- Preaching the Living WORD through the Written WORD - 2 Tim 4;:2 -
DISTINCTIONS OF GENRES OF THE BIBLE
Grace Bible Church, Gillette, Wyoming
Pastor Daryl Hilbert
I. DEFINITION OF GENRE
A. Genre [zhahn-ruh] is a French word that means kind, sort, or type.
B. Genre is a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content. (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary)
C. Genres of the Bible are the distinctive styles of writing or literature used by the authors of Scripture.
II. EXPLANATION OF GENRES OF THE BIBLE
A. First, we must realize that when we speak of genres or different types of literature in the Bible we are not denying the inspiration of Scripture.
1. The inspiration of Scripture means that the Bible is God’s Word. In 2Ti 3:16, we learn that everything in the Bible is “God-breathed” (theopneustos, theo - God & pneustos - from pneō means blow or breathe). What this means is that Scripture originated from God.
2. So then, does God Himself use different types of genres in communication? The answer is “yes” specifically because He desires to communicate with mankind. God, who created man in His own image, gave man a rational mind, will, speech, language, and the ability to communicate experience, emotion, knowledge, and truth.
3. 2Pe 1:20-21 teaches that though man is not the origin of Scripture, God used his language and situations as a vehicle to carry His truth.
a) … God gave man language for the purpose of being able to communicate with him. God created man in His image, which included the power of speech, in order that God might reveal His truth to man and that man might in turn offer worship and prayer to God. (Ryrie, Basic Theology, pg. 128)
B. Looking at the Bible from a literary aspect does not deny the inspiration of Scripture, but becomes a vital prerequisite for understanding God’s means of communication.
1. It is hard to find a page in the Bible that does not make at least some use of the resources of language that are distinctly literary. (ibid, pg. 28)
2. Jehovah has been pleased to give us the revelation of His mind and will in words. It is therefore absolutely necessary that we should understand not merely the meanings of the words themselves, but also the laws which govern their usage and combinations. (Bullinger, E. W. (1898). Figures of Speech used in the Bible, electron. ed.)
III. DIFFERENT GENRES OF THE BIBLE
A. What are some of the different genres used in the Bible? Many categories, variations, and titles describe the different genres in literature and the Bible. Though we may not also be able to decipher them by name, it is readily easy to recognize that differing styles and figures of speech are being used.
1. Similarly, one finds that the major genres represented in the Bible are familiar to all students of English and other world literatures. Prose and poetry, narrative, history, drama, parable, symbolism, allegory (used comparatively rarely in the Bible), aphorism, epic, debate (in the literary sense of débat [dee'-bah]--Job may be said to have initiated the form in world literature), and exposition--all of these, plus a few others, are found in distinguished form in the Bible. It is, indeed, essential to a proper interpretation of a particular portion of Scripture to be aware of the form used at that point. (Linton, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol 1, elect. ed.)
B. The following are some of the basic types of genres in the Bible:
a) A narrative is a style in which a story is prominent and its structure is conveyed by setting, characters, plot, and theme.
b) Much of the Bible is written with a narrative or story genre though it certainly does not mean it is fictional (imagination or untrue).
c) In fact, much of the Bible, the Gospels, and even the Historical sections are included in a narrative genre because of human experience and biography.
d) Some of the main books that contain narrative would be Genesis through Nehemiah, Gospels, and Acts.
e) Jn 9:1-41 is an example of narrative that includes setting, characters, and plot, to highlight emphatically a spiritual theme.
a) Poetry is a style that is intended to be lyric (songlike) and therefore is rich with encomium (praise) as well as divine wisdom.
b) Much of the “Psalms” (sacred songs or hymns) are joyously lyrical and heavily metaphorical and filled with literary devices such as parallelisms and metaphors.
c) Some of the poetical books in the Bible are called “Wisdom Literature” because of the proverbial style of communicating truisms.
d) Practically all of the books of the Bible contain some style of poetry but the main poetical books would include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
e) Pr 8:1-9 is a poetical section that uses personification, parallelisms, and imagery.
a) Parable is a style similar to narrative only shorter and utilizes common everyday imagery to teach moral lessons. Parable is a transliteration from the Greek word parabolế and literally means to throw (bollō) alongside (para). A parable then means to throw a common image alongside a spiritual truth.
b) On one hand, the imagery of everyday life makes it easy for the common man to grasp the illustrations.
c) On the other hand, sometimes the moral meanings can only be interpreted by those with who are spiritually regenerated and have spiritual insight (Mt 13:10-15).
d) Parabolic language is found in most books but especially the Gospels of Jesus, historical writing, and certain prophetic sections in the Bible.
e) 2Sa 12:1-13 illustrates the dynamic influence of everyday imagery to evoke emotions from a moral lesson.
a) Visionary is a style that is exceedingly symbolic with vivid imagery often concerning future events and sometimes of global proportion.
b) It would especially include prophetic writings of persons (Jesus Christ, Israel etc.) or events (Christ’s 1st and 2nd Advents, Millennium etc.).
c) It frequently projects apocalyptic warnings, promises, purposes, and can include cataclysmic events on a cosmic level.
d) Most visionary genre is contained in the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, and Nahum. It would most certainly include the book of Revelation.
e) An example of prophetic and visionary symbolism is found in Re 19:11-21. Even though this section is symbolic visionary, it is prophesying a literal future event known as, “the Second Coming of Christ” (cp. Ze 14:1-4).
a) Epistolary is a style in which a letter is written by a specific person to specific readers. It is personal, informational, and didactic, though literary devices are commonly used.
b) This form can be highly instructional, doctrinal, and theological, while being personal and implicational.
c) Most of the NT was written in epistolary form such as Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1,2 & 3 John, and Jude.
d) Most epistolary forms begin with a greeting consistent with that day, a personal and didactic body, and ends with a benediction or salutation.