Introduction to narrative :: Ruth :: Jonah

Hebrew narrative: Ruth and Jonah by Tim Bulkeley


Points of View

Our treatment of characters has led us already to mention the concept of "point of view". Biblical narratives are (almost?) never flat or one-dimensional. They are stories full of dynamic tensions. This is what makes them interesting and appealing to the reader. Most often this tension is heightened by the presence of a variety of points of view.

"Physically" the story is seldom experienced through a single set of eyes and ears. The presentation of biblical stories is often compared to a film. The "camera" presents us with several scenes, and quite often shows us one scene from more than one "point of view".

Berlin (45-46) gives the example of 2 Sam 18:19-32. Following the assassination of Absalom, Ahimaaz requests permission to take the "good news" to the king, his words suggest his point of view. The camera however stays on Joab until the middle of v.23. In a swift change it now first looks at David, then sees from his perspective, v.24. Notice how, unlike the king, we know that two runners are coming, the king only gradually discovers this (and which of them is first). From this point king and reader have the same point of view. At the close of the scene the camera mounts with the king to his chamber, v.33.

Most of what we have spoken of in this story is the simplest use of the notion of "point of view", the perspective from which the story is told.

However we have already begun to notice another kind of "point of view", that of attitudes, values and conceptions. When we looked at Ahimaaz' attitude to his news, we were exploring his conceptions.

We could use the term "point of view" in a third way to refer to someone's interest or advantage. Our story clearly implies Joab's recognition that it is a bad idea from his point of view (in this last sense) that David learn too soon of his beloved son Absalom's death - or at least of its cause (cf. vv. 12 & 14).


© Tim Bulkeley, 2008