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While falling within the strict definition of literature, the Bible is not generally considered literature. However, the Bible has been treated and appreciated as literature; the King James Version in particular has long been considered a masterpiece of English prose, whatever may be thought of its religious significance. Several retellings of the Bible, or parts of the Bible, have also been made with the aim of emphasising its literary qualities.
Christian devotional literature
Devotionals are often used by Christians in order to help themselves grow closer in their relationship with God and learn how to put their faith into practice.
Letters, theological treatises and other instructive and devotional works have been produced by Christian authors since the times of Jesus. For early Christian times almost all writing would be non-fiction, including letters, biblical commentaries, doctrinal works and hagiography. See Patristics.
Since the invention of the printing press non-fictional literature has been used for the dissemination of the Christian message, and also for disseminating different viewpoints within Christianity. The tract (a small pamphlet containing an explanation of some point, or an appeal to the reader) was in use at the time of the Reformation and continues to be used as a part of proselytization.
Allegory is a style of literature having the form of a story, but using symbolic figures, actions, or representations to express truths—Christian truths, in the case of Christian allegory. Beginning with the parables of Jesus, there has been a long tradition of Christian allegory, including Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, and Hannah Hurnard's Hinds' Feet on High Places.
Christian fiction is sometimes harder to define than Christian non-fiction. Christian themes are not always explicit. Some Christian fiction, such as that of C. S. Lewis, draws on the allegorical writings of the past. There can also be argument as to whether the works of a Christian author are necessarily Christian fiction. For example, while there are undoubted Christian themes within J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, many might not consider this to be a work of Christian fiction. Other possible examples of Christian fiction include the works of G. K. Chesterton and George Macdonald.
In the last few decades the existence of a Christian subculture, particularly in North America, has given rise to a specific genre of Christian novel, written by and for Christians of a particular type (i.e., conservative Evangelical Protestants), and generally with explicit Christian themes. Unlike the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, such novels are often marketed exclusively to Christians and sold in Christian bookshops. The Christy Awards honour excellence in this genre.
In the late 20th century, with the rise of the Christian Right in American society, Christian-themed fiction has thrived. Examples include the works of Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins, Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, Randy Alcorn, Francine Rivers, Wayne Thomas Batson, and Janette Oke.
Within the field of Christian fiction smaller niche markets have emerged aimed at specific denominations, notably Catholic fiction and Latter Day Saints Fiction. There are also Christian fiction that is aimed at wider mainstream audiences, such as the best selling Left Behind series.
Throughout the medieval period churches in Europe frequently performed mystery plays, retelling the stories of the Bible. These became widespread in Europe by the end of the fifteenth century. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries these developed into the Morality play, an allegorical play intended to exhort the audience to the virtuous life.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries theatre was generally seen as wicked, and the church made attempts to suppress it. In the twentieth century churches, particularly evangelical churches, rediscovered the use of theatre as a form of outreach and as a valid art form.
- Psalms in the Bible (c. 1000 BC) - David
- Liber Peristephanon (c. 370) - Prudentius
- Psychomachia (c. 370) - Prudentius
- The Confessions of St. Augustine (397-398 AD) - Augustine of Hippo
- City of God (412) - Augustine of Hippo
- De spiritualis historiae gestis (c. 510) - Avitus of Vienne
- Summa Theologica (1274) - Thomas Aquinas
- The Divine Comedy (1308-1321) - Dante Alighieri
- Imitation of Christ (1418) - Thomas à Kempis
- Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536) - John Calvin
- Paradise Lost (1667) - John Milton
- Paradise Regained (1671) - John Milton
- The Pilgrim's Progress (1678) - John Bunyan
- Faust (1808) - Johann Wolfgang Goethe
- The Christian Faith (1820) - Friedrich Schleiermacher
- Cain (play) (1821) - Lord Byron
- A Christmas Carol (1843) - Charles Dickens
- The Tragedy of Man (1860) - Imre Madách
- Moses (1861) - Imre Madách
- At the Back of the North Wind (1871) - George MacDonald
- In His Steps (1896) - Charles Monroe Sheldon
- Orthodoxy (1908) - G. K. Chesterton
- Saint Francis of Assisi (1923) - G. K. Chesterton
- Joseph and His Brothers (1933 - 1943) - Thomas Mann
- The Screwtape Letters (1942) - C. S. Lewis
- The Robe (1942) - Lloyd C. Douglas
- The Great Divorce (1945) - C. S. Lewis
- The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956) - C. S. Lewis
- Hinds' Feet on High Places (1955) - Hannah Hurnard
- The Cross and the Switchblade (1962) - David Wilkerson
- The God Who Is There - Francis Schaeffer
- A Christian Manifesto (1981) - Francis Schaeffer
- How Now Shall We Live (1999) - Charles Colson
- American Catholic literature
- CLC International
- Evangelical Christian Publishers Association
- Matthias Media
- The Good Book Company
- Tyndale House
- Eerdmans Publishing
- Matthew T. Dickerson, Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in The Lord of the Rings, Brazos Press, 2003,
Matirxmoments Modern Christian Poetry
- Brown, Candy G. (2004). The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789-1880. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 352 pages. ISBN 0-8078-2838-6
- Nord, David P. (2004). Faith in Reading: Religious Publishing and the Birth of Mass Media in America. New York: Oxford University Press (USA). 222 pages. ISBN 0-19-517311-2
- O'Connor, Leo, F. (1984). Religion in the American Novel. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. ISBN 0-8191-3683-2
- Reynolds, David S. (1981). Faith in Fiction: The Emergence of Religious Literature in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 280 pages. ISBN 0-674-29172-7