Oxford Biblical Studies Online is a subscription service for institutions that gives access to many biblical studies resources produced by the press. It also features current essays that stand on this side of the paywall, written on contemporary issues. In a shameless self-promoting plug, I’d direct you to this link to see my latest publication. You see, I’m not alone in looking at Bible through the lens of horror. As the acknowledgements to Holy Horror reveal, many conversations were going on that led to that book. While the ideas contained in it are my own, I’m by no means the only one to have noticed that the Good Book makes guest appearances in genre fiction. One of the points I made to my students when I held a teaching post was that the Bible is ubiquitous in our culture, whether we know it or not. Just look at the Republican Party and beg to differ.
The idea is not without precedent. For those who read the Bible real horror isn’t hard to find. The Good Book can be quite a scary book. Consider for just a moment the final installment—Revelation, apart from being full of amazing imagery, is an amazingly violent book. Attack helicopters and atomic bombs may not yet have been invented, but there was no shortage of ways to kill people in the pre-gunpowder world. Revelation paints the world in the throes of horrible suffering and death. Indeed, the completely fictional Left Behind series rejoices in the death of the unrighteous who are, well, left behind. Even today there’s a significant segment of “Christianity” that rejoices in the chaos Trump has unleashed.
In the OBSO article I sketch a brief history of how this came to be. The history could work in the other direction as well. The fact is the Bible and horror have always gone fairly well together. Among genre literature, however, horror is a distinctive category only after the eighteenth century (CE). Early horror novels, under the guise of Gothic fiction, often involve religious elements. Culture was already biblically suffused then. This is a natural outgrowth of a would steeped in violence. Personally, I don’t like gore. I don’t watch horror to get any kind of gross-out fix. My purposes are somewhat different than many viewers, I suspect. What we do all have in common, though, is that we realize horror has something honest to say to us. And it has been saying it to us since from in the beginning.