Different literary genres in the bible

This clip was taken from our Hermeneutics class. Last week, we talked about the importance of the literary context and how it helps determine interpretation. This week we will be talking about biblical genres and common literary devices. Also, k eep in mind that no division of Scripture is just one genre. Many times a mixture of biblical genres will be combined in one book.

Below is a brief description of each of the basic biblical genres, as well as a few basic literary devices commonly found in Scripture. Narrative is found interspersed throughout the Old Testament. It is the story form of literature. They do no build complex grammatical arguments, but rather use images to convey their meanings.

They paint colorful pictures with words to convey messages loaded with emotional impact. It simply means that they focus on emotional aspects more than on logical aspects.

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They also contain visions from God as wells as short narrative sections and symbolic acts. Joel, Micah, and Zechariah are much smaller books, and are a few of the Minor Prophets. He wrote Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and much of Proverbs.

The book of Job is also included in the wisdom genre, although its author is unknown. The writers of these books either were or knew the disciples who literally saw the good news! A large portion of the New Testament is comprised of letters, written by early church leaders to different specific believers or groups of believers.

These letters contained everything from greetings, encouragement and warnings, to instructions and expressions of thanks and affection, depending on the situation and purpose of the letter. Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Titus are just a few of these. Often irony is used to suggest the stark contrast of the literal meaning being put forth. The deeper, real layer of significance is revealed not by the words themselves but the situation and the context in which they are placed.

Foreshadowing is used to suggest an upcoming outcome to the story.

Biblical Genres

Much of this foreshadowing is in reference to the coming of Christ. A metaphor refers to a meaning or identity ascribed to one subject by way of another. In a metaphor, one subject is implied to be another so as to draw a comparison between their similarities and shared traits. The first subject, which is the focus of the sentences is usually compared to the second subject, which is used to convey a degree of meaning that is used to characterize the first.

The purpose of using a metaphor is to take an identity or concept that we understand clearly second subject and use it to better understand the lesser known element the first subject. By using similes a greater degree of meaning and understanding is attached to an otherwise simple sentence. The reader is able to better understand the sentiment the author wishes to convey.

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Isaiah compares the Israelites to sheep and says they are like them because sheep have a reputation for wandering, just as the people strayed away from the Lord. It refers to the practice of attaching human traits and characteristics with inanimate objects, phenomena and animals.To see all the affiliate-linked books in one place, please check out my recommended reading list. Knowing what kind of literature you are reading helps you to understand and make sense of the text you are reading.

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When reading a book of the Bible, we need to understand why the author has written this. Is it written for a particular purpose or audience? However, you can also research this online. What are the different types of literary genres in the Bible and how should we read them? The Bible contains narrative throughout most of its books.

These report accounts or stories of events or people as they encounter God, sin against each other or live out their lives. It records historical accounts of events as well as providing descriptions of what is happening in particular scenes. Narrative is relatively straight forward to read.

different literary genres in the bible

This is a distinct pattern that occurs time and time again. These take the forms of detailed commands and prescriptions on how to live. In Leviticus, it really gets down to the nitty gritty. Some of these might not even seem relevant to readers of the Bible today but written for a specific time and audience. This is one of the questions we must ask when reading the law.

Does the writer intend for it to be universally applicable or simply for a particular audience? The Old Testament is full of historical narrative. Genesis and Exodus which describe the beginnings of the people of Israel, their exile in the land of Egypt and Moses giving them the law. You can see a distinct difference between books like Exodus, which largely relates events, and Leviticus, which mostly lays out prescriptions.

Another common feature is genealogies which are long lists of people with unusual names, all forming a long line of descendants. The Bible contains poetic literature, often found in the Old Testament in the form of Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry employs various devices to get their point across. These include books like Psalms which are essentially a bunch of songs and the Song of Solomon which is almost like a collection of love letters where two people are expressing their feelings for one another.

There are also parts of other books of the Bible which include poetic elements such as in Isaiah or Jeremiah. This includes books like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job. Proverbs comprises of many wise sayings that offer advice for different types of situations. With books like Ecclesiastes and Job, we need to understand who is speaking or expressing their views. The protagonists are not necessarily always correct in what they are thinking. For example, Job is often in despair and in anguish about his situation.

As such, we need to bear this in mind in his tone and content. Ecclesiastes offers a philosophical introspection and contemplation of life. That means that when we read these books, we need to take this into account, otherwise we can simply adopt the wrong conclusions about life or about what is truth. The characters here are offering differing or opposing points of views.

This acts as a literary device to contrast it with the truth that underlies it all.

Biblical genre

Prophecy in the Bible often takes the form of oracles or visions. In these, the prophet reveals hidden knowledge of God and his plans. Prophecy appears in many books of the Old Testament. However, there is also prophecy in the New Testament such as Revelation.

This actually belongs in a special category of prophecy known as Apocalypse.Question: "What are the different forms of biblical literature? The Bible contains historical literature 1 and 2 Kingsdramatic literature Joblegal documents much of Exodus and Deuteronomysong lyrics The Song of Solomon and Psalmspoetry most of Isaiahwisdom literature Proverbs and Ecclesiastesapocalyptic literature Revelation and parts of Danielshort story Ruthsermons as recorded in Actsspeeches and proclamations like those of King Nebuchadnezzar in Danielprayers many Psalmsparables such as those Jesus toldfables such as Jotham toldand epistles Ephesians and Romans.

The different genres can overlap. Many of the psalms, for example, are also prayers. Some of the epistles contain poetry. Each type of literature has unique characteristics and should be approached with due consideration.

Interpreting poetry, with its reliance on metaphor and other poetic devices, is different from interpreting historical narrative. Please see our article on interpreting genres. God put the mark of His authorship on each of the 66 books of the Bible, no matter what the literary genre.

Because mankind has the ability to understand and appreciate various forms of literature, God used many genres to communicate His Word. The reader of the Bible will discover a common purpose that unifies the parts of the collection.

different literary genres in the bible

He will discover motifs, foreshadowing, repeated themes, and recurring characters. Share this page on:. Find Out How to All rights reserved. Privacy Policy This page last updated: January 2, I always wanted to read more than I wanted air! My mother showed me that reading could transport me wherever I wanted to go, show me worlds I would never see, and introduce me to people who were long gone, but still worth knowing.

She painted word pictures with her voice. Together we discovered stories could be told in many different ways. As a craftsman uses different tools for each part of a project, storytellers often use different kinds of literature to share stories.

God authored the Bible to share His story and help us understand who He is. When God set Israel apart as His people, He gave them commands for how to live, worship, and govern. You might hate reading that stuff in Leviticus about icky skin conditions, but as we read, we can be thankful that Jesus has rescued us from them!

Historical literature relates actual events.

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Throughout the Bible, God has recorded history through His messengers. He wants us to know the who, what, when, why, and how of His people. Reading these stories gives us hope. Poetry may seem dry as dirt in a drought. In Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, we are front and center observing the spiritual life of each writer. God chose to speak warning and make promises to His people through His prophets.

Because we have the benefit of Old and New Testaments, we know the prophecies came true.

different literary genres in the bible

Fulfilled prophecy helps us believe God can be trusted today because He has always been faithful to keep every promise. Remember those boring, unpronounceable lists of biblical names who begat, or were the son of?

You may be tempted to skip them as I have. Genealogies also show the importance of Jesus to that history, proving He was both human and divine. Try reading Luke with the Star Wars Imperial March in the background, and a drum roll toward the end. The genealogies of mankind in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 are God's proof that He authored His family story.

Probably the easiest to read, narratives are woven throughout the Bible in most every book. They simply tell stories of countless, ordinary people doing wonderfully extraordinary things for God. But in each one, we discover they are real people —flawed and sinful people — just like us! This is who I am and will always be. And I love you! Need help getting started reading the Bible? Find Bible reading plans and devotional guides here.

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different literary genres in the bible

The Holy Spirit fell as tongues of fire on the early church in Acts 2. How does the Holy Spirit empower us as How does the Holy Spirit empower us as the church today? We are all looking for something to set our hearts on fire. We were made to burn as a living sacrifice. Watch Sermon. How does our posture relate to the presence of Go How does our posture relate to the presence of God in our lives?

The presence of God appeared to Abraham in Genesis to make a covenant with him.If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.

Later today I will go to my mailbox, remove its contents, go into the kitchen, and sort the mail. I will be able to tell from the size, packaging, and addresses on the mail which pieces are advertising, bills, and personal mail. This sorting into types helps me discern the value of the different pieces. There is a large bookstore I frequently visit.

I know just where to find histories and biographies, novels and picture books, technical manuals and reference works. Knowing the different genres and where to find them helps me gain what I am looking for. And when I open the Bible, I know from having studied it for decades whether I am reading a gospel passage, a prophecy, a Psalm, or an epistle.

I do not expect Isaiah to lay out the details of the history of Israel as do the books of Kings and Chronicles. One of the most powerful and complex features of the Bible is that it consists of many different types, or genres, of texts. This includes books of the Bible or sections of books which simply tell the story of what happened. Exodus is an expansive, epic narrative.

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Ruth focusses on the story of one family. Acts tells the spectacular events of the first generation of Christians, as they were led and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Narrative tells us what happened, according to the purposes of the author. This is all of Psalms and sections of other books. Also, ideas are repeated, sometimes with the same words, other times with synonyms synonymous parallelism.

The Psalms and other poetic sections of the Bible communicate ideas, but they especially express emotion. They show life in its fullness. Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes are collections of wise sayings meant to shape the moral and ethical lives of their readers. They cover many practical topics. They are mostly oracles, later written down. We gain spiritual lessons from them about the disposition of God e. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are similar to the genres of narrative or biography, but they are more than these.

The Gospels are proclamation. The people who wrote them were true believers relating first-hand accounts about the life and teachings of Jesus. And so we read the genre of Gospel as faith documents, announcing a world-changing event centered in the person of Jesus.We are a non-profit creating videos that walk through the narrative of the Bible. We do this book-by-book and theme-by-theme.

We post fresh topics every Monday on our category pages. Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get our featured topics delivered to your inbox every Monday morning. Browse our series library to find just what you need for your next small group meeting or mentoring relationship.

Simplify discipleship for families and small groups with a Pursue GOD partner page. Literary Styles in the Bible.

The Bible contains many different books telling many smaller stories that all tie together into one larger story. Initial reactions to this topic?

What jumped out at you? Share an example or story if you have one. Give an example of how context helped you understand a confusing Bible passage, or how context changed a view you previously held.

How have you seen people break out of vicious cycles or pointless ruts? Next Creating Boundaries with Your Teens. About The Author. The Bible Project We are a non-profit creating videos that walk through the narrative of the Bible. Search for:. Featured This Week We post fresh topics every Monday on our category pages. Email Newsletter Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get our featured topics delivered to your inbox every Monday morning. Find a Series Browse our series library to find just what you need for your next small group meeting or mentoring relationship.

From Our Podcasts. PG Worship Listen to our favorite new songs on Spotify.Question: "How should the different genres of the Bible impact how we interpret the Bible? Literature comes in different genres, or categories based on style, and each is read and appreciated differently from another. For example, to confuse a work of science fiction with a medical textbook would cause many problems—they must be understood differently.

And both science fiction and a medical text must be understood differently from poetry. Therefore, accurate exegesis and interpretation takes into consideration the purpose and style of a given book or passage of Scripture.

In addition, some verses are meant figuratively, and proper discernment of these is enhanced by an understanding of genre. An inability to identify genre can lead to serious misunderstanding of Scripture. The main genres found in the Bible are these: law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, epistles, prophecy and apocalyptic literature. The summary below shows the differences between each genre and how each should be interpreted: Law: This includes the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

Knowledge of Hebrew manners and customs of the time, as well as a knowledge of the covenants, will complement a reading of this material. History: Stories and epics from the Bible are included in this genre. Knowledge of secular history is crucial, as it dovetails perfectly with biblical history and makes interpretation much more robust.

Wisdom: This is the genre of aphorisms that teach the meaning of life and how to live. Some of the language used in wisdom literature is metaphorical and poetic, and this should be taken into account during analysis. Included are the books of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes. Poetry: These include books of rhythmic prose, parallelismand metaphor, such as Song of Solomon, Lamentations and Psalms.

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Nevertheless, we find a similar use of idiom, comparison and refrain in this genre as we find in modern music. Narrative: This genre includes the Gospels, which are biographical narratives about Jesus, and the books of Ruth, Esther, and Jonah.

HOW TO INTERPRET SCRIPTURE - Hermeneutics, Exegesis, and Eisegesis - Understanding The Bible EP 01

A reader may find bits of other genres within the Gospels, such as parable Luke and discourse Matthew The book of Ruth is a perfect example of a well-crafted short story, amazing in its succinctness and structure. Epistles: An epistle is a letter, usually in a formal style.

There are 21 letters in the New Testament from the apostles to various churches or individuals. These letters have a style very similar to modern letters, with an opening, a greeting, a body, and a closing.

The content of the Epistles involves clarification of prior teaching, rebuke, explanation, correction of false teaching and a deeper dive into the teachings of Jesus. The reader would do well to understand the cultural, historical and social situation of the original recipients in order to get the most out of an analysis of these books. Apocalyptic literature is a specific form of prophecy, largely involving symbols and imagery and predicting disaster and destruction.


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