Periodic Table of the Bible

This period table is an attempt to think about the Old and New Testaments with a broad view towards genre.

The blue blocks represent the Narratives in the Bible. Both Daniel and Revelation are included in this section because they contain a fair amount of narrative: Daniel in the first half, and Revelation in the technical sense of Apocalyptic Literature as a “genre of revelatory literature within a narrative framework…” (John J. Collins, “Towards the Morphology of a Genre,” Semeia 14 (1979): 9).

The yellow blocks represent the Wisdom and Poetic Literature.

The purple blocks represent the Prophetic Literature of the Old Testament and the Epistles/Letters from the New Testament. Though all Scripture is instructive, the Prophets and Letters are most directly so.

There is a lot more to say about genre, and there are many qualifications to make with respect to these charts. They were created for use in my Hermeneutics course as a teaching tool for our introduction to genre. For further reading on genre and how it affects biblical interpretation, see:

Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative. Basic Books, 1981.

Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Poetry. Basic Books, 1985. 

Alter, Robert. The World of Biblical Literature. Basic Books, 1992. 

Amit, Yairah. Reading Biblical Narratives: Literary Criticism and the Hebrew Bible. Fortress, 2001.

Aune, David. The Literary Environment of the New Testament. Library of Early Christianity 8. Edited by Wayne A. Meeks. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1985.

Bailey, James L, “Genre Analysis,” Pages 140-65 in Hearing the New Testament. 2nd edition. Edited by Joel B. Green. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.

Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 4th ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

Gunn, David M. and Danna Nolan Fewell. Narrative in the Hebrew Bible. The Oxford Bible Series. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

McKenzie, Steven L. How to Read the Bible: History, Prophecy, Literature – Why Moderns Readers Need to Know the Difference and What It Means for Faith Today. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Walton, John H. and D. Brent Sandy. The Lost World of Scripture: Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority. Downers Grove: IVP, 2013.

For a brief introduction to biblical genre, Tim Mackie and Jon Collins’ The Bible Project has an introductory video series called “How to Read the Bible” that devotes most of the videos to discussing biblical genre.

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