Hey guys! Today we want to talk about “What percentage of the Bible is narrative?” in solsarin. So, stay with us until the end of the text. Here we go!
The Bible is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred in Christianity, Judaism, Samaritanism, and many other religions. The Bible is an anthology—a compilation of texts of a variety of forms—originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek.
These texts include instructions, stories, poetry, and prophecies, among other genres. The collection of materials that are accepted as part of the Bible by a particular religious tradition or community is called a biblical canon. Believers in the Bible generally consider it to be a product of divine inspiration, while understanding what that means and interpreting the text in differing, various ways.
The religious texts were compiled by different religious communities into various official collections. The earliest contained the first five books of the Bible. It is called the Torah in Hebrew and the Pentateuch in Greek (meaning five books in Greek); the second oldest part was a collection of narrative histories and prophecies (the Nevi’im); the third collection (the Ketuvim) contains psalms, proverbs, and narrative histories.
Tanakh is an alternate term for the Hebrew Bible composed of the first letters of those three parts of the Hebrew scriptures: the Torah (“Teaching”), the Nevi’im (“Prophets”), and the Ketuvim (“Writings”).
The Masoretic Text is the medieval version of the Tanakh, in Hebrew and Aramaic, that is considered the authoritative text of the Hebrew Bible by modern Rabbinic Judaism. The Septuagint is a Koine Greek translation of the Tanakh from the third and second centuries BCE (Before Common Era); it largely overlaps with the Hebrew Bible.
Christianity began as an outgrowth of Judaism, using the Septuagint as the basis of the Old Testament. The early Church continued the Jewish tradition of writing and incorporating what it saw as inspired, authoritative religious books. The gospels, Pauline epistles and other texts quickly coalesced into the New Testament.
With estimated total sales of over five billion copies, the Bible is the best-selling publication of all time. It has had a profound influence both on Western culture and history and on cultures around the globe. The study of it through biblical criticism has indirectly impacted culture and history as well. The Bible is currently translated or being translated into about half of the world’s languages.
What percentage of the Bible is narrative?
The narrative-style books of the Old Testament consist of the first twelve books (Genesis through Nehemiah). These hold the historical record of the Old Testament, followed by five books of wisdom literature and poetry (Job through Song of Songs), and those followed by the prophetic books (Isaiah through Malachi).
The wisdom and prophetic books take place at varying points throughout the timeline established by the narrative books, and then a space of several centuries separates the Old Testament from the New Testament.
Understanding Genres of the Bible Point Us to Accurate Interpretation
A key to accurately interpreting Scripture is to consider what kind of genre the particular book or passage is written in. For instance, how we interpret the meaning behind the Psalms is different from how we might interpret something from II Chronicles. This is because the two books are written in completely different literary genres.
The Bible is a collection of many books telling one unified story, and these books are written in different styles. It’s a little like walking into a bookstore and seeing different categories of books such as history, biography, poetry, and non-fiction. When you peruse these different types of books, you will have different expectations as you read them.
THE OLD TESTAMENT NARRATIVES: THEIR PROPER USE
The Nature of Narratives:
Over 40 percent of the Old Testament is narratives and since the Old Testament constitutes three-quarters of the bible it is no surprise that the single most common type of literature in the entire bible is narrative.
Narratives are basically stories. Stories that we refer to as God’s story—a story that is ultimately true, crucially important, and often complex. Their purpose is to show God at work in his creation and among his people. The narratives glorify him, and give us a picture of his providence and protection. They also provide illustrations of many other lessons important to our lives.
Three Levels of Narratives:
Old Testament narratives are told on three levels. The top level is that of the whole universal plan of God worked out through his creation. Key aspects to this level are the initial creation itself; the fall of humanity; the power and ubiquity of sin; the need for redemption; and Christ’s incarnation and sacrifice. The top level is often referred to as the “story of redemption” or the “redemptive history.”
The middle level centers on Israel: the call of Abraham; the establishment of an Abrahamic lineage through the patriarchs; the enslaving of Israel in Egypt; God’s deliverance from bondage and the conquest of the promised land of Canaan; Israel’s frequent sins and increasing disloyalty; God’s patient protection and pleading with them; the ultimate destruction of northern Israel and then of Judah; and the restoration of the holy people after the Exile.
Then there is the bottom level. Here are found all the hundreds of individual narratives that make up the other two levels. Every individual Old Testament narrative is at least part of the greater narrative of Israel’s history in the world, which in turn is part of the ultimate narrative of God’s creation and his redemption of it. This ultimate narrative goes beyond the Old Testament and into the New.
You will not fully do justice to any individual narrative without recognizing its part within the other two. However there is nothing wrong with studying an individual narrative all by itself. But for the fullest sense you must finally see that individual narrative within its larger contexts.
What Narratives Are and Are Not:
1. They are first and foremost stories about what God did to and through people. The Bible is composed of divine narratives, God is the hero of the story.
2. Old Testament narratives are not allegories or stories filled with hidden meanings. But there may be aspects of narratives that are difficult to understand. In other words, narratives do not answer all our questions about a given issue. They are limited in their focus, and give us only one part of the overall picture of what God is doing in history.
3. They do not always teach directly. They emphasize God’s nature and revelation in special ways that legal or doctrinal portions of the Bible never can, by allowing us to live vicariously through events and experiences rather than simply learning about an issue.
4. Each individual narrative or episode within a narrative does not necessarily have a moral all its own. Narratives cannot be interpreted atomistically, as if every statement, every event, every description could, independently of the others, have a special message for the reader. To try and find significance and meaning in each bit of data or each single event in the narrative will not work if not read in light of the larger context and story.
HOW TO READ NARRATIVE
Everybody likes a good story. By the time you read this, we will be two months into our reading through the Bible. A lot of what we have been reading are good stories. These stories are part of a particular genre we have in Scripture that is called narrative material. Some suggest nearly half of the Old Testament is narrative.
In the New Testament, a large percentage of the Gospels and Acts are narrative. So we must understand how to read the narrative genre of Scripture to gain greater benefit from our reading. Please consider what follows as a guide for reading the greatest story ever told.
First, narratives are descriptive in nature. Narratives do not instruct us per se but provide us with an illustration. Some state it by saying, “Narratives are descriptive rather than prescriptive.” An illustration of the descriptive nature of Scripture is found in Joshua 6 and the battle of Jericho.
This narrative account does not teach us the eight aspects of God’s faithfulness, but instead, we “see” the faithfulness of God. You could say, the faithfulness of God is “demonstrated/illustrated” in the battle of Jericho. Narratives show us how to live or how not to live, rather than telling us how to live or how not to live.
Second, narratives have a plot, setting, and characters. The plot is the main part of the story—what all the parts of the story are directing us to grasp. It is important to understand when reading narratives that there is not a special meaning in every character or event. Generally, the parts of a narrative emphasize and point to a plot or one single message. As you read a particular episode or narrative, you need to ask yourself, what is the single message of this story?
There is also the setting. The setting gives you the background or the situation in which the story and events are taking place. In Joshua 6, the setting is that Israel crossed the Jordan and is entering into the Promised Land.
Their reputation had gone before them. The knowledge of their battles on the east side of the Jordan had preceded them. Now they are crossing over to the west side of the Jordan—the foothills of the Promised Land—and, we read in Joshua 6:1 that Jericho was in lockdown because of what they had heard regarding Israel. That is the setting.
Then there are the characters in the story. There is a danger here that as we read these accounts, we might become fixated on the people in the story. Biblical narratives, whether Old Testament or New Testament, make God the central character.
One writer states, “If we miss God in the story, then we have missed the story.” So when you read narrative genre be asking yourself, “What is this story telling me about God?” Narratives can become lessons for our own lives and how we relate to God or how we should not relate to God.
Third, a narrative does not always explicitly say the truth it is illustrating. Sometimes the truth is “implicit” meaning, while not being directly stated, it can be understood from what is said. Joshua 6 is a great example. In Joshua 6:2, God declares, “I have given Jericho into your hand . . .” In Joshua 6:20c, “and they (Israel) took the city.” Nowhere in the account do we read, “God is faithful.” But in the spoken words and the actions taken, we “see” God is faithful.
Fourth, narratives need to be read in context. The best rule of thumb here is that for each narrative you read, read three chapters. Read the chapter preceding the narrative you are reading. Read the chapter which contains the narrative you are reading. Lastly, read the chapter which follows the narrative you are reading.
Finally, read the narrative carefully. Refer back to Pastor Douglas’s article on tips for reading the Bible. Ask yourself, “What is the big idea? What are the little details? Why should I care?”
So pick up this “good read” and enjoy the plots, the twists and turns, and all the drama. Ask the Lord through His Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind to behold our glorious God in these events. Also, ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment and to enable you to obey and follow the patterns of those who were obedient and to avoid the negative examples of others.