Chapter Four: Major Genres. A Way of Seeing. Chapter 4 Outline Preliminary Considerations Major Genres and Related Definitions Poetry Prose Fiction Nonfiction Genre Criticism Source Criticism and Documentary Hypothesis Narrative Stories with Structured Plots Linking Episodes
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A Way of Seeing
The HarperCollins Study Bible xxiii emphasizes an “odd concentricity” in the Bible, its tensions held in check by some common framework.
An example of this can be found in 2 Samuel 1. An Amalekite servant brings news to David of the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan. The servant then tells David that he, at Saul’s request, helped him to commit suicide. Mourning follows the news, including the traditional tearing of clothes, weeping, and fasting. The lament then occurs in 17-27.
Note: Understanding that Genesis resembles historiography should enable you to accept the genres of legend, myth, and tale without concluding that these, in some way, diminish its importance for explaining the Primeval Age or the beginning of the world’s civilizations.
You will note that from general beginnings, the Bible moves more specifically into concrete details about the lives of the patriarchs and to increasingly shorter life spans, making these stories more historical in nature.
Understanding that Genesis cannot be described as belonging to the genres of science and history as they have emerged in the modern world will also free you from troubling issues such as assigning an exact chronology to the beginning of the world and to the appearance of the first man and woman.
Accepting the Bible’s often symbolic use of numbers (seven, for example, signifying completeness and perfection) may give you another tool for understanding the six days of creation and the Sabbath.