Kacy Barnett-Gramckow

Kacy Barnett-Gramckow is a freelance writer who enjoys research almost as much as writing. Her critically acclaimed books, The Heavens Before, He Who Lifts the Skies, and A Crown in the Stars, have been translated into Dutch and Thai, and are available in large print.

Biblical Fiction

In recent years, Biblical fiction has topped international best-seller lists. Works such as The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Zipporah by Marek Halter, and Queenmaker by India Edghill have delighted readers and garnered praise from almost every corner of the fiction world, secular and religious alike. Such publicity, and its subsequent sales, would certainly prompt curious readers to pick up a Bible for some serious study, right? Well . . . maybe. Or maybe not. Before we focus on biblical fiction’s hoped-for results with readers, let’s start with the genre’s basic definition.

Biblical fiction is often described as “taking a story from the Bible and adding details to create a novel.”

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The Bible outlines the story in a few verses or pages, just waiting for the right author to flesh it out and provide that perfect spin, making an old tale fresh and intelligible to modern readers. Greed. Envy. Conspiracies. Betrayal. Spies. Kings and kingdoms. Epic end-of-the-world adventures. And the ultimate portrayal of love. The Bible covers every basic plot and emotion known to humankind. It’s an author’s Eden.

But with Eden comes temptation. All authors in all genres, secular and religious, approach their work with the longing to convey a message to their readers. Some biblical fiction authors, however, fall prey to the lure of “The Bible as I See It” syndrome. Or, worse, “The Bible as It Should Have Been.” These authors skew biblical verses to their message and/or place undue emphasis on human perspectives instead of God’s—often glorifying their characters’ transgressions and spiritual weaknesses, while excusing themselves by saying, “It’s only fiction.” The reality is that fiction can and does influence readers’ perceptions of history, faith, and morals. And when an author favors fiction above the biblical account, then the work in question becomes revisionist. Is it still biblical? Probably not.

What, then, is true biblical fiction? Most biblical fiction authors and readers insist on the definitive rule of biblical fiction being that the author must never ever deviate from the story’s biblical account. I agree—with one addendum: True biblical fiction is permeated with the Spirit of the Author of the Word. True biblical fiction authors approach biblical fiction from the perfect starting point: We Believe.

And not only do we Believe with a capital B, but also we love the source of our work, the Lord, and His Word. A few Believer’s biblical fiction works (aka apologetics) currently on the market include The Centurion’s Wife by Janette Oke and Davis Bunn, Havah by Tosca Lee, Michal by Jill Eileen Smith, and my own Genesis Trilogy.

Some readers, however, will eye even the true apologist’s biblical fiction with suspicion. I’m often asked, “How did you research this?” Immediately, I reel off my sources: books, newspapers, magazines, archeological reports, research papers, translations of ancient historical works, and countless articles from respected biblical scholars—all to reassure my worried reader that I didn’t simply fluff up their favorite biblical verses with the insubstantial stuff of my own imagination. My research is extensive, often hands-on, and exciting. Meticulous research—and plenty of prayer—allows authors to bring their biblical fiction to vivid life, allowing readers to better understand their Creator’s love, and the Bible, which is the source of their faith.

End result? Readers love the stories and are irresistibly drawn to the Lord and the Bible, which is the true goal of genuine biblical fiction.

Crown In The Stars