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.
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.
Christian fiction is sometimes harder to define than Christian non-fiction. Christian themes are not always explicit. There is sometimes argument as to whether the works of a Christian author are necessarily Christian fiction. For example while there are undoubted Christian themes within The Lord of the Rings, many would not consider this to be a work of Christian fiction. There are also a lot of Christian themes in Harry Potter, but many would regard this too as not being the work from a christian background.
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 and generally with explicit Christian themes. 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, Randy Alcorn 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 a 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.(Citation Needed) In the twentieth century churches, particularly evangelical churches, rediscovered the use of theatre as a form of outreach and as a valid art form.
A Greek-English Lexicon Fo the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature / Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch Zu Den Schriften Des Neuen Testaments Und Der
Jan 01, 2001; A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BALD), edited by Frederick William Danker....