What are the 6 Literary Genres of the Bible?

The Word of God

Short Answer: The 6 literary genres of the Bible are narrative, wisdom, psalms, prophecy, gospels, and epistles.

Better Answer: Understanding the literary genres used in the Bible will allow you to get a better feel for the text’s tone and message.

From the poetic Psalms to the riveting narratives in the Gospels, the guiding laws of the Pentateuch, the mesmerizing prophecies, the pearls of wisdom in the Proverbs, and the awe-inspiring apocalyptic revelations of Jesus Christ.

Let’s jump in.

Narrative Genre

A literary narrative is simply a story that’s being told to an audience.

Think of it as an information dump including experiences, events, and details.

This genre makes up the bulk of information that we consume including books, blogs, TV, movies, and other videos like YouTube.

literary genre metaphor

YouTube creators spend a lot of energy trying to master the art of storytelling because humans like stories. Especially entertaining stories. You can view a creators older videos if they still have them posted and easily notice their improvement over time as they gain success.

The Bible has 18 books written in the narrative genre:

  • Genesis
    • Genesis is the book of beginnings and actually begins in the past with our eternal God. God made this story public in writing through Moses between 1445-1405 B.C..
  • Exodus
    • Exodus marks the transition from the oppression of God’s people in Egypt to the fulfillment of the covenant promise to Abraham. God also made this story public in writing through Moses between 1445-1405 B.C..
  • Leviticus
    • Leviticus is all about how to worship God in Israel and a breakdown of Old Covenant rituals. Moses wrote this book between 1445-1405 B.C..
  • Numbers
    • Numbers is a mashup of census lists, genealogies, laws, and poetry that tell the story of Israel’s travel from Mt Sinai to Moab. This is another book written by Moses between 1445-1405 B.C..
  • Deuteronomy
    • Deuteronomy is a renewal of the first covenant with the second generation of Israel during the last weeks of Moses’ life. This was the final book written by Mose between 1445-1405 B.C..
  • Joshua
    • This book is a historical account of Joshua’s exploits as he conquered and distributed the land among the 12 tribes of Israel. Joshua is credited with the writing of this book between 1405-1385 B.C..
  • Judges
    • Judges is the sequel to Joshua and covers a disobedient period of Israel’s history. Samuel wrote Judges in 1043 B.C..
  • Ruth
    • The book of Ruth shows us that God’s redemption extends beyond the Jew to the gentiles as well. Jewish tradition credits Samuel with the writing of this book between 1030-1010 B.C..
  • 1 & 2 Samuel
    • Samuel records the events that brought Israel out of a period of darkness by Samuel and David. The author is unknown and was written between 931-722 B.C.
  • 1 & 2 Kings
    • Kings communicates the lesson of Israels history to the exiles in Babylon from the death of David to the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians. The author is unknown and was written between 561-538 B.C..
  • 1 & 2 Chronicles
    • Chronicles recreates Old Testament history for Israel as they return to the promise land out of Babylonian captivity. Jewish tradition credits Ezra with writing the book between 450-430 B.C..
  • Ezra
    • The book of Ezra covers the return of Israel to the promise land. Ezra is credited with the writing between 457-444 B.C..
  • Nehemiah
    • This book covers Nehemiah’s governorship of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the wall. Ezra is also credited with writing this book between 424-400 B.C.
  • Esther
    • Esther is another example in history that chronicles how foreign powers tries to exterminate God’s people. The author is unknown and was written between 450-331 B.C..
  • Acts
    • Acts is the second book of Luke and chronicles the early church formation. It is a continuation from the death of Jesus to Paul’s preaching at Rome. Acts was written by Luke in A.D. 62.

Wisdom Literature Genre

Biblical wisdom literature is the literary genre that tells us how the world works. It’s God’s course on how to be more obedient and successful in all areas of our lives.

What are the 6 literary genres of the Bible

Wisdom literally means to have good judgement through experience. So getting wisdom requires knowledge and experience.

The 3 books of wisdom in the Bible focuses on building our relationships with God and each other. It is a class in righteousness and personal growth.

  • Job
    • The book of Job teaches us to trust God through pain and suffering even when there is no explanation or reason for it. The author and date of writing is unknown.
  • Proverbs
    • Proverbs is a treasure trove of biblical theology and was written mainly by Solomon between 971-686 B.C..
  • Ecclesiastes
    • This book was written between 940-931 B.C. by Solomon in hindsight and chronicles his conclusions regarding man’s lifework. It’s one of those “if I could go back and do it again stories.”

Psalms Genre

Psalms are sacred songs or hymns used in Christian and Jewish worship. The Bible contains 6 types of psalms: lament (mourning), praise (joyful), thanksgiving (gratitude), covenant (loyalty), trust (faith), and wisdom (righteous living).

  • Psalms
    • Psalms are a book of praises that cover living real life in the real world where God is sovereign. 7 authors contributed praises between 1410-450 B.C..
  • Song of Solomon
    • This is a love song between Solomon and his first wife before he sinned and added 699 wives and 300 concubines to his house. Solomon wrote it between 971-965 B.C..
  • Lamentations
    • These are verses that focus on Judah’s sin and God’s judgement because of it. It was written by Jeremiah in 586 B.C..

Prophecy Genre

Prophecy is a revelation from the Holy Spirit pushed through humans that tells us what will happen in the future. God Himself says it best:

Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;

Isaiah 46:9-10

The Bible is about 25% prophetic and consists of roughly 2000 prophecies. 1500 of them have been fulfilled so far with 500 more to go. The remaining 500 center mostly on the 2nd coming of Jesus.

God has been 100% accurate so far, so there’s no reason to believe that the remaining prophecies won’t be fulfilled exactly as described in the following books of the Bible.

Prophecy Genre of the Bible

The books of prophecy were named after the prophets who wrote them except Revelation.

  • Isaiah: Written between 700-681 B.C..
  • Jeremiah: Written between 586-570 B.C..
  • Ezekiel: Written between 590-570 B.C..
  • Daniel: Written between 536-530 B.C..
  • Hosea: Written between 755-710 B.C..
  • Joel: Written between 835-796 B.C..
  • Amos: Written in 755 B.C..
  • Obadiah: Written between 850-840 B.C..
  • Jonah: Written in 760 B.C..
  • Micah: Written between 735-710 B.C..
  • Nahum: Written in 650 B.C..
  • Habakkuk: Written between 615-605 B.C..
  • Zephaniah: Written between 635-625 B.C..
  • Haggai: Written in 520 B.C..
  • Zechariah: Written between 480-470 B.C..
  • Malachi: Written between 433-424 B.C..
  • Revelation: Written by John between A.D. 94-96.

Gospel Genre

Gospel means “good news” as in the good news of Christ. There are 4 gospels in the Bible and they are a loosely connected series of events surrounding the ministry of Jesus.

Fancy types like to call this type of genre an episodic narrative, but I don’t wear cardigan sweaters or smoke a pipe, so I don’t feel comfortable saying it that way.

Bible reading is fun

Each gospel has a different audience or purpose in mind. They also contain differing amounts of detail in regards to specific events that took place. They’re amazing really.

  • Matthew: Written to the converts from Judaism by Matthew between A.D. 50-60.
  • Mark: Written to the converts in Rome by Mark between A.D. 50-60.
  • Luke: Written as a history to a broad audience with Greek trappings by Luke between A.D. 60-61.
  • John: Written by John between A.D. 80-90 from prison to reinforce the fact that Jesus is God.

Epistle Genre

Epistles are simply letters written by apostles to specific people or early churches. These letters contain theology and instruction for believers like you and me both.

The letters served the purpose of steering the early Church as a whole into the correct direction by keeping them following the true path laid down by Jesus during His ministry.

You’ll notice that 2 of the Epistles were written by Jesus’ brothers. They thought He was crazy until the resurrection. What did they experience that would make His own brothers worship Him as God and be martyred for Him?

  • Romans: Written by Paul in A.D. 56.
  • 1 & 2 Corinthians: Written by Paul between A.D. 55-56.
  • Galatians: Written by Paul between A.D. 49-50.
  • Ephesians: Written by Paul between A.D. 60-62.
  • Philippians: Written by Paul between A.D. 60-62.
  • Colossians: Written by Paul between A.D. 60-62.
  • 1 & 2 Thessalonians: Written by Paul between A.D. 51-52.
  • 1 & 2 Timothy: Written by Paul between A.D. 62-64 & A.D. 66-67.
  • Titus: Written by Paul between A.D. 62-64.
  • Philemon: Written by Paul between A.D. 60-62.
  • Hebrews: Writer unknown between A.D. 67-69. My speculation is that Mark wrote Hebrews.
  • James: Written by James between A.D. 44-49. Jesus’ older brother.
  • 1 & 2 Peter: Written by Peter between A.D. 64-65 & 67-68.
  • John, 1, 2, & 3 John: Written by John between A.D. 80-90, 90-95, 90-95, & 90-95.
  • Jude: Written by Jude between A.D. 68-70. Jesus’ little brother.

Now you know what the 6 literary genres of the Bible are and which books belong to each genre. Using a study Bible really helps, and I recommend the MacArthur Study Bible if you don’t have one.

FAQ

genesis literary genre

What Literary Style is Genesis?

Genesis is primarily a narrative text. It weaves together a tapestry of stories that recount the creation of the world, the lives of patriarchs, and the origins of humanity.

These narratives create a sense of wonder while describing the formation of the cosmos and the first humans in poetic and majestic language.

What are the Literary Features of Genesis?

It begins with creation by presenting a theological perspective on the origins of the world.

It includes extensive genealogies and underlines the passage of time across generations. The themes of divine covenant and promise shine through in the stories of patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Genesis also uses poetic passages, dreams, and visions to convey theological truths and moral lessons.

Is Genesis a History or Poetry?

The Book of Genesis blends elements of both history and poetry. This makes Genesis a hybrid of both.

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