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Bible Studies

Outlining the different Genres types of Literature

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
The Bible is not one book it is a ibrary of sixty-six books that were written over a period of more than a 1,500 years by many different authors. These authors were inspired in their thinking and writing by the Holy Spirit Thus the Bible is the inspired Word of God without error. It also has the human touch from its authors. Paul is different than David, who is different than James or Moses. So there style and personality comes out to us. These create the marvelous depth and wonder of Scripture and of how God chooses to use us when...

Outlining the different Genres types of Literature

By Richard Krejcir
 
The Bible is not one book; it is a library of sixty-six books that were written..

Be aware of the different 'Genres'[types of literature such as poetry verse narrative] of Scripture.

The Bible is not one "book"; it is a "library" of sixty-six books that were written over a period of more than a 1,500 years by many different authors.

These authors were "inspired" in their thinking and writing by the Holy Spirit Thus the Bible is the inspired Word of God without error. It also has the human "touch" from its authors. Paul is different than David, who is different than James or Moses. So they're "style and personality comes out to us. These create the marvelous depth and wonder of Scripture and of how God chooses to use us when He does not need too.

The Bible is Literature, as is any book filled with language. It has: Law, History, Wisdom, Poetry, Gospel, Epistles, Prophecy, and Apocalyptic Literature.

Law is "God's law"; they are the expressions of His sovereign will and Character. The writings of Moses contain a lot of Law. God provided the Jews with many laws {619 or so}. These laws defined the proper relationship with God and to each other and to the world {the alien}: As well as worshipping God, governing the people, priestly duties, what to eat and not eat, how to build the temple, proper behavior, manners, and social interaction, etc. The Ten Commandments is often known as "The Law", so are Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In the NT the Sermon on the Mount is considered law and the fulfillment of the law, and Paul's "calls" to the church are law in there literature form.

Most Christians have a distorted view of the law and think it does not apply to us. Jesus repeated and affirmed the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses. The law points to our depravity and need for a Savior. Without the law there would be no relationship to God or need for Christ to save us. Christ fulfills the law and thus we are not bound to its curse, but we must acknowledge its role in our lives at the pointer to the Cross, and the mirror to our soul.

History- Narrative.

Almost every OT book contains history. Some books of the Bible are grouped together and commonly referred to as the "History" {Joshua, Kings & Chronicles} these books tell us the history of the Jewish people from the time of the Judges through the Persian Empire. In the NT, Acts contains some of the history of the early church, and the Gospels also have History, Jesus life is told as History. Even the Epistles have history as they chronicle events.

In outlining these first two types is easy, just outline as you would any text. They breakdown in a logical and sequential order, mostly.

Wisdom Literature

is focus on questions about the meaning of life {Job, Ecclesiastes} and also on practical living and common since {Proverbs and some Psalms }. This literature contrasts our faulty human wisdom to Gods reasoning perfection. Thus when we live to our own will and not His, we will experience grief and frustration, not because God is vengeful and angry, because we led ourselves that way out of our pride and arrogance. This literature warns us of our evil nature and desires.

Poetry

is found mostly in the Old Testament and is similar to modern poetry. Since it is a different language, "Hebrew" the Bibles poetry can be very different, because it does not translate into English very well. Poetry that we are used to is usually based on "rhythm" or various types of sound mixings such as our music. Hebrew poetry is based on "rhythm" of stanzas and phrases re-told differently, conveying the same ideas and meaning. Some Bible books are all poetry {Psalms, Song of Songs, and Lamentations}, and some Books only have a few verses such as in Luke.

In outlining Hebrew Wisdom and Poetry, you need to know a lot of its power and meaning has become lost in the translation to English. In the Original language it rhymes, is a song, it is funny, and it is powerfully compelling. So in English we are left with it being 'figurative,' that it is communicating a word picture of what it is saying, that we have to research and discover what was the plain meaning when it was written.

Poetry also is repetitive and parallels ideas and/or contrasts them. There are three major types of Hebrew poetry:

1. Synonymous Parallelism:This type repeats phrases and ideas to convey its message more powerfully. So the idea is expressed two or more times in a simular way.

For example:

Psalm 5:1-2

  • Give ear to my words, O LORD,
  • consider my sighing.
  • Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.

Vs. 3

  • In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
  • In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

Each of these stanzas is an idea expressed in the same though in a different way.

2. Synthetic Parallelism:In this type of poem, the writer is adding further exclamation to convey their idea. So each stanza is adding to the point.

For Example

Psalm 1:1

Blessed is the man who does not

  • walk in the counsel of the wicked
  • or stand in the way of sinners
  • or sit in the seat of mockers.

Psalm 5: 8-9

  • Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies--
  • make straight your way before me.
  • Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
  • their heart is filled with destruction.
  • Their throat is an open grave;
  • with their tongue they speak deceit.

These rhymes lead to a conclusion: vs. 10

  • Declare them guilty, O God!
  • Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.

3. Antithetic Parallelism: This form contrasts the idea with the opposite or with another. The first stanza may be a positive statement and the second is a negative. This is very common in Proverbs.

For Example

Prov. 10:1-8

The proverbs of Solomon:

  • A wise son brings joy to his father,
  • but a foolish son grief to his mother.

 

  • Ill-gotten treasures are of no value,
  • but righteousness delivers from death.

The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

  • Lazy hands make a man poor,
  • but diligent hands bring wealth.

 

  • He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son,
  • but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.

 

  • Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
  • but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.

 

  • The memory of the righteous will be a blessing,
  • but the name of the wicked will rot.

 

  • The wise in heart accept commands,
  • but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

Gospel

means the "good news" that we received through salvation by the work and life of God's Son, Jesus Christ. When the Gospels were first written in the first century, it was a brand new form of literature. The four Gospels {Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John} contain a bit of all the literary types with the primary purpose to express faith in Christ and what He has done on our behalf. Each of the gospels presents the teachings, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus in a distinctive way, but not contradictory for a specific audience. Matthew was written to Jews, Luke to the Greeks, both with different ways of reasoning and thinking. Think of the Gospels like the facets of a diamond, giving more depth and meaning.

Gospels follow a simular outlining to narrative, yet have aspects of all the genres. The biggest difference is in the Parables. There are 4 essential guidelines to understanding Parables:

1. Be aware of the context!

a. Why is Jesus telling this Parable?

b. Is there an explanation to it, such as with the Parable of the Sower?

2. What are the essential points?

a. The Parables are usually figurative, so what is it about?

3. Are there additional supporting ideas?

a. Such as details that are relevant and support the point[s]?

b. Is there more than one point? Such as the Parable of the Prodigal Son where the brother is an essential point that most people miss!

4. Is there irrelevant information?

a. Such as details that do not relate to the central point.

 

Prophecy

is the type of literature that is often associated with predicting the future; However, it is also God's words of "get with it" or else. Thus Prophecy also exposes sin and calls for repentance and obedience. It shows how God's law can be applied to specific problems and situations, such as the repeated warnings to the Jews before their captivity. This is found in the OT books of Isaiah through Malachi, the section of the Bible labeled "Prophecy" by both Jews and Christians. There are over 2000 predictions that have already specify have come to pass, hundreds of years after the authors death!

In the NT, Prophecy is mainly found in the book of Revelation. Prophecy has both an immediate call to a given situation, such as the "seven churches of Revelation", and a predated future to come pass. That is it has two folds, a past and a future; both applying to the present. Some predictions are already fulfilled, such as with the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and some is yet to come to pass such as sections of Daniel and Revelations and the return of Christ.

Apocalyptic Writing

is a more specific form of Prophecy. Apocalyptic writing is a type of literature that warns us of future events which full meaning is hidden to us for the time being. Apocalyptic writing is almost a "secret" giving us glimpses through the use of symbols and imagery of what is to come. We may not know the meanings now, but time will flush it out. Apocalyptic writing is found in Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Revelation.

Warning, a lot of Christian writers love to embellish on this subject and give there own version of what will happen. But the scores of books that have been written in the last hundred years have not paned out in their theories. It is "their" theories not based on fact or careful study of Scripture. The Bible clearly tells us we do not have access to that information, no one will know the time...

In outlining Prophecy you need to be aware of two essential forms of language:

1. Literal [Didactic]:This has a simple and direct meaning, such as what it says is what it means.

a. Interpret this form as it lays. It has a plain meaning. Zechariah 7 is a good example, as is a lot of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

b. This form deals with ethical and moral truths, such as Zechariah, yet it does have some 'Figurative' stuff mixed in it too.

c. Always view prophesy first with the attitude that it has a plane meaning, until you have clear and compelling reasons to place it in the figurative category. Don't jump to conclusions or read in what is not there!

d. I f you get frustrated with it, put it aside. Most Bible scholars debate the meaning, so it is improvable that you will have a clear insight. Some people are not ready or able to comprehend this part of the Bible, if so that is OK! Focus on the parts of Scripture that is crystal clear, the other 95%!

2. 'Figurative' [Predictive]:This is the category that most of prophecy falls in. Your task is to determine the points and ideas that apply today and point to tomorrow. The goal is that it will happen in a point of history, and comr to pass in a literal and plan way. We may not understand it until it is right on top of us. Prophecy contains past, present and future events. Such as the many prophecies concerning Jesus that already have been fulfilled. And parts of Daniel and Revelations that will yet come to pass. Prophecy may not follow a clear logical and systematic pattern. It jumps from thought to idea to another point and so forth. It also may jump over large periods of time too.

Daniel 7-12; Joel 2; Isaiah 11; and Zech. 4 are clear examples of figurative language.

In John 2 Jesus predicts the destruction of His body, but His hearers thought it was the Temple in Jerusalem.

Some of the langue is word pictures that the writer is trying to describe in their language and culture as well as technology, such as Dan.7 and parts of Revelations. For example how would you describe a helicopter if you never heard of or seen one?

 

28% of the OT is Prophecy, most of which has come to pass. The NT has over 20% Prophecy, of which most has not come to pass. Thus Prophecy is important, because God has dedicated a significant portion of His Word to it. Again do not read in what is not there!


© 1985, 1989, 1998 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

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