Go Tell it On the Mountain

Go Tell it On the Mountain History of Biblical Allusion in Novels

The Bible has served as a major source of inspiration in the development of Western cultures for generations. Accordingly, allusions to the Bible permeate much of Western canon, whether directly (as in using the language of the Bible and directly mentioning Christ) or indirectly (as in subtler parallels and types that require a knowledge of the Bible in order to become apparent). Earlier major pieces of classic literature are directly dependent on the Bible as a source - see, for example, John Milton, whose epic poem Paradise Lost is a retelling in poem form of the Book of Genesis (the first book of the Bible). Going further back to a time before Christianity itself, Christian thought has been prefigured in the works of Plato and Virgil (in fact, Christianity is often discussed as being Neo-Platonic). Shakespeare's works contain distinctly Christian themes and overtones. Even today, Christianity is utilized and referenced in the works of contemporary authors such as Marilynne Robinson. James Baldwin, writing in the 50s and 60s, lived in a time when many of the literati and intellects of the time were moving away from or were becoming disillusioned with the promises of Christianity, which were increasingly seen as unscientific, empty, or wholly fictional, born out of delusion. However, religious language still permeated much of the writing of the time; Baldwin was in good company with his immediate predecessors/contemporaries, such as Faulkner (whose works are filled with religious overtones and allusions), Fitzgerald, Stevens, and others. Their portrayals of religion, which are more complex than previous eras, nevertheless remain vibrant and thought provoking.