Periodic Table of the Bible



These two periodic tables are an attempt to think about the Old and New Testaments with a broad view towards genre. The first table uses a minimalist abbreviation of the books of the Bible, while the second uses the standardized SBL abbreviations.

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 books.

The purple blocks represent what I’m calling “Didactic Literature,” which includes the Prophetic Literature of the Old Testament and the Letters from the New Testament. “Didactic Literature” is admittedly not a great title for these two bodies of literature, but it is used here to emphasize the similarity in how both bodies of literature are more directly instructive by form.

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 Analaysis,” 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.

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