The combination may seem odd, but it is definitely a valid one. The Bible and horror, I mean. My colleague in this venture, Brandon R. Grafius, has published the first book in the Horror and Scripture series, Reading the Bible with Horror. This is a fascinating little volume that explores the productive use of horror films when it comes to interpreting the Bible. The Bible isn’t all horror, of course, but a good deal of it is. That’s one of the keys of biblical interpretation—no one method covers it all. At least when I was teaching I used eclectic methods both because some methods work better than others in some places and because no one method is the correct one. Using horror to interpret the Good Book is one of the newest methods out there.
The methodology involves looking at horror films (mostly) and finding biblical parallels. Both the Bible and the movies interpret one another. This can be a kind of reception history—the idea that to understand Scripture we must look at how it has been “received.” The way that people read Holy Writ after it was written is as important as the way biblical specialists read it. We all know what literalism is, and biblical scholars are well aware of its shortcomings as a method. There are tons of other methods that seek to show the relevance of the Good Book, and one of them is to see how horror makes it so. To get to this point the reader must get beyond our social bias about horror as a degraded, evil genre. Some of it is quite bad, of course, but much of it has redeeming value. Redeeming value so obvious that it can be used to interpret the Bible.
Grafius studies only limited examples here, for instance, the book of Job with its human suffering and superhuman Leviathan. He also looks at hauntings and biblical ghosts, as well as haunted locations. His chapter on haunted houses made me stop and think quite a bit. He concludes with what will be the most challenging concept for many—the idea that God can be monstrous in the Bible. He clearly can. Apart from theodicy, one of the major reasons critics attack Christianity is the character of God as portrayed in the Bible. Grafius isn’t attacking Christianity but rather he’s trying to show how a most unlikely source can shed genuine light onto it. Reading the Bible with Horror is an insightful step in that direction, even if it’s a step into a rather haunted house.