To better understand the Bible, we have to first learn to recognize the different literary styles used by the biblical authors.
Jon: The Bible is a collection of many books telling one unified story from beginning to end. But all those books were written in different literary styles.
Tim: Yeah. Think of it like walking into a bookstore where every aisle has a different kind of literature. There’s history, or poetry, or nonfiction. When you choose an aisle and pick up a book, you’re going to have very different expectations, different things that you’re looking for.
Jon: Right. They’re all literature, but they communicate in really different ways.
Tim: Yes, and so the same thing is true for the Bible. If you don’t pay attention to what style it’s written in, you will miss out on the brilliance of each book.
Jon: So what are the main types of literature in the Bible?
Tim: Well first and foremost is narrative. That makes up a whopping 43 percent of the Bible. After that is poetry, which is 33 percent of the Bible. And then there’s what you could call prose discourse, which makes up the remaining 24 percent.
Jon: Nearly half of the Bible is narrative!?
Tim: Yes, and this is no accident. Stories are the most universal form of human communication. Our brains are actually hardwired to take in information through story.
Jon: And stories are really enjoyable. Why is that?
Tim: Well stories train us to make sense of the seemingly random events that happen in life by taking those events and them putting them in a sequence. And then together you can start to see the meaning and purpose of it all.
Jon: And what links this all together?
Tim: Well good stories always have a character who wants something. And then through these characters, the author can explore life’s big questions, like “who are we?” or “what’s really important in life?”
And a good story always involves some kind of conflict.
Jon: Some challenge to be overcome, just like in our own lives.
Tim: And that forces us to think about our own challenges––why there’s so much pain and disappointment in the world––and then what can we do about it. And stories usually end with some kind of resolution, giving us hope for our own stories.
Jon: Since these are Bible stories, are the characters showing me how I should live?
Tim: Yeah that’s not quite the point. Most Bible characters are deeply flawed––you should not be like them. But we are supposed to see ourselves in them, which helps us then see our lives and failures from a new perspective. And without even realizing it, these stories will start to mess with you and change how you see the world and other people and yourself.
Jon: Now there are different types of narrative in the Bible.
Tim: Yeah. There’s historical narrative, but also narrative parables, and short biographical narratives like the four Gospels. We’ll look at all these in later videos.
Jon: Okay. Next up is poetry, which honestly I don’t read a lot of.
Tim: Yeah. You’re like most people. But one out of every three chapters in the Bible is poetry.
Jon: Yeah. Why so much poetry?
Tim: Well poems mainly speak through dense, creative language, linking together images to help us envision the world differently. Poems use lots of metaphor to evoke your emotions and your imagination.
Jon: Lots of fancy language, but wouldn’t it be easier just to tell me what I need to know?
Tim: Well think about it. In life, we tend to form mental ruts, and we think in these familiar, well-worn paths that are very hard to get out of through logic or reasoning. And what good poetry does is force you off the familiar path into new territory.
Tim: And there is different types of poetry in the Bible. There’s lots of types of songs, or psalms. There’s the reflective poetry of the wisdom books, and then the passionate resistance poetry of the prophets.
Prose Discourse [03:21-04:04]
Jon: Okay. The last big literary type is called prose discourse, and it makes up a quarter of the Bible.
Tim: Yeah. These are speeches, letters, or essays. And the focus here is building a sequence of ideas or thoughts into one linear argument that requires a logical response.
Like hey have you thought about this thing? You should also consider how it connects to this other thing. And if you do, then you’ll see that this is the result. And in light of that conclusion, therefore, you should probably stop doing that one thing so that this other thing will be the outcome.
Jon: So you are persuading me with reason.
Tim: Yeah. Discourse forces you to think logically and consistently and then do something about it. Biblical discourse is found in law collections, in wisdom literature, and the letters written by the apostles.
Jon: Okay, so each book of the Bible has one literary style.
Tim: No. Actually most books have a primary literary style, like narrative for example. But then embedded in the narrative, you’ll come across poems or parables or collections of laws. Every book is a unique combination of literary styles.
Jon: And to read that book well, I need to become familiar with each literary type and how it works.
Tim: Yeah, so you know what to pay attention to and what questions you should ask. But before we look at each type, there’s one more unifying feature of biblical literature that’s really important and really cool. And that is what we’ll explore next.
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The 5 Types Of Writings Used In The Bible
The Five Types Of Writing Used In The Bible Are
Epistles were personal correspondences written to a particular party. They were written for a particular church or individual, and often addressed several topics. These letters were written with a familiarity of the areas or problems being discussed and with an apostolic tone of authority. We find value in these epistles in that they provide us with timeless truths on difficult issues that still arise today. Some of the Epistles are Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, 1 &2 Timothy, etc.
If You Are To Spend One Day With One Bible Character, Who Would It Be?
Genealogies, in the Bible, are lists that document a family lineage. These lists of names cover many generations (sometimes even skipping generations), showing lines of descent over many centuries at times. They provide us with an important historical record that is sometimes used to prove who someone is. In the case of Christ, it demonstrates his lineage according to prophecy. Genealogies are found in Genesis 5, Matthew 1, Luke 3, etc.
Historical narratives are factual accounts, written in prose, of what happened at a certain time and place, and involve people, nations, and events. The writers of these historical records often did not make judgments on what was happening. They only reported what actually occurred, both good (healings, miracles, etc.) and bad (murder, theft, etc). With that being the case, when making judgments, historical narratives must be viewed and interpreted in the full light of Scripture. Historical books are Joshua, Ruth, Esther, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, etc.
Recommended: Amazing Bible Facts And Statistics ►► A Brief History Of Bible Translations
Parables are a unique style of communicating stories, and are used to illustrate a single point. They were often used by Jesus in the Gospels. There are also a few parables in the Old Testament (Trees making a king, Judges 9:7-15; The Parable of the Ewe Lamb, 2 Samuel 12:1-4, etc.). Although parables always had a message, they were often designed to prevent some people from correctly understanding what was being said at the immediate time (Mark 4:10-12). Some parables in the New Testament can be found in Luke 18:9-14, Pharisee and Tax Gatherer and Luke 10:30-37, The Good Samaritan.
List Of All Books Of The Bible And Their Authors
A prophetic utterance in the Bible means “to foretell or proclaim.” The prophets acted as God’s spokesmen, prophesying His message (which was usually a warning and a call to righteousness). Almost every book of the Bible contains some kind of prophecy. Often times, a prophecy had immediate relevance to the people to whom it was given. But many prophecies have two fulfillment, the initial fulfillment shortly after they were given and a longer term fulfillment. Because of that, when we read prophecy it is important to consider how the original readers would have understood it. By placing prophecies in this context it prevents the mistake of looking for modern “fulfillment” which were never intended. Some prophetic books would be Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation.
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Some Bible questions aren’t easily answered. Find some commonly asked questions about the Bible and Bible translation below. These articles just scratch the surface—we hope these answers spur you on to go deeper in your understanding.
There are lots of different types of writing in the Bible. How are they united?
The Bible is an anthology of so many different literary genres and techniques that the effect may finally threaten to confuse us. But literary unity will emerge if we remember the underlying principles.
The overall framework of the Bible is that of a story. It begins with the creation of the world and ends with the consummation of history and the recreation of the world. The plot conflict is a prolonged spiritual battle between good and evil. The central character is God, and every creature and nation interacts with this mighty protagonist. Every story, poem, or proverb in the Bible fits into this overarching story.
Furthermore, all of the literary parts of the Bible share the defining traits of literature itself. They present human experience concretely, so that we can share an experience with the author and with characters in a story or poem. The literary parts of the Bible all display technical skill and beauty. They also employ special resources of language, so that we are aware that the writers are doing things with language that go beyond ordinary uses.
Finally, despite the diversity in literary genres found in the Bible, the principle of genre itself helps to organize the picture. Virtually anywhere we turn in the Bible, we are aware that the passage or book belongs to a specific literary genre—a genre that follows its own conventions and that requires a definite set of expectations from the reader.
The Bible is a book for all people and all temperaments, from the prosaic, matter-of-fact reader to the person who likes far-flung fantasy and visions. The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky had one of his fictional characters exclaim, “What a book the Bible is, what a miracle, what strength is given with it to man. It is like a mould cast of the world and man and human nature, everything is there, and a law for everything for all the ages. And what mysteries are solved and revealed” ( The Brothers Karamazov ).
This is an excerpt from The Origin of the Bible by F. F. Bruce, J. I. Packer, Philip Comfort, and Carl F. H. Henry. To read more, you can purchase this book from many Christian bookstores and online retailers, including Tyndale.com: https://www.tyndale.com/p/the-origin-of-the-bible/9781414379326
Ryken, L., et al. The Origin of the Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2020.
Six types of writing in the Bible and why they matter
I always wanted to read more than I wanted air! My mother showed me that reading could transport me wherever I wanted to go, show me worlds I would never see, and introduce me to people who were long gone, but still worth knowing.
She painted word pictures with her voice. Together we discovered stories could be told in many different ways. As a craftsman uses different tools for each part of a project, storytellers often use different kinds of literature to share stories.
God authored the Bible to share His story and help us understand who He is.
6 Types of Literature in the Bible
When God set Israel apart as His people, He gave them commands for how to live, worship, and govern. The first five books of the Bible — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy — are called "the law." Through the law, God taught His people to focus on Him while revealing blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience. You might hate reading that stuff in Leviticus about icky skin conditions, but as we read, we can be thankful that Jesus has rescued us from them! Keeping laws cannot give us eternal life, but reading God’s law gives us insight into His character.
Historical literature relates actual events. Throughout the Bible, God has recorded history through His messengers. He wants us to know the who, what, when, why, and how of His people. Biblical history records tragedy that occurs when God’s people turn from Him, relying on their own strength. It also tells the stories of redemption — when God’s people got it right — repented, were forgiven, and followed in obedience. Reading these stories gives us hope. With salvation, we become part of God’s redemption history!
Poetry may seem dry as dirt in a drought. But biblical poetry is different than what you’ve read before. The words don’t rhyme! In Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, we are front and center observing the spiritual life of each writer. Pain, suffering, grief, blessing, praise, anger, wisdom, regret, even the unique joys of marriage — these are emotions that all humans experience but don’t always know how to express. Through poetry, we can often find words to tell our heart’s story.
God chose to speak warning and make promises to His people through His prophets. From Isaiah through Malachi, prophecies revealed consequences for not obeying God’s commands — and announced God’s plan of redemption through the promise of a Savior! Hearing God’s plans in advance should have helped people change. But most of the time, people wouldn’t listen. Because we have the benefit of Old and New Testaments, we know the prophecies came true. Fulfilled prophecy helps us believe God can be trusted today because He has always been faithful to keep every promise.
Remember those boring, unpronounceable lists of biblical names who begat, or were the son of? You may be tempted to skip them as I have. But don’t! Each name was a person important to God; each list places God’s family in history.
Genealogies also show the importance of Jesus to that history, proving He was both human and divine. Boring? Try reading Luke 3:21-38 with the Star Wars Imperial March in the background, and a drum roll toward the end. The genealogies of mankind in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 are God's proof that He authored His family story.
Probably the easiest to read, narratives are woven throughout the Bible in most every book. They simply tell stories of countless, ordinary people doing wonderfully extraordinary things for God. But in each one, we discover they are real people —flawed and sinful people — just like us! If God can use an uneducated fisherman (Peter), a murderer (Paul), and a teenage unwed mother (Mary), it’s easier to believe He can use us, too! The Bible is literature, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. Because the Bible is “living and active,” reading it is the most important way to learn about God and who He is calling us to be ( Hebrews 4:12 ). The Bible is God’s Word, come down from heaven to tell us, through the Holy Spirit, and those chosen to write it: “This is who I’ve been since the beginning. This is who I am and will always be. And I love you!” Who wouldn’t want to read about that? Need help getting started reading the Bible? Find Bible reading plans and devotional guides here .
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What kinds of literary techniques are used in the Bible?
by Alex Carmichael | May 24, 2012 | Questions , The Bible
There is an incredible variety of literary means and methods used by God in His Word to convey what He wanted to reveal to us. One may wonder, “Why did God use so many different techniques and styles in the Bible? Wouldn’t it have been easier, or even better, to use just one straightforward way of writing to get His message across?”
The simple answer to that question is that God used different people in different ways, each who were free to write in the style they were familiar with as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Examples of chiasmus can be found in the Bible – they’re everywhere in God’s Word. Biblical writers used chiasmus to add emphasis to their writings, to highlight details of particular importance. Here’s an example of that, from the earliest use, in Genesis 9:6:
- “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed.”
Jesus Himself also used chiasmus in Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Chiasmus is just one of the many, many literary techniques found in the Bible. These techniques help to make God’s Word become even more memorable.
Here are some of the more commonly used literary devices found in Scripture:
This is a device found in Old Testament poetry in which the successive units of a poem begin with the consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The units might be single lines, pairs of lines, or stanzas (as in Psalm 119). This can only be seen in the original Hebrew text.
This is the repetition of the same initial sounds of adjacent or nearby words and is used for narrative effect. This is a literary device that can really only be seen or heard in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages of the Bible. In English, an example would be “alliteration attracts attention.”
This is an indirect reference to something else. The person, thing, or event being alluded to is understood from a personal or cultural context or knowledge.
- John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
Many people and events from the Bible have become allusions in the English language, such as when we refer to someone as being a “good Samaritan,” or having “the patience of Job,” or “the wisdom of Solomon,” or even having an unhealthy desire for something that is a “forbidden fruit.”
This is a type of personification that ascribes human characteristics (such as human actions, emotions, or physical attributes) to God. This projection of human characteristics onto God was done in order to make Him more understandable to us. It is the language of appearance, of describing God in human terms.
- Genesis 6:6, “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”
This is an indirect type of personification, where the speaker addresses an inanimate object, or himself or herself, or others who cannot or do not respond to the statement or question.
- Psalm 43:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?”
- Isaiah 44:23, “Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it. Shout, you lower parts of the earth, break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it!”
This is the repetition of the same internal sounds of adjacent or nearby words and is used for narrative effect. This is a literary device that can really only be seen or heard in the original languages of the Bible. In English, an example of this would be “conceive it, perceive it, believe it, achieve it.”
This is a figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through the reversal of the lines of a poetic structure in order to make a larger point. The two clauses display inverted parallelism.
- Isaiah 6:10, “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.”
This is a use of exaggeration for emphasis or rhetorical effect.
- II Chronicles 1:15, “Also the king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones.”
- Mark 9:43, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.”
- John 12:19, “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
This is a figure of speech or an expression that is peculiar to a particular language, and in and of itself cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its component words taken separately. Examples in English would be “to pay through the nose,” “break a leg,” and “a bee in your bonnet.”
- Matthew 23:24, “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”
This is the use of vivid or figurative language to represent objects, actions, or ideas.
- Revelation 12:1, “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.”
This imagery is reminiscent of Joseph’s dream of the sun, moon, and stars in Genesis 37:9.
This is a listing of opposite parts to signify a whole or a totality. For example, the division of “night/day” and “darkness/noonday” in the Psalm below means “all the time.”
- Psalm 91:5-6, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.”
This is a figure of speech in which a comparison is made between two seemingly unlike things.
- James 3:6, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.”
This is a type of metaphor in which something (either concrete or conceptual) is not identified by its own name, but by a name of something closely identified or associated with it, as in calling a business executive “a suit.”
- Leviticus 26:6, “I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.”
- Revelation 1:18, “And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
This is a statement that seems to be illogical or contradictory on the surface, but it actually conveys a deeper truth.
- Matthew 16:25, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
This is a figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through the lines of a poetic structure in order to make a larger point.
- Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
This is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human objects (usually the divine, inanimate things, or abstract ideas), and is done as a rhetorical device.
- Psalm 77:16, “The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled.”
- Proverbs 1:20-21, “Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words.”
This is a figure of speech in which a comparison is made between two seemingly unlike things using “like” or “as.”
- Matthew 28:3, “His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.”
This is the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities, giving meaning or character to something.
- Revelation 13:1, “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”
This is a figure of speech in which: a part is used to represent the whole, or the whole for a part, or the specific for the general, or the general for the specific.
- II Kings 8:9, “So Hazael went to meet him and took a present with him, of every good thing of Damascus, forty camel-loads.”
- Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.”
This is a literary foreshadowing, where one person or thing serves as a metaphorical prefigure (type) of another that is to come later. In the Bible, this is a person or thing (as is found in the Old Testament) prefiguring another person or thing (as is found in the New Testament). For example, the bronze snake pole that the people looked to serves as a type, or prefiguring, of the Cross.
- Numbers 21:9, “So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”
- John 3:14-15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
This is the witty use of the meanings and ambiguities of words. Biblical writers made plays on word meanings that can only be seen in the original languages.
- Matthew 16:18, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” [ Petros , the word for “Peter,” means “a small rock, stone, or pebble”; petra , the word for “rock” here, means “a large rock.”]
- Philemon 1:10-11, “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.” [ Onesimus means “profitable or useful.”]
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6 Literary Genres In The Bible And How We Should Read Them
- Published: September 13, 2018
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W henever you’re reading the Bible it’s essential to know the kind of genre or type of literature that you are reading. This is particularly important if you’re trying to interpret scripture.
Knowing what kind of literature you are reading helps you to understand and make sense of the text you are reading. If you don’t, that’s how you can end up making certain judgments of the text that are unjustified, or getting the wrong interpretation.
When reading a book of the Bible, we need to understand why the author has written this. Is it written for a particular purpose or audience? Often you’ll find a quick introduction to a book in a study Bible laying out its intention. However, you can also research this online.
What are the different types of literary genres in the Bible and how should we read them?
6 MAIN LITERARY GENRES IN THE BIBLE
1. narrative/ historical.
The Bible contains narrative throughout most of its books. These report accounts or stories of events or people as they encounter God, sin against each other or live out their lives. It records historical accounts of events as well as providing descriptions of what is happening in particular scenes.
Narrative is relatively straight forward to read. However, we need to be able to see the big picture and God’s redemptive work and purpose throughout to see the proper context. Throughout these narratives, there are many examples of God’s people who fell away from God and then returned repeatedly in repentance as God sought to draw them back to him. This is a distinct pattern that occurs time and time again.
When we read, we must see where they went wrong and learn from their mistakes and avoid their pitfalls, while following their examples when they have done something right.
Within this genre are two sub-genres: law and history.
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are the first five books of the Old Testament. These are usually referred to as the Pentateuch.
These take the forms of detailed commands and prescriptions on how to live. In particular, these focus on how to worship God and how to act towards our neighbours, which you’ll find in Exodus.
In Leviticus, it really gets down to the nitty gritty. You’ll find detailed instructions on keeping the law, observing various rituals in order to keep a strict adherence, and the consequences for disobeying the law. Some of these might not even seem relevant to readers of the Bible today but written for a specific time and audience. This is one of the questions we must ask when reading the law. Does the writer intend for it to be universally applicable or simply for a particular audience?
Although I’ve listed this under law, this still contains historical narrative and we should read it as such. The reason I’ve put them under this category is because it became common to find Greek and Latin Bibles referring to the first five books of the Bible as the Law.
The Old Testament is full of historical narrative. Genesis and Exodus which describe the beginnings of the people of Israel, their exile in the land of Egypt and Moses giving them the law. You can see a distinct difference between books like Exodus, which largely relates events, and Leviticus, which mostly lays out prescriptions.
Later books such as Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles also expand upon the history of God’s people. Another common feature is genealogies which are long lists of people with unusual names, all forming a long line of descendants.
When you come to the New Testament, Matthew and Luke’s Gospels also include the genealogies of Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles relates the history of the early church and God’s power at work through the disciples.
The Bible contains poetic literature, often found in the Old Testament in the form of Hebrew poetry. This isn’t purely poetry in the way we might understand it in modern literature today. Hebrew poetry employs various devices to get their point across. These include books like Psalms (which are essentially a bunch of songs) and the Song of Solomon (which is almost like a collection of love letters where two people are expressing their feelings for one another).
There are also parts of other books of the Bible which include poetic elements such as in Isaiah or Jeremiah.
3. Wisdom literature
This includes books like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job. Proverbs comprises of many wise sayings that offer advice for different types of situations.
With books like Ecclesiastes and Job, we need to understand who is speaking or expressing their views. The protagonists are not necessarily always correct in what they are thinking.
For example, Job is often in despair and in anguish about his situation. As such, we need to bear this in mind in his tone and content. His friends aren’t always offering the best advice either.
Ecclesiastes offers a philosophical introspection and contemplation of life. We need to understand that the main protagonist of the story often has two opposing view points or perspectives on life. Sometimes he’s looking at life under the sun, which leads him to despair. Other times he rises above that and sees life from “above the sun” – ie God’s perspective.
That means that when we read these books, we need to take this into account, otherwise we can simply adopt the wrong conclusions about life or about what is truth.
That doesn’t mean that the books as a whole are not true or the Word of God. The characters here are offering differing or opposing points of views. This acts as a literary device to contrast it with the truth that underlies it all.
Prophecy in the Bible often takes the form of oracles or visions. In these, the prophet reveals hidden knowledge of God and his plans.
Prophecy appears in many books of the Old Testament. The prophetic Old Testament books are divided into the 4 major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) and the 12 minor prophets (eg Hosea, Obadiah, Micah and others). However, there is also prophecy in the New Testament such as Revelation. This actually belongs in a special category of prophecy known as Apocalypse. Apocalypse contains far more symbolism than the usual prophetic writings. Parts of Daniel fall into this category as well.
In addition, there are several instances of prophecy within a book that is not specifically prophetic. For example, Jesus speaks of numerous prophetic future events in the gospels. He describes how the sun will grow dark, stars will fall from space etc. He also points to the coming of the Son of Man when Jesus himself returns in glory.
Much of prophecy employs language and vocabulary that is symbolic in nature. This makes it not straight forward to interpret. Some of these refer to future events yet to be fulfilled either in our own lifetime or centuries later. Others refer to things which already happened in the distant past, as far as we are concerned. And others still seem to refer to events which may be fulfilled in multiple ways at various points throughout history.
Although Gospels contain elements of historical narrative, they go beyond this, making them their own genre altogether. The purpose of the gospels is to proclaim Jesus and to point to him, his teaching and his works.
As Luke writes at the beginning of his gospel in Luke 1:1-4
“1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled [ a ] among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
John also writes in John 20:30-31
30 “ Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe [ a ] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
Scholars often refer to John’s Gospel as a book of signs, as Jesus’ miracles (or signs) point to Jesus as Messiah.
Therefore when we read the gospels, although we read it as a historical narrative, we ultimately engage with it in a way that we may encounter Jesus as well, just like the disciples.
For a creative way to read gospels, check out my graphic novel version of Luke’s Gospel here .
Within the gospels is the literary sub-genre of parables.
6. Epistles/ Teachings
The New Testament contains a number of epistles or letters written by various apostles such as Paul, Peter or John to different audiences. These are usually either churches in a particular region or specific individuals.
These letters contain teaching and doctrine. These explain and elaborate on the truths of the Gospels and other parts of the Old Testament. Paul, for example, will often set things in their proper context to explain how we should understand certain events in the Old Testament.
In Romans, Paul makes reference to the law. He explains that it existed precisely to show that it was impossible to keep. No-one could become righteous through the law itself. It merely existed to act as a measure of how we would ultimately fall short.
In other letters such as those to Timothy or Titus, Paul is speaking words of encouragement, seeking to build others up in the faith. Throughout the letters, Paul also uses many “one another” statements which you can read about here.
The Acts of the Apostles provides much of the historical background to these letters, giving us a clue as to when and where they were written.
The epistles are a great place to start reading the Bible to understand Christian doctrine and get an overview of scripture. The writers go into a lot of detail. This makes it easier to understand the text compared to some other parts of the Bible.
It’s important to know the literary genre of the book we’re reading in the Bible. If we neglect this, it can lead to misunderstandings and wrong assumptions. We can also end up applying God’s word in the wrong way.
Which literary genre of the Bible do you find easiest to read and understand? And which one do you find the most difficult?
Leave your comments in the section below. Also, please share if you found this article useful.
Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.
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Wonderful overview, Robert! I’ve never really thought about these categories before, but it sure makes sense. I probably struggle with the law genre the most (because it’s kind of boring).
Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I also find the law parts rather tedious and tend to skip over that part.
Thanks for the easy reference guide! Visuals are always helpful in helping to make concepts concrete in my mind.
You’re welcome. Thanks for checking it out. I also find visuals far more helpful to me which is why I prefer them to only words.
Aryn, The Libraryan
It definitely makes understanding grow when you take note of genre. It’s also helpful when you find a present day explanation of the old testament laws. Food restrictions, for one. Part of it was to be different, but if you study the list of foods, most if not all have a health reason to avoid them.
Thanks for commenting. Yes, knowing the genre is very helpful in getting a better understanding of the text.
This topic is so much deeper and important than I think most people give it credit for! I’ve also been listening to The Bible Project’s series on Biblical literary genres and themes. It’s so important to note that the literary genres and tools that were utilized by the Hebrews and Greeks are not necessarily the same as the ones we use in modern English literature! While we might read a passage a certain way from our modern English lense, the original text actually intended something quite different.
Thanks for reading. There are a number of different ways to categorise these genres, and yes you’re right, the Hebrews and Greeks may have divided things up differently.
I’d love to read this article, but the print is superimposed on the pictures and most of it is off of the screen. I’ve tried two different devices and both of them do the same. HELP, please!
Hi Rita. Thanks for your comment and for pointing out the formatting error. I’m not sure what happened as it wasn’t originally like this. I’ve fixed the formatting now so it should read normally. I hope you are able to get a chance to read this properly now. Thanks.
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Bible Genres: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?
By Orpheus J. Heyward | Bio
Dr. Orpheus J. Heyward is Senior Minister of the Renaissance Church of Christ. He is considered one of the most dynamic and scripturally sound gospel preachers among churches of Christ today. Having received his Masters of Arts in Theology, Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies and doctorate degree in Theological Exegesis, he is a constant student of the Bible.
If you want to understand the Bible better, one of the most important concepts is Bible “genres.” What are the Bible’s genres and why do they matter?
The Bible’s “genres” in the context of biblical hermeneutics mean the kinds of literature of a given book of the Bible. The Bible is rich with a variety of literary genres. Being familiar with the various genres helps us read the text more accurately.
For example, one of the dominant literary types in the Bible is historical narrative, such as Genesis and Acts. The Bible also contains wisdom literature, such as Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. There are letters written to particular church groups or individuals. Additionally, we have books containing apocalyptic literature, such as Revelation and Daniel. There are books of prophecy and law. There are sermons and parables. Moreover, poetry comprises as much as one third of the Bible.
How Bible Genres Affect How We Read
As we each study the Bible, we must be sensitive with regard to literary genre and understand that each genre cannot be read in the exact same way. Historical narratives primarily report events, while letters address certain occasions. Wisdom literature is practical and encourages seeking virtue and divine favor, while apocalyptic contains vivid language and utilizes signs and symbols.
New Testament professor Dean Deppe provides insight to how genre affects how we read the text:
The determination of genre is crucial to detecting the meaning of a literary text, since like an infrared lens it offers a photo that we do not always observe in normal light….Genres trigger different expectations and thus demand divergent reading strategies.
“Genres trigger different expectations and thus demand divergent reading strategies.”
The goal of the interpreter is to ascertain what the author under the influence of the Holy Spirit is attempting to communicate. If we ignore the literary type, then we become vulnerable to misrepresenting the meaning .
An Example of How Genre Helps Us Understanding Meaning
We need to read only a few words of the following description of Jesus to realize we are no longer reading a biography of Jesus in the Gospels:
Among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (Revelation 1:13–15)
Considering the Genre
Apocalyptic literature such as we see here in Revelation 1 uses vivid imagery filled with signs and symbols.
As I mentioned, a shocking percentage of the language of Revelation comes to us from the Old Testament. Reading an unfamiliar genre (apocalypse) that borrows its imagery from the less familiar testament (the Old Testament) should invite us to tread humbly and cautiously, so as not to abuse the text.
“Reading an unfamiliar genre (apocalypse) that borrows its imagery from the less familiar testament (the Old Testament) should invite us to tread humbly and cautiously, so as not to abuse the text.”
With all this in mind, how can we best understand this apocalyptic passage undergirded with symbolism?
Walking through the Text
If we take it as a literal picture of the physical description of Jesus, our interpretations could yield rather odd results. Let’s walk through the text.
John describes Jesus in this text as having a robe reaching to his feet with a golden sash around his chest; his hair is white like snow and white wool; his eyes are like fire and feet like burnished bronze; and his voice is like the sound of rushing water and a two-edged sword is coming out of his mouth. Perhaps it’s no wonder why Jesus needed to say in verse seventeen, “Do not be afraid.”
Studying the Symbols
Where do these symbols come from?
- Robe and sash . The picture of Jesus dressed with a robe and sash echoes how the priests were dressed under the Old Testament law (Leviticus 16:3–4).
- Hair like wool . Even more vivid is the picture of Jesus as having hair like white wool. This language recalls Daniel 7:9, where the Ancient of Days (God) is described in the same way, having his holiness placed on display.
- Eyes like fire . Jesus having eyes like fire recalls the language of Daniel 10:6, which reveals the image of a celestial being.
- Feet like bronze . His feet like bronze recalls the language of Micah 4:13, where Israel is figuratively said to have been given feet like bronze to trample out the enemy.
- Sword out of mouth . The two-edged sword coming out of his mouth is a symbol of judgment through his word (Isaiah 49:1–2; Hebrews 4:12).
- Voice as rushing water . His voice as rushing water is imagery of God in Ezekiel 43:1–2.
If we take all this background information under consideration and put it together with the reality that the recipients of this book were under Roman persecution needing encouragement, we arrive at something far more understandable than the incomprehensible image of Christ we started with: Christ is presented as God who is a priest to serve his people, with a sword prepared to judge, and feet that can trample out the enemy . To accent that he is God, he cites the words of Isaiah 44:6 in which Yahweh said, “I am the first and I am the last.”
As this example shows, knowing the genre will help the reader handle the text accurately, according to its literary form.
“Knowing the genre will help the reader handle the text accurately, according to its literary form.”
 Dean B. Deppe, All Roads Lead to the Text: Eight Methods of Inquiry into the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 7.
9 Bible Genres
To further help us understand what genres are, here is a list of common genres in the Bible along with a brief description. This list is from the Real Life Theology Handbook :
Historical Narrative – A lot of the Bible is the people of God telling stories of what God did throughout their history. Because the Bible has so many stories, it’s basically a story of stories .
Law – These are the commands God gave to his people (the Israelites) after rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, both do’s and don’ts. Some commands described what’s good and evil for all time and they aren’t bound to one time or place; others were limited to describing how to run the ancient nation of Israel many centuries ago.
Poetry – This is a way of writing in verse, often using figurative language and evoking strong feeling. Hebrew poetry used a lot of parallelism (parallel lines of poetry), often where the second line restates or reinforces the first line in some way. Poetry is sprinkled throughout the Bible, with some books being entirely poetic. Around a third of the Bible is written in poetry.
“Poetry is sprinkled throughout the Bible, with some books being entirely poetic.”
Wisdom Literature – These are collections of wise sayings and theological reflection given by Jewish sages. These range from short statements which give practical advice for particular situations (Proverbs) to deep explorations of difficult questions, such as why good people suffer (Job) and why life seems futile sometimes (Ecclesiastes). Much Wisdom Literature is written in poetic form.
Prophecy – These are messages from God’s messengers to God’s people, sometimes given when the people were unwilling to listen. Typically, these were messages meant for the prophet’s own generation, but sometimes they were interspersed with predictions of the future (e.g., events such as the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC and the coming of the Messiah). It’s been said that God gave these messages to comfort the afflicted—and afflict the comfortable.
Gospels – These are biographies of Jesus, with the name “gospel” meaning “good news.” They narrate Jesus’ ministry, including his teachings and miracles. Each spends a good percentage of its space narrating the events of the final week of Jesus’ life, climaxing in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
“Each Gospel spends a good percentage of its space narrating the events of the final week of Jesus’ life, climaxing in Jesus’ death and resurrection.”
Parables – These are fictional stories told using the stuff of everyday life (a fisherman separating good and bad fish, a farmer sowing seed, a guy getting robbed) to point to spiritual realities. The word literally means “to throw alongside” (para = alongside; bole = to throw). These stories were “thrown alongside” the truth being taught. Jesus taught numerous parables.
Letters – These are letters written by early church leaders such as Paul, Peter, and John to early Christians to help them navigate questions they had and issues their churches faced. Many are written to churches in particular cities, such as Romans (written to the Christians in Rome) and Ephesians (written to the Christians in Ephesus).
Apocalypse – This is a way of describing cataclysmic events using rich symbolism. The word means to “uncover” or “reveal.” Bible books which use the apocalyptic genre are Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament.
The above article on Bible genres is an excerpt from Orpheus J. Heyward, God’s Word: The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Renew.org, 2021). To check out the book, click here .
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4 Kinds of Biblical Literature
All Scripture is important. All Scripture is true, but not all Scripture is meant to be read in the same way. Different kinds of literature have different expectations.
You wouldn’t read The Raven and angrily reply, “No, the Raven did NOT say that!” You understand that certain literary devices, like personification, are widely used in poetry.
In the same way that you would read Edgar Allan Poe differently than you read Jeff Shaara, you should expect different things from a Psalm than from Acts. Here are the four most common types of biblical literature and what you should expect from them.
Narrative | Story
Narrative tells a story. Sometimes that story is intended to be true, sometimes not, sometimes a little of both. Biblical narrative is the intended-to-be-true kind. You’ll see some redundancy, as certain books cover the same events from different perspectives for different audiences. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, for example, all tell the same story, but have subtly different points of emphasis. The book of Luke, written by a physician, gives a lot of technical detail, while Mark, heavily influenced by Peter’s type-A personality, is action-packed. When you read narrative, it’s important to remember who was writing and for what purpose.
When people read through the Bible from cover to cover for the first time, one of the biggest hangups they face happens in Genesis 5. The story has been humming along nicely and then all of a sudden: a genealogy, a whole chapter comprising nothing but name after name after name. Don’t be discouraged by these passages; instead, let them act as a reminder of the authors’ attention to detail.
Found in : Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Easter, Job, Daniel, Jonah (and in smaller sections throughout most of the prophets), Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts.
Secular equivalents : Iliad , The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire , and Flag of Our Fathers
Epistle | Letter
Some of the most well-read portions of Scripture are letters written from the early church fathers to believers in other cities. Just like letters that you or I would write today, these ancient letters tend to meander casually from topic to topic without hard-and-fast chapter breaks. The chapter/verse divisions were added later, so these books are best read as single streams of thought. There are exceptions, of course. Romans and Hebrews are quite a bit more systematic than the others. The books of Luke and Acts are crossovers. They are written both as narratives, to tell a story, and as letters, addressed specifically to a Greek man called Theophilus.
Found in : Ecclesiastes, Luke, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, and Jude.
Secular equivalents : There aren’t many. While historians use original sources, journals, and personal correspondence to study history, there are not many examples of correspondence written with intent to share broadly.
Poetry | Art
Poetry is emotion in print. While there is still an element of sharing the truth with a reader, poetry is highly introspective. Especially in biblical poetry, you may see a writer work his way from a carnal mindset at the beginning of a passage, exhibiting emotions like jealousy, anger, bitterness and pride, to a more spiritual point of view at the end. Let these passages be permission for you to struggle with your faith a little—or a lot, like many of them did.
Poetry makes use of many literary devices that you’ll rarely find in other forms of literature. A literary device like parallelism can help you understand an idea by comparing it or contrasting it with another idea. Psalm 1:3–4 is an excellent example of parallelism.
Found in : Psalms and Ecclesiastes Secular equivalents : The sonnets of Shakespeare, The Iliad , Where the Sidewalk Ends
Wisdom Literature | Advice
Wisdom literature is full of very helpful but very general advice. Many people can become confused when treating wisdom literature like a dogmatic promise. A classic example would be Proverbs 22:6 . While often claimed as a divine promise, this verse is only intended to be a piece of conventional wisdom. Practically all wisdom literature is intended to be read in this way—generalized truth to which exceptions may occur.
Ecclesiastes, the ultimate crossover, is written as an addressed letter, in metered poetic style, while offering wisdom advice. This book could arguably be included in all three categories. Found in : Proverbs and Ecclesiastes Secular equivalents : The Art of War , The Works of Confucius , and Think and Grow Rich
So next time you’re reading the Faithlife Study Bible , stop for a moment before you start the work of interpretation. Ask yourself what sort of literature you’re dealing with. What expectations should you bring to the text?”
Ray Deck III
Born in WV, Ray escaped to North Carolina at a young age. He came to Logos after an 8 year stint at a faith-based nonprofit in New York. When he is not assembling sequences of words, he’s probably running, surfing or shooting skeet, but you should probably go look for him. He has a terrible sense of direction and is probably lost.
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The Bible - Types of Writing in the Bible!
Subject: Religious education
Age range: 7-11
Resource type: Lesson (complete)
25 January 2022
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In this engaging and informative lesson, students learn about the different types of writing in the Bible, consider how these different writing forms get across key messages, and apply this knowledge in creating their own thoughtful texts. They learn through:
-Recalling and remembering how to reference different sections of the Bible; -Acting as ‘Bible Detectives’, follwing references in order to find different styles of writing; -Analysing how different styles of writing add to meanings/ messages; -Considering important messages and lessons that they have been given in their own lives, and applying knowledge of different writing styles to contribute to a ‘Class Bible’; -Evaluating their ‘Class Bible’ through thought-provoking reflection questions;
This resource pack contains a comprehensive and colourful 17-slide Powerpoint, which guides teachers and students through the learning activities. Challenge activities are provided in order to enrich learning for higher-attaining learners.
A part of the lesson includes using Bibles, so you will need enough for at least one per group in your class.
In the past, I have used this lesson with children from across Key Stage 2 - the key learning is aligned with national expectations for RE, and also the content prescribed by most diocese regions. All images are licensed for commercial use, and are cited on the final slide.
Tes paid licence How can I reuse this?
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A bundle is a package of resources grouped together to teach a particular topic, or a series of lessons, in one place.
The Bible - Big Lesson Bundle!
These engaging and informative lessons provide students with a well-rounded introductory understanding of the Bible. Throughout the sequence of lessons, children understand the structure of the Bible, the content in different sections, and how to find Bible passages through references. Children learn that the Bible can be interpreted from fundamentalist or liberal perspectives. Furthermore, two sections of the Bible are explored in more depth: those relating to the Ten Commandments and the Creation story. The lessons are best taught in the following order: 1. Introduction to the Bible 2. Bible Structure and Referencing 3. Types of Writing in the Bible 4. The Ten Commandments 5. Respect for the Bible 6. Interpretations of the Bible 7. The Creation Story 8. Human Responsibility Each lesson contains a comprehensive and colourful Powerpoint (each of at least 15 slides), which guide teachers and students through the learning activities. Challenge activities are provided in order to enrich learning for higher-attaining learners. Where appropriate, eye-catching and helpful worksheets and templates (in both Word and PDF) are also included. Within most lessons, children are asked questions and set challenges to develop their own personal spirituality. In the past, I have used these lessons with children from across Key Stage 2 - the key learning is aligned with national expectations for RE, and also the content prescribed by most diocese regions. **The resources are suitable for home learning** however the first couple of lessons work best if children have access to a physical Bible. All images are licensed for commercial use, and are cited on the final slide.
The Bible Huge Bundle!
**This bundle contains all 8 of the Bible lessons AND the corresponding Bible Knowledge Organiser!** The engaging and informative lessons provide students with a well-rounded introductory understanding of the Bible. Throughout the sequence of lessons, children understand the structure of the Bible, the content in different sections, and how to find Bible passages through references. Children learn that the Bible can be interpreted from fundamentalist or liberal perspectives. Furthermore, two sections of the Bible are explored in more depth: those relating to the Ten Commandments and the Creation story. The lessons are best taught in the following order: Introduction to the Bible Bible Structure and Referencing Types of Writing in the Bible The Ten Commandments Respect for the Bible Interpretations of the Bible The Creation Story Human Responsibility Each lesson contains a comprehensive and colourful Powerpoint (each of at least 15 slides), which guide teachers and students through the learning activities. Challenge activities are provided in order to enrich learning for higher-attaining learners. Where appropriate, eye-catching and helpful worksheets and templates (in both Word and PDF) are also included. Within most lessons, children are asked questions and set challenges to develop their own personal spirituality. In the past, I have used these lessons with children from across Key Stage 2 - the key learning is aligned with national expectations for RE, and also the content prescribed by most diocese regions. **The resources are suitable for home learning** however the first couple of lessons work best if children have access to a physical Bible. All images are licensed for commercial use, and are cited on the final slide.
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Understanding Literary Styles
Distinct Writing Styles of the Bible
From cover to cover the Bible tells one unified story and does this in more than one way. Over 1500 years God inspired forty people to write His Word using a variety of distinct literary styles to communicate to people in a way they would understand. Commonly used in their culture, the original hearers would’ve been familiar with these styles and would’ve known how to read each appropriately for their intended purpose. Just like we know what to expect and how to interact with a cookbook, novel, news report, or satire.
Each literary form is carefully selected and crafted into an inspired piece of art. The Bible is a masterpiece where two or more literary styles may be interwoven within one book, that invites the reader to share and identify with an experience in a way that relates to life today. To honor the intent and purpose the author had in mind, we're going to take a closer look at the 9 major literary styles found in the Bible, so we can read them for all their worth today.
LAW • NARRATIVE • PSALMS • WISDOM • PROPHECY
Gospels • parables • letters • apocalyptic.
In the first five books of the Old Testament, God gave laws to the Israelite people. Although often referred to as “The Law,” these books are largely narrative illustrating that God’s law is relational in nature and cannot be interpreted outside of God’s story.
How is it unique?
Hebrew law is unique because it is an integral part of the old covenant, which outlined the relationship between God and His people. Because Jesus fulfilled the Law, or the terms of the old covenantal relationship, we are now in a new covenant relationship with God through Jesus.
What was its purpose?
Even in the Old Testament, obedience to the Law was not a means to salvation, rather it was God’s gift to the Israelites to set them apart as a nation for His glory and to serve as a guide to love God and love others well.
Why should I read it today?
Although we are not expected to keep Old Testament law today, it would be difficult to appreciate our need for Jesus and the significance of the new covenant without first understanding the purpose of the Law in the Biblical story.
How do I get the most out of it?
What is the spirit of the law? Why did God give this law?
What does this show us about God’s character and desire for His people?
How does Israel’s failure to obey God’s law show us our need for Jesus?
How does loving God and loving your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40) fulfill all the Laws?
Over 40% of the Old Testament is considered narrative, which are stories of God’s people in the past. The Bible tells thousands of small stories that each contribute to one Big Story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.
Every story has a plot and characters. The historical stories in the Bible don’t shy away from telling us what actually happened nor do they paint its characters in a picture of perfection.
The problem in the biblical story is our sin that separates us from God. Narrative helps us know a patient and faithful God as we see Him carry out His plan of redemption throughout history.
Rather than instructing how to live our lives, biblical narrative helps us reflect on our lives and failures through the flawed characters of the Bible and learn from their stories. It’s also a powerful reminder that God uses and restores the broken and He can do the same for us today.
What is the purpose of this story? What is God doing and why?
How does this fit into the Big Story of the Bible? How does it point to Jesus?
What does this tell us about the character of God?
What can I learn from the mistakes and progress of the Biblical characters?
What would the original audience have understood that I miss because of cultural differences?
3. PSALMS (POETRY)
Also known as the literary style of Poetry, the 150 Psalms are a collection of inspired poetry with a rhythm and structure that helped people remember God’s Word at a time when written copies, reading, and writing were rare.
How is it unique?
The Psalms are unique because rather than being God’s spoken word to people, they show people speaking to God (or about God) in song and prayer.
The psalms were used as a prayer book for personal use and for worship when gathered together. People could turn to different types of psalms in different seasons: lament (e.g. 3; 44), songs of praise (e.g. 8;145), thanksgiving (e.g. 30, 67), royal (e.g. 2, 110), wisdom (e.g. 37, 49), amongst others.
The Psalms invite us to express ourselves and relate to God in a real and authentic way and they can serve as a guide to purposeful worship and intimate prayer.
What is God’s purpose for including this psalm in the Bible?
What type of psalm is it and how was it used back then?
What was the psalmist intent (must read the whole psalm)?
Did the psalmist use hyperbole or metaphor? What point was he trying to make?
Wisdom literature is discernment and applicable truths given from God to man that can help guide our lives today. In most cases, these truths are captured in Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.
Wisdom literature unpacks how the world works, provides guidance on common sense areas of life, and addresses life's mysteries and philosophical questions, like “What is the purpose of life?” The books in this literary style give us practical application for today, and most importantly, how to have awe and reverence toward God.
Most writings that capture wisdom provide “prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young,” and provide additional wisdom to those that are already wise (Proverbs 1:4-5, NIV). The heart of all wisdom literature is answering the question: What does living well in this world look like?
Wisdom literature helps direct our hearts and actions in everything we encounter in our daily lives. It helps reveal guidance of how to make better choices - right vs. wrong, wise vs. foolish, and addresses tough questions that many of us have contemplated around if there is a God, if God is just, and why suffering in this world happens.
What is the overall message of the book?
Who is speaking, who are they speaking to, and what message are they trying to get across?
Is this message providing guidance, or is it debating life’s meaning or purpose?
What practical wisdom did I learn that I can apply to my life today?
How can I alter my life, character, or actions based on what I learned?
Interested in learning more about wisdom literature, check out A Heart for Wisdom: A Study Guide & 24-Day Reading Plan on Job, Proverbs, & Ecclesiastes.
God used hand-selected prophets to communicate messages from Him. There were hundreds of prophets throughout Jewish history, 16 of whom would have their own named books in the Old Testament.
The writings of the major and minor prophets used powerful imagery and language to communicate God’s messages to His people, the majority being the Israelites. Prophets were held to a high standard, meaning any prediction delivered could never fail or he could be put to death (Deuteronomy 18:18-20).
Prophets were used by God to teach Israelites how to be righteous (have right-standing with God), as well as show God’s sovereign control over events. God also used prophets to foretell specific future events that would come to pass, which included God’s rescue plan that would save the world.
While these messages from God were captured at specific times and places in history where the significance of the message would be impactful to the original audience, we can see the fulfillment of many of the prophecies in the Old and New Testament, which helps us understand the reliability of God’s Word.
What larger themes jump out as I read?
How would this have been heard by the original audience?
What do we learn about God and what He wants from us?
How is Jesus revealed?
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the “good news” about Jesus and the Kingdom of God, which is collectively known today as the Gospels and make up the first four books of the New Testament.
The four gospels together tell one unified story of Jesus Christ, yet each is shaped in a unique way and each with its own distinct perspective on how to highlight Jesus and His character.
What was its purpose?
Not only are the Gospels biographies about Jesus, they also include teachings from Jesus, and bear witness to Him as the Son of God and the Messiah that fulfilled the Old Testament.
The same questions that were asked back then are still asked today. For nearly 2000 years the Gospels have given eyewitness accounts that answer questions like - Who is Jesus? Why did He come? Did He really raise from the dead?
Who wrote it and why did he write it?
Who was the audience and what should I know about their culture?
What emphasis does the author place on Jesus?
How does the author persuade you to believe in Jesus?
Interested in a more in-depth Bible study in a Gospel, check out the 6-week Upper Room Bible Study focused on John 13-17.
Jesus masterfully told around 40 parables in the Bible as stories and illustrations to communicate a message about the nature of the kingdom of God or to understand and respond to Jesus’ ministry.
Parables often had a shock value. Like a good joke, the ending wasn’t what one expected and it’s only impactful if you understand the reference points - which is much harder for us removed from their culture by 2000 years and reading the stories instead of hearing them.
Parables were told to get a response. Every detail did not have hidden meaning, rather the point was understood in a way that touched the conscience and made people consider their own actions more than being told what to do ever could.
Jesus captured the imagination with parables, encouraging people to think and ask questions and make their own discoveries. Parables can do the same for us today and give us a fresh perspective on what God is doing.
Parables of the Bible
See a Comprehensive List of the Stories and Illustrations by Jesus
Who is the audience and how would the original hearer have heard this?
What cultural reference points would the original hearer have known that I miss?
Does the parable have characters and how are they described?
Does the parable have an unexpected ending that highlights the point Jesus was trying to make?
If Jesus were to make this point today, what parable might He tell?
Interested in a more in-depth Bible study on Parables, check out the 13-week Parables Bible Study .
Twenty-one of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament are letters (also called epistles) from the apostles to the early christians and churches in the first century.
Generally speaking, the gospels focus more on what Jesus did, whereas the letters interpret the significance of what those events meant and helped guide the early Christian church, and their leaders, after Jesus ascended to heaven.
Most of the epistles were written to address a specific situation in a specific area, such as a misunderstanding, poor behavior, or incorrect doctrine and also addressed broader themes of Christianity for the church as a whole.
Reading the letters is like hearing one side of a phone conversation - we hear the response and answers, but it’s up to us to figure out what prompted it on the other end. The instructions may apply to similar situations in our lives and our churches today.
Treat the letters as you would any letter today - read the whole thing in order.
Get to know the recipients and the authors history with them.
What instruction is given and why was it needed?
What cultural truths belong to the first century and which transcend time and culture?
Often called “revelation,” this literary style is prophetic writing that is captured in both the books of Revelation and Daniel.
Apocalyptic is symbolic and metaphorical in nature, which focuses on future events to come, specifically at the end of time when Jesus Christ returns. These writings reveal the invisible spiritual war that is taking place between God and Satan and describe earthly events from a heavenly perspective.
These writings are meant to encourage believers in Christ to understand the gravity of what will happen to those that don’t believe in Christ, and ultimately the victory that God has over Satan.
We get a deeper understanding of the unseen battle that will take place as God takes victory over the new heaven and earth, and because of it, the urgency we should have to share Christ with others. It also helps us realize that God has ultimate control over all of creation.
Take note of words that signal symbolic language (“sign,” “signify,” “like,” and “as”).
What conflict do you notice between good and evil?
How is God’s triumph over evil and Satan described?
What do you learn of God’s sovereignty?
Authors of the Bible
Learn the Authors of Each Book
How to Study the Bible
Access the CHARA Bible Study Guide
Layout of the Bible
Connecting the Table of Contents to the Story of the Bible
A Comprehensive List of the Stories and Illustrations by Jesus
What turns skeptics into believers? Josh McDowell shares some facts!
Materials scribes used to write the bible.
- Josh McDowell Ministry Team
How did scribes record the ancient scriptures?
Before the invention of the printing press, the only way to duplicate a manuscript was to spend hours (weeks? months? years?) laboriously copying it by hand. Note: It took one modern scribe four years, of writing up to 14 hours a day with fine-tipped markers, to handwrite a copy of the Bible! Can you imagine the pressure of not screwing up and having to start over?
Scribes in biblical times used primarily two writing surfaces on which to record scripture: plant fibers and animal skins. The oldest known papyrus (plant) fragment dates back to 2400 BC. Parchment (leather) scrolls have survived from about 1500 BC. To a lesser degree, scribes also used pottery chards, stones inscribed with an iron pen, clay tablets engraved with a sharp instrument and dried, and wax tablets created by covering a flat piece of wood with wax.
Materials Scribes Used for Paper and Pen
Papyrus , a paper made from reeds, was the most common writing material available in biblical times. The papyrus plant grew in the shallow lakes and rivers of Egypt and Syria. As large shipments of papyrus were distributed through the Syrian port of Byblos , scholars surmise that the Greek word for book — biblos — comes from the name of this port. The English word paper comes from the Greek word for papyrus, which is papyros
To make papyrus , the thick stems of the plant reeds were stripped and cut lengthwise into thin, narrow slices before being beaten and pressed together into two layers set at right angles to each other. The two layers were then moistened, pressed together, and smoothed down. The reeds produced a natural adhesive as they were pressed together. Any jagged edges were trimmed off and the sheet cut to the desired size. When dry, the surface was polished smooth with a stone or other implement. Scribes were aided in writing straight lines by the lines that were naturally created by the fibers of the plant.
The inks they used were typically compounded from charcoal, gum, and water. Better inks were created in the 3rd century BC from gallnuts , which are growths or blisters that form on leaves, twigs, and buds of certain oak trees attacked by gall wasps. Iron gall inks , as they are now called, became a permanent jet-black color when dried. The pens used by scribes to write on the papyrus and parchment were fashioned from reeds and quills .
Beyond papyrus, scribes used parchment and vellum as their writing surfaces. These leathers were more readily available in Palestine, as they didn’t have to be imported from Egypt. Parchment and vellum were made by scraping shaved animal skins (sheep, goat, lamb, calf, etc.) with a pumice stone to create a smooth writing surface. Vellum, the higher quality of the two, was often dyed purple and usually written upon with gold or silver inks.
Archaeologists have found both ancient scrolls and books (called codices ) made from these sources. Scribes made the scrolls by gluing papyrus sheets together, or sewing parchment together with sinews from the muscles of a calf’s leg and winding the strips of skin around a stick. Though the average scroll was less than 40 feet long, large scrolls were difficult to handle. When scribes began making codices instead, by assembling sheets in leaf form and binding them between covers, the scriptures became much easier to handle and disseminate. Too, it became much easier to locate and read specific scriptures.
The most numerous historical items found by archaeologists as they excavate ancient sites are broken pieces of pottery called ostraca . Unglazed, earthen vessels were commonly used in biblical times, so the broken fragments were easy to come by, and offered a much cheaper alternative to papyrus and parchment. Archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan have uncovered numerous ostraca from biblical times. Three collections dating back to the seventh and eighth centuries BC confirm details of historical information found in the Bible. These important artifacts are called the Samaria ostraca, the Arad ostraca, and the Lachish ostraca .
Most ostraca were written with ink, but some were incised with a sharp instrument. Smaller pieces of pottery were easily portable, so many of the smaller pottery chards found to date record aspects of daily life: tax records, taxes, letter, notes, receipts, and more. A lot like our note pads today!
The Challenge for Modern Scholars
The difficulty with discovering a handwritten copy of the Scriptures lies in the fact that it was written upon perishable materials. Papyrus did not survive well for any length of time, except in dry areas such as the sands of Egypt or in caves such as the Qumran caves in which more than 800 scrolls — called the Dead Sea Scrolls for the 11 caves along the northwest shore of Israel’s Dead Sea in which they were first discovered — in the late 1940s by Bedouin shepherds. Papyrus was much less durable than parchment and vellum, which is why most early scriptures written on papyrus only exist in pieces, if at all. Trying to handle these delicate artifacts without damaging them further has proven painstakingly difficult. Fortunately, advances in technology now enable scholars to “digitally unwrap” ancient scrolls too delicate or damaged to touch to read their written text.
One technology, a computer imaging program called Volume Cartography, was developed by University of Kentucky computer scientist W. Brent Seales. Scientists used the technology to digitally unroll and read a badly charred Hebrew scroll first discovered in the 1970s near the Dead Sea.
To the naked eye, the scroll looks like a lump of black charcoal. So researchers were amazed to discover, after it was scanned, that the En-Gedi scroll contains the first two chapters of the Book of Leviticus. Scholars believe the writing is identical to the Masoretic Text (the authoritative Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament). This suggests that the scroll is possibly the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book (first five books of the Old Testament) yet discovered.
Fragments of every book of the Hebrew canon (Old Testament) have been discovered to date, with the exception of the book of Esther. These scrolls are priceless, as they are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever uncovered. Some of the major collections of Hebrew codices and their remains are located at the Vatican Library, the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, the Russian State Library in Moscow, the National Library in Jerusalem, and the British Library in London.
What’s interesting, as additional ancient manuscripts are found, is how they collectively validate the Scriptures included in our modern Bible. Christian apologists typically employ the bibliographical test to substantiate the transmissional reliability of the Bible. The bibliographical test examines the overall number of extant manuscripts and the difference between the date of original writing, called the autograph, and the date of the earliest surviving, or extant, manuscript.
Since we do not possess the autograph of even one ancient document, this test best determines transmissional accuracy for any ancient document. As the Bible outstrips every other ancient manuscript in sheer number and earliness to the autograph, then the Old and New Testaments have a solid basis to evaluate how accurately they have been transmitted.
So Who Put the Bible Together?
If you’re thinking that it was Constantine, an emperor of Rome who championed Christianity after the severe Diocletian persecution , you’re mistaken. Perhaps you got that idea from watching or reading The DaVinci Code ? It’s among the many wrong “facts” asserted by author Dan Brown. A fun read perhaps, but definitely a work of fiction .
Some Christians, unfortunately, are easily confused by fiction because they don’t know much about church history OR what’s in the Bible. (Case in point: Does anyone really think Noah interacted with giant rock-beings , as the Hollywood version of that movie suggests? Please say no!)
In 313 AD, Constantine and his co-emperor Licinius issued the famous Edict of Milan, declaring Christianity to be a legal religion. While Constantine did commission scribes to produce 50 copies of the Scriptures “in a convenient, portable form,” so they could be used in the many churches he built in his capital city, Constantinople, Constantine himself played no direct role in determining the contents of the Bible. In our next blog post in this series, we’ll shed light on who did. Stay tuned!
This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict . We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!
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100 Bible Verses about Writing
Habakkuk 2:2 esv / 126 helpful votes helpful not helpful.
And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV / 72 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Romans 15:4 ESV / 72 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Hebrews 4:12 ESV / 60 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Proverbs 3:3-4 ESV / 60 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
Isaiah 40:8 ESV / 56 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
Psalm 45:1 ESV / 41 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah; a love song. My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
Revelation 1:19 ESV / 36 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
Jeremiah 30:2 ESV / 32 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
“Thus says the Lord , the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you.
Esther 8:8 ESV / 32 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king's ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked.”
Deuteronomy 28:12 ESV / 32 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.
Acts 20:35 ESV / 31 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
John 10:35 ESV / 27 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—
Psalm 23:1-6 ESV / 25 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. ...
Philippians 4:6 ESV / 24 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Proverbs 16:3 ESV / 16 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Commit your work to the Lord , and your plans will be established.
Revelation 21:5 ESV / 15 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Philippians 4:13 ESV / 13 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV / 13 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord , plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Deuteronomy 31:24 ESV / 13 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end,
Philippians 4:8 ESV / 12 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Revelation 1:1-3 ESV / 10 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
Ephesians 4:32 ESV / 10 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV / 10 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Revelation 1:11 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Philippians 4:6-7 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Romans 12:11 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
John 14:6 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 3:16 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Isaiah 30:8 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And now, go, write it before them on a tablet and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come as a witness forever.
Psalm 119:105 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Psalm 37:4 ESV / 9 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Delight yourself in the Lord , and he will give you the desires of your heart.
1 Peter 4:8 ESV / 8 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Colossians 3:23 ESV / 8 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
Romans 12:2 ESV / 8 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Job 19:24 ESV / 8 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!
Deuteronomy 27:8 ESV / 8 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.”
Revelation 2:1 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
2 Timothy 2:15 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
Colossians 3:14 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Romans 3:1-31 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) ...
Matthew 19:26 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 6:14-15 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Proverbs 16:9 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Psalm 32:8 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Deuteronomy 31:22 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel.
Deuteronomy 31:19 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
“Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel.
Deuteronomy 6:9 ESV / 7 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Ephesians 5:4 ESV / 6 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV / 6 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Matthew 19:2 ESV / 6 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
Matthew 5:1-48 ESV / 6 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. ...
Proverbs 3:3 ESV / 6 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
Nehemiah 9:38 ESV / 6 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
“Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.
Joshua 24:15 ESV / 6 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord , choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord .”
Deuteronomy 11:20 ESV / 6 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,
1 John 1:1-10 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. ...
1 Peter 1:16 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Hebrews 12:12-13 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Ephesians 5:25 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
Ephesians 4:2 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
1 Corinthians 14:1-40 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. ...
1 Corinthians 7:2 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
Acts 15:15 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
John 12:14 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
John 10:34 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?
Isaiah 40:31 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Proverbs 22:6 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Deuteronomy 17:18 ESV / 5 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
John 19:22 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Luke 20:17 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?
Luke 10:26 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
Luke 4:10 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
For it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’
Matthew 6:33 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Hosea 11:4 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.
Ezekiel 17:1-8 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, propound a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel; say, Thus says the Lord God : A great eagle with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar. He broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants. Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters. He set it like a willow twig, ...
Psalm 40:3 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord .
Psalm 23:2 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
Joshua 1:9 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Exodus 17:14 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”
Genesis 1:1-31 ESV / 4 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. ...
Revelation 1:1-20 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood ...
James 3:1 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
Colossians 3:12 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
Colossians 3:1-2 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Philippians 4:10 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; ...
Isaiah 8:1 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Then the Lord said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’
Proverbs 3:6 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Psalm 23:4 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Genesis 1:2 ESV / 3 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Revelation 11:1-19 ESV / 2 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. ...
Revelation 1:1 ESV / 2 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
1 John 4:18-19 ESV / 2 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
James 3:3 ESV / 2 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.
Colossians 3:3 ESV / 2 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles , a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Contact me: openbibleinfo (at) gmail.com.
What Is Prose? Definition, Meaning, and Examples
If you’re familiar with prose , you’ve probably heard it defined as “not poetry.” In truth, its definition is more expansive. There are many types of prose; for example, prose fiction is writing that contains elements like character, setting, and theme. More broadly, prose is any writing that adheres to standard sentence and grammatical structure. In other words, prose is writing that lacks the hallmarks of poetry and song.
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What is prose?
Prose , pronounced prōz , is defined as writing that does not follow a meter or rhyme scheme. It’s writing that follows standard grammatical rules and communicates ideas in a linear, logical order. Prose writing includes works of fiction and nonfiction .
Unless you’re a particularly prolific poet, most of the writing you do is prose. This blog post is prose. Most books are prose. Research papers are prose. In other words, prose is “regular” writing—the kind of writing that isn’t constrained by stanzas, meter, rhyme, or any other stylistic formatting. Its purposes vary and include entertaining the reader as well as informing and persuading them. Its style serves all of these purposes by relying on familiar language structures to communicate directly with the reader.
Prose is a mass noun , which means it does not have a plural form. As it’s a mass noun, you wouldn’t discuss prose as a singular piece of writing or as multiple pieces—when discussing a singular prose work, you would refer to the specific type of work, such as “a book” or “an article . ” Similarly, to discuss multiple works of prose, you would say something like “the collection of prose” to refer to a library of books or an anthology of prose writing.
4 types of prose
As we mentioned earlier, prose includes both fictional and nonfictional writing. There are four defined types of prose. They are:
1 Fictional prose
As its name implies, prose fiction is prose that tells a story. Examples include:
- Short stories
- Flash fiction
Fictional prose contains the five features of fiction: mood, point of view, character, setting, and plot.
2 Nonfictional prose
Nonfictional prose is prose that tells a true story or otherwise communicates factual information. Guidebooks, memoirs, analytical essays , editorials, news stories, and textbooks are all examples of nonfictional prose. The language used in nonfictional prose can vary widely, from the formal language of academic papers to the more subjective writing found in opinion pieces. The uniting characteristic of nonfictional prose is that these pieces of writing do not tell fictional stories.
3 Heroic prose
Heroic prose is similar to fictional prose but has one crucial difference: Traditionally, it’s not written down. Instead, these stories are passed from generation to generation through oral tradition. This is often reflected in the story’s use of language, which is particularly suited to recitation.
A few examples of heroic prose include:
- The thirteenth-century Icelandic sagas Vǫlsunga saga and Thidriks saga
- The Fenian cycle, a collection of Irish tales recorded in the twelfth century telling the story of hero Finn McCool
4 Prose poetry
Although poetry usually lives outside the constraints of prose, some poems use prose language. The prose poem “ [Kills bugs dead.],” by Harryette Mullen, is a good example:
Kills bugs dead. Redundancy is syntactical overkill. A pin-prick of peace at the end of the tunnel of a nightmare night in a roach motel. Their noise infects the dream. In black kitchens they foul the food, walk on our bodies as we sleep over oceans of pirate flags. Skull and crossbones, they crunch like candy. When we die they will eat us, unless we kill them first. Invest in better mousetraps. Take no prisoners on board ship, to rock the boat, to violate our beds with pestilence. We dream the dream of extirpation. Wipe out a species, with God at our side. Annihilate the insects. Sterilize the filthy vermin.
Although this poem is certainly stylized and uses figurative language, it uses prose sentence structure. The use of prose language makes it a prose poem.
How do you write prose?
When you’re writing prose, stick to standard grammatical rules and structures. Deviate from these rules only when doing so will immerse the reader further into the text or help them understand it better, such as when writing:
Follow natural speech patterns to help the reader understand your message, which is your goal with these types of writing.
Beyond these guidelines, follow the rules for the specific type of writing you’re doing. For example, if you’re writing a research paper or another kind of academic work, use academic language and format your writing according to the appropriate style guide. Similarly, format personal essays, articles, emails, and any other prose writing you do according to the generally accepted format for that type of writing.
Although prose may contain literary devices, such devices should not make up the bulk of the text. Rather, incorporate literary devices as a way to enhance the more linear text in your prose writing.
Prose vs. poetry
To understand the differences between prose and poetry, think about the things that make poetry unique:
- Deliberate line breaks
- Traditional poetic structures, like a sonnet or a ballad
- Rhyme scheme
- Metrical structure
- Significant use of figurative language and other literary devices
- Formatting that stands out visually on the page
Keep in mind that not every poem checks all of these boxes. Plenty of poems don’t rhyme, and not every poem fits a set metrical structure; in addition, as you saw in the prose poetry example above, a poem doesn’t necessarily have to contain line breaks or stylized formatting. However, when a piece of writing uses one or more of these elements to primarily communicate a theme or mood, rather than convey information, it’s generally considered a poem.
In contrast, prose:
- Primarily uses literal, everyday language
- Contains sentences that continue across lines
- Is formatted into paragraphs, lines, and lists
- Generally follows natural speech patterns
- To learn more, please visit our website.
- Crocodiles are the largest reptiles in the world. They coexisted with dinosaurs, making them one of the oldest living species today.
- After we stopped for gasoline, we had a renewed sense of purpose for the road trip.
- Thank you very much for your inquiry. Due to the volume of emails we receive, we cannot respond to each individually.
- “Yes, I would love to help you build a shed!” he exclaimed.
- There are seven continents on Earth.
The prose is writing that uses standard grammatical rules and structure. Prose writing is organized into sentences and paragraphs and generally communicates ideas in a linear narrative.
What are the types of prose?
- Fictional prose
- Nonfictional prose
- Heroic prose
- Prose poetry
What’s the difference between poetry and prose?
While poetry is characterized by having meter, rhyme schemes, stanzas, and other stylistic formatting, prose is characterized by the lack of these.
5 Verses from the Bible That Illuminate the Meaning of Christmas
Within the meaning of Christmas, as illuminated in the Bible, we find meaningful truths to hold on to the rest of the year which can impact our hearts and offer something compelling and beautiful to those around us.
“Jews were waiting for a Savior, and God sent Jesus, Immanuel, to fulfill prophecy . He was ‘God’s plan made manifest.’” But there are other elements to the Christmas story that provide some context and enrich our understanding of God’s character and what it means to walk with Christ.
Many verses shed light on parts of the story Christians and non-Christians alike are apt to overlook. The world would say there is a kind of magic to this season. The following five verses illuminate the deep significance of Christmas day by day.
1. Micah 5:2
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
God tells Micah that Jesus was always there; he is coming from “of old, from ancient of days .” Since the beginning he was , and we know that he still is . This statement should remind us that the Lord has never lost control of our world.
Christmas is a time when we tend to focus on love and goodwill between one another, giving gifts and celebrating. We thank God that Christ was born into our fallen circumstances to personally lead us out of them. But let us not forget the one who prepared and sent: the Father.
Micah 5:2 also tells us that Christ would be “ruler in Israel.” Christ came for all of us who would believe in him alone for salvation. Gentile believers were grafted into the nation of Israel — this is a miraculous gift ( Romans 11 ).
Thirdly, Micah 5:2 “signal[s] renewed kingship. [...] The unlikely choice of David as king foreshadows the unlikely choice of Bethlehem as the hometown of the greater David” ( Amos 9:11 ; Malachi 3:4 ).
The ESV Study Bible online tells us that “this text is referring to the Messiah’s ancient Davidic lineage, confirming that the ancient covenantal promises made to David still stand.” The throne has been filled with the real King as promised in prophecy.
2. Luke 1:16-17
“And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”
What came immediately before the birth of Christ? Israel did not hear from God for several hundred years. Elizabeth and Zechariah, like the rest of God’s people, had endured God’s silence for a very long time.
Mike Leake explains , “There was no Scripture written between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament. There was an inspired prophetic silence, though. During this time God did not reveal anything new.”
The long silence since Christ ascended is different because Christ proved the trustworthiness and power of God, inspiring hope and leading many Jews and Gentiles to the Kingdom. “God is at work just as he was at work in the intertestamental period. He is just speaking differently.”
But for Zechariah, Elizabeth, and countless Jews, Christmas is when the Lord spoke again. His silence had been a hardship. The Lord, however, was not inactive, says Leake. He was setting the stage, preparing for redemption at the cross.
Christ was born at precisely the right time. Imagine the joy of hearing the Lord speak once more, through this the joyful and puzzling event of what we call The Nativity.
And, as Christians, the indwelling Holy Spirit comforts us personally as we wait for him to come back.
3. Luke 1:50
“And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”
The editors of the ESV Study Bible say that Mary’s hymn expresses “certainty of what God will do.” The Lord is fulfilling prophecy, and we know this because of the word “mercy.” Strong’s concordance defines the Greek “ eleos ” as “mercy, pity, compassion.”
We think of babies as pitiful, vulnerable human beings; needy, incapable, requiring all the compassion available. Yet here was the King of Kings, born into the world as a demonstration of God’s pity and compassion for not only Israel but for all the world.
Mercy is a poignant word, sending us three decades into the future. Christ came as the King, the one who would save Israel and all the people from their sins. He would be treated with contempt, and yet Jesus would turn the tables by repaying brutality with mercy.
And “generation” calls to mind God’s promise to Abraham: “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” ( Genesis 17:7 ).
Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham for through him, countless believers would also be heirs to the Kingdom of God by faith in God’s only Son.
Advent Candle of Hope: Here’s What Really Matters This Holiday Season
4. Matthew 1:21
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The ESV Study Bible says that “the name Jesus was given as a symbolic hope for the Lord’s anticipated sending of salvation through a Messiah who would [...] save them from oppression.”
But this salvation was not a release from the circumstances that held God’s people enslaved to other nations or exiled from their homeland; nor is it a release from the ways in which people and institutions and even illness cause harm. The greatest oppressor is sin. The process of being cleansed of sin was an arduous one.
David C. Grabbe highlights the bloody nature of a sin offering, “detailed in Leviticus 4 , [which] is God's prescribed way to show sins being paid for through a death.”
Hebrews 10:4 reminds us that shedding blood did not eradicate sin, “God still required blood to be shed to remind the people that sin incurs the death penalty."
Jesus’ name was yet another symbol of what he would accomplish for the people: their burden would be removed because he would look after full payment for sin, forever.
Christ’s birth affirmed that generations of hopeful Jews had not been foolish. And his birth also ended slavery to a religious pattern which was insufficient to restore God’s people, whether Jew or Gentile, to relationship with Him as Father.
5. Matthew 1:20
“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.”
Christmas is a magical, even mythical throwback to childhood and make-believe. Those who celebrate frequently make the day as playful as possible in order to forget their daily lives and relax. They make a special point of being particularly kind on this one day or during the holiday season.
Joseph, however, had cultivated a gentle, generous, and reasonable spirit before he met the angel. Although he was imperfect, Joseph represents the goal of maintaining that “Christmas spirit” 365 days of the year.
He had already decided to release himself from his engagement to Mary in a gracious way so as to prevent her from being humiliated or even executed.
The angel did not have to appear in order that Joseph would behave with integrity, demonstrating the fruit of a heart bent on serving the Lord. Joseph was ready, even though the Lord had been silent until then.
But this softness of heart did not come from a place of weakness; Joseph was thoughtful. He “considered” everything that Mary had said to him, weighing the facts.
Everything associated with Christmas and the gospel in its entirety would seem like foolishness — and is, indeed perceived by those who are perishing as foolishness ( 1 Corinthians 1:18 ) — if it weren’t for the evidence.
And this evidence is worth deep, intentional thought, not as another way to escape real life but as a means by which we cling to hope. Joseph is a reflection of that reasonable attitude that Paul calls for in the New Testament ( Philippians 4:5 ).
Christmas is a miraculous time, when we remember that miracles are possible. Yet God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” ( Romans 1:20 ).
While waiting for Christ’s return, we are sometimes guilty of looking too far forward and forgetting what is right in front of us. Christmas is a reminder that the magic and joy of Christmas is really in knowing that there is more to the story that has already been written.
For further reading:
5 Ways to Stay Focused on Jesus This Christmas
So What’s for Christmas This Year?
3 Ways to Keep Jesus at the Center of Your Christmas This Year
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Jessica Fadal
LISTEN to Our Christ-Centered Christmas Podcasts on LifeAudio
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
WATCH: Prophecies That Foretold Jesus' Birth
See the numerous biblical prophecies of the birth of Jesus Christ and what we can learn from the Old Testament about His divinity in this collection of scripture quotes .
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Many people deny Christ’s deity, calling Him simply a “prophet” or “good teacher.” But Jesus was never merely human. As complex as it is for us to comprehend, He was fully God and fully man.
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