What is the best way to get a good understanding of the literary forms of the Bible?

Think of the Bible as a library. The books are all quite different, even though they are a whole with a single unifying message. Numbers reads very differently to Jude; Psalms are so different to the letters of Paul! Each literary form is different.

If you walked into a library and browsed the stacks, you would find all kinds of literature. Each must be read in a different way. The guidelines for reading science are not the same as those for reading novels. Reference works are quite different to newspapers.

As I write this reply, I am sitting not in a library but in the café of Borders Books and Music. From my seat, I can see a number of signs ("Cooking," "World Travel," "Social Science"...). If I were to get up and read specimens from each section the same way--same speed, same questions in mind, same expectations--I would either become terribly disappointed or terribly confused.

Let me recommend Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. This is a book you should definitely read, and read straight through. You may also want to get hold of a copy of their more recent reference work How to Read the Bible Book by Book.

This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only. © 2003. Reprints or public distribution is prohibited without the express consent of Douglas Jacoby.