OT Genres


How to interpret narrative texts:

  1. identify each scene
  2. analyze the plot
  3. determine the point of view
  4. pay close attention to the details
  5. examine the voice
  6. look at the units within the scene
  7. study the stylistic devices

How to interpret historical literature:

  1. determine the scope
  2. recognize the historical record is limited
  3. look for evidence of the author’s purpose
  4. examine the implicit meaning
  5. do NOT assume that the action is a prescription of what should happen
  6. do NOT look for devotional or doctrinal content

How to interpret law books:

  1. observe the context within the canon
  2. note the style of the law
  3. examine the grammar of the law
  4. compare laws in biblical context with one another
  5. look for parallels to ancient Near Eastern literature
  6. seek to determine the meanings of words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs
  7. determine the spirit of the law


How to interpret oracles of salvation:

  1. be sensitive to the prophetic imagery
  2. relate assurance of God to prior covenants
  3. examine the dual background with regard to Israel’s exile and end times
  4. interpret the oracle from the perspective of transformation
  5. understand fulfillment of oracles as a process
  6. ask what response the prophet was eliciting
  7. look for the complete fulfillment of the oracle in the coming of Jesus

How to interpret judgement passages:

  1. see the specific situation
  2. find the failings of the people that brought the judgement
  3. notice the different responses of the people to the judgement
  4. do NOT use the judgement to get something for yourself
  5. do NOT assume that the judgement entraps God

How to interpret apocalyptic literature:

  1. compare to the apocalyptic thinking in the ancient world
  2. read in the view of content crisis
  3. expect the passage to be full metaphorical language
  4. keep all options open for how the prophecy will be fulfilled
  5. appreciate the rich symbolism of the text
  6. do NOT attempt to identify the significance of every detail
  7. do NOT look for what was not intended to be disclose


How to interpret lament:

  1. read in the historical and literary context
  2. apply the conventions of ancient semitic poetry
  3. discover the reasons for the lament
  4. explore the theological teaching of the lament
  5. reflect on the appeal to emotions and will

How to interpret praise:

  1. examine the parallel to typical Hebrew poetry
  2. allow for figurative language
  3. discover the historical occasion for the psalm
  4. identify the timeless spiritual principles that are valid for all people all time

How to interpret proverbs:

  1. accept the proverb for what it is
  2. look for verifying examples and counter-examples in other proverbs
  3. recognize the poetic ways ideas are conveyed
  4. look for pairs and strings of proverbs
  5. find evidence for the setting of the proverb
  6. examine the value of the proverb for yourself

How to interpret non-proverbial wisdom

  1. determine the poetic quality
  2. discover rhetorical features and devices
  3. identify figures of speech and extended figures of speech