How was the Bible put together?
Part II of Bites on the Bible with Darrell Bock.
Darrell Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, explains the different genres found in the Bible.
DARRELL BOCK: The Bible is made up of various genres. Now, genres are different kinds of ways to communicate information, so you can have poetry, you can have history, you can have narrative, you can have explanatory epistles. Those are different genres, and the Bible is made up of a variety of genres, including law. The opening part of the Old Testament is what’s called the Torah, it’s the law by which Israel was supposed to live out in a way that was going to be distinctive from the rest of the world.
Then there come the historic genres. These genres tell the story of the history of Israel, really from the founding of the people of God, and even before some early history that pre-dates the founding of Israel, all the way through the history of the nation up to about 400BC.
And then we have, in the New Testament, the gospels, which tell the story of Jesus and are narrative basically, they’re historical narrative. We have what is a legitimisation document which is Acts – this explains what the church is and why the church exists, that even though it looks like Christianity is new, it has old roots that go way back to the promises of God.
And then you have the epistles, these are letters, written for specific occasions and usually specific problems, mostly by Paul but by also a few others of the early Christian leaders, that address certain issues that reflect what Christian faith is all about.
The book of Revelation closes the sequence – it’s called an apocalypse, it deals with the revelation of the plan of God but in very figurative, pictorial kinds of ways that require some discernment to understand. It was a way of hiding and obscuring some of the points that Christians had in a hostile environment.
And then, if you go back to the Old Testament, we have the prophets, who interact with the people of God and their faithfulness, so their walk, and in many cases, challenge them. We have the psalms, which are praises of God for the most part, either laments or celebrations of God mostly. And then we have the proverbs which are short maxims about how to live in life.
So, the Bible’s a real conglomeration of a variety of things, with each genre having a certain way it should be read, and at the same time together all telling the story about how God has approached human beings to explain the purpose of life, and why it is that he sent his son.