Bible Literary Genres

When studying the Bible it is important to understand what the text actually says. Only after your have done the due diligence of exegesis can you begin to interpret biblical passages. The ultimate goal of Bible study should be life change. A common mistake by the most earnest Bible students is to confuse the grammatical-historical writing. Many stories tell us the facts of what happened, not what we should do, and some texts intentionally use figures of speech. See different biblical genres below.

Exegesis = what does the text say? (search the meaning out of the text)

Synthesis = what does it mean? (interpret what the whole of the Bible says)

Application = what should I do? (live in obedience to the Word)


Purpose of writing – to express meaning, to convey an agenda

Purpose of reading – to find meaning, to affect change


Successful interpretation requires the reader to attempt to understand the original intent of the author and the original circumstances of the audience. Be careful not to read your own cultural biases into the text. Be sure to interpret each passage as a part of the whole of the Bible. Follow the literal sense of the text, and use the grammatical-historical method. Here are some of the common types of literature in the Bible:

Narrative or History = recounting of an actual event

Didactic = direct teaching about belief or action

Parable = made-up story attempting to teach a lesson

Proverb = wise saying that helps practical day-to-day living

Psalm or Response = poetic reflection of emotional state toward God

Epistle = written from a leader to a person or group that explains doctrine

Apocalyptic = symbolic story describing cosmic struggle

Prophecy = God speaking directly in the form of rebuke, comfort, or prediction

Poetry = colorful, visual language and figures of speech to convey truth
note: Hebrew poetry most often uses parallelism (rhyming of ideas not words or sounds)




OT genres

figures of speech

application questions

context and culture bull’s eye