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  • The Bible is a collection of many books, telling one unified story from beginning to end.

  • But all those books were written in different literary styles.

  • Yeah, think of it like walking into a bookstore where every aisle has a different kind of literature.

  • There's history, or poetry, or nonfiction, and when you choose an aisle and pick up a book

  • you're gonna have very different expectations, different things that you're looking for.

  • Right, they're all literature but they communicate in really different ways.

  • Yes, and so the same thing is true for the Bible.

  • If you don't pay attention to what style it's written in, you will miss out on the brilliance of each book.

  • So, what are the main types of literature in the Bible?

  • Well first and foremost is narrative. It makes up a whopping 43% of the Bible.

  • After that is poetry, which is 33% of the Bible.

  • And then there's what you could call prose discourse, which makes up the remaining 24%.

  • Nearly half the Bible is narrative.

  • Yes, and this is no accident.

  • Stories are the most universal form of human communication.

  • Our brains are actually hardwired to take in information through stories.

  • And stories are really enjoyable. Why is that?

  • Well stories train us to make sense of the seemingly random events that happen in life

  • by taking those events and then putting them in a sequence,

  • and then together you can start to see the meaning and purpose of it all.

  • And what links this all together?

  • Well good stories always have a character who wants something and then

  • through these characters an author can explore life's big questions

  • like who are we or what's really important in life. And a good story always involves some kind of conflict;

  • some challenge to overcome just like in our own lives.

  • And that forces us to think about our own challenges,

  • why there's so much pain or disappointment in the world

  • and then what can we do about it?

  • And stories usually end with some kind of resolution giving us hope for our own stories.

  • Since these are Bible stories, are the characters showing me how I should live?

  • Yeah, that's not quite the point. Most Bible characters are deeply flawed.

  • You should not be like them. But, we are supposed to see ourselves in them which

  • helps us then see our lives and failures from a new perspective.

  • And without even realizing it these stories will start to mess with you

  • and change how you see the world, and other people, and yourself.

  • Now there are different types of narrative in the Bible.

  • Yeah, there's historical narrative, but also narrative parables, short biographical narratives like the

  • four Gospels. We'll look at all these in later videos.

  • Okay. Next up is poetry which honestly I don't read a lot of.

  • Yeah, you're like most people. But, one out of every three chapters in the Bible is poetry.

  • Yeah, why so much poetry?

  • Well poems mainly speak through

  • dense creative language, linking together images to help us envision the world differently.

  • Poems use lots of metaphor to evoke your emotion and your imagination.

  • Lots of fancy language. But wouldn't it be easier just to tell me

  • what I need to know?

  • Well think about it. In life we tend to form mental ruts

  • and we think in these familiar well-worn paths that are very hard to get out of

  • through logic or reasoning. And what good poetry does is force you off the familiar path

  • into new territory. Sneaky. And there's different types of poetry in

  • the Bible; there's lots of types of songs or psalms.

  • There's the reflective poetry of the wisdom books and then

  • the passionate resistance poetry of the prophets.

  • Okay, the last big literary type is called prose discourse,

  • and it makes up a quarter of the Bible.

  • Yeah, these are speeches, letters, or essays. And the focus here is building a sequence of ideas or thoughts

  • into one linear argument that requires a logical response like,

  • "Hey! have you thought about this thing? You should also consider how it connects to this other thing.

  • And if you do then you will see that this is the result and

  • in light of that conclusion, therefore, you should probably stop doing that one thing

  • so that this other thing will be the outcome."

  • So, you're persuading me with reason.

  • Yeah, discourse forces you to think logically and consistently and

  • then do something about it.

  • Biblical discourse is found in law collections,

  • in wisdom literature, and the letters written by the apostles.

  • Okay, so each book of the Bible has one literary style.

  • No, actually most books have a primary literary style, like narrative for example.

  • But then embedded in the narrative you'll come across poems or parables or a collection of laws.

  • Every biblical book is a unique combination of literary styles.

  • And to read that book well I need to be familiar with each literary type

  • and how it works.

  • Yeah, so you know what to pay attention to and what questions you should ask.

  • But before we look at each type there's one more unifying feature of biblical literature,

  • that's really important and really cool, and that's what we'll explore next.

  • Hey everybody. Thanks for watching this Bible Project video.

  • It's one part of a much larger series on how to read the Bible.

  • You can find more of those videos and all of our videos for free at thebibleproject.com.

  • We're a non-profit crowdfunded animation studio,

  • which means you can actually join us and help us make more videos. Again, go

  • to thebibleproject.com. And one more thing, this video is lovingly dedicated

  • to my former teacher Ray Lubeck. He first introduced me to all the ideas that we

  • explored in this video. If you want to learn more about these ideas check out

  • his book called Read the Bible for a Change by Professor Ray Lubeck. Love you Ray.

  • Thanks so much.

The Bible is a collection of many books, telling one unified story from beginning to end.

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B1 US bible literary narrative discourse literature biblical

Literary Styles in the Bible

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    April Lu posted on 2018/04/13
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