Tag Archives: Christian Bible Study & Reference

The Great Code

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Great Code: The Bible and Literature [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Northrop Frye.

Frye The Great Code

While carefully distinguishing the Bible from the various categories of secular literature, Northrop Frye applies the techniques and perspectives of his work in literary criticism to it in The Great Code. (The title phrase, like most of Frye’s, is a quote from Blake.) The book works in an exploratory fashion that proceeds from the atomic level of language, through myth and metaphor, to the continuities involved in biblical typology. Then he traces the same arc in reverse, to integrate what he had previously analyzed. 

Frye makes no pleas on behalf of supernatural agency or religious institutions. He discusses the Bible as a textual curiosity, and works to demonstrate the worth it can have for thoughtful readers, as well as the contributions that it has made to the mental infrastructure of our civilization. In the denouement of this volume, the first of several he would eventually write about the Bible, Frye cites Nietzsche and Feuerbach, and muses about magic and sexuality. As always, he is a lively and elegant writer.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys serious literature, and yet is tempted to dismiss the Bible as an anthology of ancient superstitions. It may also be a useful tonic for those who view the Bible as their own sectarian playground–although it is less likely to endear itself to them. For me, it mostly served as a convenient review and lucid exposition of ideas I had previously considered; but there were definitely fresh nuggets to be discovered throughout.