Authors’ book brings Old Testament stories back to life

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – If you think back, you might remember being told the tale of David’s triumph over Goliath as a bedtime story, or sitting rapt in Sunday school at the telling of Jonah being swallowed by a whale. How fantastic they were, these building blocks of childhood faith.
By adulthood, however, the Old Testament may fall into neglect by Christians; the stories, cliche´.
For Joe Edd Morris, Ph.D., and the Rev. Roy Ryan, the old stories are as alive as ever. In their new book, “Old Testament Stories: What Do They Say Today,” they dissect the stories of Biblical heavy hitters like Noah, Jonah and Ruth, in a search for insights into modern struggles.
“Most Christians put the Old Testament in a secondary position in favor of the New Testament,” Ryan said. “But today’s soap operas are nothing compared to the Old Testament. It is full of intrigue, romance and deception.”
In their explanations, they draw connections to other points in scripture as well as historical context. It even provides questions for further discussion at the end of each chapter, making the book adaptable to a group study format. They said readers might be surprised to find exactly how similar their own situations relate to the Old Testament.
“The story of Adam and Eve is the struggle of every couple,” Morris said. “I really tried to get beneath the emotional skin of the characters to ask ‘What are they feeling?’ and approach the situation from their point of view.”
Morris, author of the novel “Land Where My Fathers Died,” said his fiction writing drew him to the Old Testament.
“The New Testament is about ideas, but the Old Testament is about the struggles of every day people,” he said. “The classic plot for a short story starts with a character, puts that character through an event, and shows how it changes that character, and this structure shows up time and time again in the Old Testament.”
Morris and Ryan have been a team since the early 1960s. At the time, Morris was a student at Delta State and Ryan founded St. Luke Methodist Church in Cleveland. Since then, Morris said Ryan has served as a kind of mentor. For their new book, each brought his own gifts to the table.
“[Morris] has a real gift for writing,” Ryan said. “And I’ve always had a talent for putting scripture and academic writing in a way a regular person can understand.”
riley.manning@journalinc.com

To purchase the book
THE BOOK IS AVAILABLE in electronic and hard copy forms through amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
“Old Testament Stories” will also hit the shelves at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore in downtown Tupelo, where Morris and Ryan will be signing copies of the book on Feb.1 from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.