Is the written style of the Bible like poetry or other literature genres?The Holy Bible

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  • There are several written styles in the Bible, some of which are rather unfamiliar to modern readers.  Of course, much of the New Testament is in the form of parables, especially those passages which allude to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  For example, the parable of the talents(Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-28) is a story which has a moral to it.  In this parable a man leaves and entrusts three of his servants with some of his money.  When he returns two of the three have invested the money and made more for him; however, the third servant, who contends that he was afraid of the master and was afraid to take a risk lest he lose it and be punished. So, he has hidden the talent (a certain monetary measure).  His indolence angers the master who casts the man off his land because he is evil and lazy.  The moral, then, is that those who work will be rewarded, and those who do not will be punished.
  • Another literary form is that used is poetry.  For example, funeral poems are in the Old Testament, such as David’s elegy for Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:19–27
  • The Book of Psalms is religious poems that utilize several rhetorical forms. One of these is antithetic parallelism:
Two lines of Hebrew poetry in which the second line states the truth of the first line in a contrasting way: “The Lord knows the way of the righteous, / but the way of the wicked will perish” The psalms are written in lines that often are paired; these are termed versets.  Another rhetorical device used is repetition. Psalms often have lines repeated.  for example Psalm 96 begins,O sing unto the LORD a new song: sing unto the LORD, all the earth Hyperbole is often employed as in Psalm 22--But I am a worm and no man;A reproach of men, and despised of the people

Psalm 22 also uses apostrophe:

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me

 Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible with 176 verses, is a meditation on God’s law using an acrostic—a poem in which each segment begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
  • Of course, metaphors and similes abound in the Psalms.  And irony finds its way into several of the gospels of the New Testament.
  • Saint Paul of the New Testament utilized the epistle, a letter that gives instruction, while in the Old Testament much is written in the form of historical narrative--almost epic.
  • Then there are the gospels of the New Testament, accounts that describe the life and teachings of Jesus while He was on earth.  Indeed, the Bible is a great literary work of itself.