It’s All About Genre!

“To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to “literary forms.” Dei Verbum (Latin: The Word of God)

The Bible contains different types of writing including history, songs, letters, biographies, poetry, legal documents and parables.

You don’t read a car manual the same way you read a novel, and you don’t read a cookbook the same way you read a poem. So it helps to know what genre you’re reading. This is where interpretation comes in.

Types of writing in the Bible include…

Historical Narrative

e.g. Genesis, parts of Exodus, Kings
These books tell the story of a specific time or set of events. People in ancient times may have been less concerned than modern readers are with historical accuracy, and sometimes there is a poetic or deeper meaning to the story.


e.g. Parts of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy
These books were written to show the people of Israel
how to relate to God and other people. Worship was to be
at the centre of life for the Israelites and these books provided rules to ensure every part of their life revolved around their Creator.


e.g. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel
These books comment on the political and religious situation of the day, and occasionally predict events. They’re not like normal ‘news reports’ as they often use striking imagery, poetic language and weird visions.


Parts of Daniel and Revelation
These poetic prophetic writings reveal things that have not been previously known. They often predict events still in the future at the time of writing.


Psalms, Song of Songs, Lamentations
Some of the poetry writings were originally songs sung to God. Others use poetic language to describe emotions like love, joy, hope, peace, pain, anger, fear, loneliness, grief and everything in between. They are our permission slip to be real with God.


Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes
Wisdom books give insights on trusting God, on times
of joy and sadness, as well as on human nature.


Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
The four Gospels are accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The ‘gospel’, meaning ‘good news’, refers to
the teaching of Jesus about God and his Kingdom.


e.g. Romans, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 1 John
Most of the letters in the New Testament were written to groups of Christians in different areas. They were read out at gatherings, and deal with issues of belief, behaviour and disagreements in the local churches.