This is the second 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. reader identification With whom in the text do I identify? Why have I made that choice?
  2. form What is the form (or genre) of this passage? Is it a song? Letter? Law? Epic? Parable? Saying?
  3. function What is the function of this passage in terms of the entire work?
  4. structure How could the structure be sketched? Does it build to a climax? Does it have separate parts?
  5. style What is distinctive about the author’s style? Are there distinctive phrases or key words?
  6. power Who has money? Power? Who is poor? Powerless?

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Keep calm and carry on teaching.

God bless, Malcolm