This is the first of three teaching tips on how to dig into a text from a literary perspective. What is the literal , or narrative, perspective?

“The basic method by which we are to study biblical narratives is simple: we are asked to read them! Most of us have grown up with the Gospels or Old Testament history as isolated stories. We have seldom sat down and simply read them through to catch the drama and power of the stories as they fit together to form a holistic panorama. Literary critics have developed techniques that will aid us greatly to perform a ‘close reading’ of the text and to note such features as plot and character tension, point of view, dialogue, narrative time and settings, all of which will enable the reader to detect the flow of the text and therefore the see the hand of God as he has inspired the biblical author to develop his story.” Osborne, Grant R., ‘The Hermeneutical Spiral’

These tips are taken from Marlene Kropf’s book, ‘Preparing Sunday Dinner: A Collaborative Approach to Worship and Preaching’ (pp. 417-418). You will find similar questions in Clare Miller’s book, ‘The Simple Guide to Better Biblical Exegesis’.


Focus Questions

  1. character Who are the main characters? What are they like? How can they be described?
  2. plot What happens in this text? Why does it happen? pen? What is the sequence of events?
  3. context How does context affect the meaning here? What happened before this section? After?
  4. conflict What is the main conflict here? What caused it?
  5. resolution What is needed for resolution? Who must do it? Or, if conflict is resolved, will resolution last?
  6. author What can be said about the human author or writer? Why was it written?
  7. audience For whom is it written? What effect was intended?

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Keep calm and carry on teaching.

God bless, Malcolm