Genre – Playing by the Rules

Bible Genres
Genres in the Bible (adapted from “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Fee and Stuart).

The Bible is more of a library than a book! It contains literature of all different genres and types. Just as you wouldn’t read a novel the same way that you read your new employment contract, we can’t read every passage of scripture the same way. We need to pay attention to the genre of the passage we’re looking at and make sure we appreciate the tools that particular genre uses to communicate. One writer uses the analogy of a board game:

… there are different “game” rules involved in the interpretation of the different kinds of biblical literature. The author has played his “game,” has sought to convey his meaning, under the rules covering the particular literary form he used. Unless we know those rules, we will almost certainly misinterpret his meaning. If we interpret a parable (Luke 16:19–31) as if it were narrative, or if we interpret poetry (Judg. 5) as if it were narrative, we will err. Similarly, if we interpret a narrative such as the resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 28:1–10) as a parable, we will also err (1 Cor. 15:12–19).(1)

How do all the different Bible genres work? We’re going to explore the main ones in our next few posts. First up we’ll look at historical narratives, the main genre of the Old Testament.

(1) Thomas, Robert L., A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules, (Michigan: Baker Academic, 1994), 77