Frank G(ill) Slaughter Edward Wagenknecht - Essay

Edward Wagenknecht

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Frank G. Slaughter's "The Land and the Promise" comprises paraphrases of both Old and New Testament stories for adult readers, recognizing frankly, I suppose that in these days of religious illiteracy, there are a great many people who either cannot or will not read the Bible at first hand.

Nobody can retell a story and exclude all elements of interpretation, but Dr. Slaughter certainly keeps interpretation to a minimum. He gives a good deal of background material, describing the Egyptian method of reaping, for example, in the Joseph story. Occasionally he reminds us he is a popular novelist, as when he begins the story of Paul's experience on the way to Damascus by writing: "The small caravan plodding along the road to Damascus was grateful for the coolness of the air in the highlands north of the Sea of Galilee."

On the other hand, there is never, even by implication, any indication of critical problems. In his New Testament paraphrases, Dr. Slaughter takes such miracles as the feeding of the five thousand and the walking on the water quite in his stride. Even in his Old Testament stories he raises no troublesome questions about such matters as the morality of Joseph's changing of land tenure in Egypt. Nor is there any indication that the conflict between Elijah and Jezebel was a war of cultures as well as individuals or that it was anything, but a clear case of black confronting white.

Edward Wagenknecht, "Old Tales Newly Told," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1960 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 18, 1960, p. 12.