Blake and the Bible


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Christopher Rowland

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The Bible was crucial for William Blake and for his poetic genius, whether as an object of criticism or as an inspiration. This book—the first substantial study of the topic in sixty years—locates Blake within the broad spectrum of Christian biblical interpretation and explores the ways in which Blake engaged with the Bible. Christopher Rowland argues that Blake's approach to the Bible was broadly consistent, even though he underwent something of a religious change in his later years. The author also shows how Blake saw himself as being in the prophetic tradition and also as somehow continuing the work of John of Patmos, author of the Book of Revelation.

Christopher Rowland is Dean Ireland Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford, and a specialist in the interpretation of the books of Ezekiel and Revelation.

“Blake and the Bible is a distinguished theologian’s idiosyncratic take on one of England’s greatest yet most subversive Christian poets….an entertaining journey.”—Shirley Dent, Times Literary Supplement

“…[Rowland] has written a study that will be indispensable for Blake scholars and illuminating for those who are at once fascinated and perplexed by Blake.”—Rt Revd Lord Harries, Church Times

"Exactly what any interested reader would want. . . . Blake and the Bible is an entertaining journey."—Shirley Dent, The Times Literary Supplement

“Most revisionist Blakes are mere costume drama, squeezing him into revolutionary uniform or San Fraciscan psychedelic bands. This one delivers him convincingly whole, in period, and aware of all periods of the Judaeo-Christian era.”—Brian Morton, The Tablet

“With a pronounced attention to detail Rowland demonstrates a perceptive understanding of Blake’s visual exegesis of the Bible, covering the poet’s relationship with biblical literature, his comprehension of scripture in light of his own idiosyncratic beliefs, and the ways in which Blake expressed these ideas through various media.”—David Jones, Theological Book Review Vol.23 No.1

“The strength of the book comes from the confident and controlled manner with which it approaches Blake’s complex and ostensibly riddling reading of scripture. Only a critic with Rowland’s vast insight into New Testament exegesis, Hebrew, Gnosticism and radical Christian writing can start to reveal the congruence between Blake’s early polemics against the Bible (The marriage of Heaven and Hell; The First Book of Urizen) and his later more obvious championing of it (Illustrations to the Book of Job; Jerusalem)—Emma Mason, Art and Christianity

“Blake and the Bible, is full and fascinating.”—Philip Pullman, The Guardian

“…[This] will become a landmark study. As one of today’s leading biblical scholars, Rowland combines acute theological perception with sustained readings of William Blake’s art that indicate his extraordinary hermeneutical achievement and significance for contemporary Christian theology.”—David Jasper, Theology

“Christopher Rowland…has given us a magnificent steer towards understanding the genius of William Blake in a way that allows him to speak to the spirit of our own age. We are greatly in his debt.”—Leslie Griffiths, Methodist Recorder

ISBN: 9780300112603
Publication Date: April 12, 2011
320 pages, 234 x 156
32 b/w + 8 color illus.