This is the second instalment in a series of uncertain duration: I’m making this up as I go along, folks! The first part can be found here.
In the first post in this series, we introduced the idea that, far from being a single book, the Bible is a library of books of various types. We also began to explore the notion of truth and divine inspiration, particularly in light of some apparent inconsistencies and contradictions found in scripture. Briefly, we drew two conclusions: (i) to say that the Bible is divinely inspired cannot mean that it is in all cases literally accurate; and (ii) the kind of truth the Bible is intended to convey is not in all cases literal truth.
As promised, we’ll now go on to take a brief look at some other types of texts found in the Bible and the kinds of truths they are intended to convey.
There’s no “official” classification of literary genres in the Bible; if you do a Google search for “genres in the Bible”, you’ll come up with a whole range of proposed classifications. Wikipedia offers quite a thorough categorisation.
But let’s try to keep things simple. I’m going to pick five of the main types of literature found in the Bible, together with some thoughts on what kinds of truth they are intended to convey and, by implication, how we should read them. There are more than five genres in the Bible, but I’m limiting myself to five for the sake of space. Also bear in mind that these are just my informed thoughts; this is is not meant to be an exhaustive or authoritative analysis. Finally, I apologise if I’m teaching you to suck eggs; a basic appreciation of genre is vital to any attempt to understand the Bible, so it’s worth spending some time to lay foundations.