Archive for October 28th, 2011


I.Genres are not inspired, but God uses genres

a. When God inspired the authors of the Bible, the human writers used literary forms which the original audience was familiar with.

i.      If God used it in communicating to us His revelation then we best understand His revelation if we get to understand those genre

1. This is why historical understanding of the context (original audience, time period, and contemporary literary forms) is important.

ii.      “God does speak to us in the Bible, but he speaks to us through the original context of another group of people.  This is a very crucial distinction.”[1]

b. Like grammar and words, genre are not inspired in itself but they are important in interpretation.

i.      Just as word studies and knowing grammatical rules have their place in proper interpretation, so also understanding genres.

ii.      Christians in general are not skeptical of word studies and grammar but rather found them helpful, the same should be true concerning genre.

II. Interpretation does require more than words and grammar

a. Read Hebrews 1:1. God has spoken through various ways.

b. Sometimes meaning is determined by the context at the level of literary forms and not just the words and grammar by themselves.

i.      Example #1: “It is hot.”

1. Grammatically, one may know that:

a. “It”= Pronoun; Subject

b. “Is”= verb

c. Hot= Adjective

2. However, just knowing the grammar is not enough; identifying the literary genre would help determine its meaning.

a. If the sentence is found in the weather section of the newspaper, it is talking about temperature.

b. If the sentence is found in the fashion section of the newspaper, then it is talking about aesthetics.

c. If the sentence is found in the world report section of the newspaper, it might mean the circumstance is getting tense.

ii.      Example #2: Does the Bible teach that a wife is a garden?

1. Song of Songs 4:15.

a. Does a wife have flowing water from Lebanon?

b. Does she bare pomegranates, henna and nard (v. 14)?

c. Knowing where this passage comes from and its literary genre would make the reader aware that there is poetry going on here rather than a wife being a literal garden where one has to maintain by buying fertilizer.

III.  An illustration of the importance of knowing literary forms[2]

Think of understanding the various literary forms as filling your tool belt with various kinds of tool.  When you arrive at different texts with different literary forms, an understanding of the text’s literary form would help you in getting out its meaning faithfully and accurately.

[1] Walter B. Russell III, “Literary Forms in the hands of preachers and teachers,” Cracking Old Testament Codes, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers), 283.

[2] This illustration comes from the book, Cracking Old Testament Codes.


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