroes tend to fall because of one character flaw or another at some point in their narrative. This is not the case with Daniel. Even in a foreign land and serving under foreign kings Daniel remains steadfast in his faithfulness to the Lord.
I was tempted to say that Ruth is an example of a realistic hero. However it is better to say that she is also an idealized hero. She goes above and beyond of what is expected of her. She is a Moabitess but chooses to remain with Naomi, her mother-in-law, and goes with her to Israel to be with Naomi’s people and worship their God. It is argued whether Naomi or Ruth is the true protagonist of the Book of Ruth. Either way Ruth demonstrates in her actions, sacrifice, and faithfulness to the God of Israel that she is a paragon of virtue.
Ruth, as well as many others in the Bible, showcase that a true hero is one who in spite of adversity remains faithful to God. She represents something to which we are all capable of aspiring towards
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