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. patterns Are there unusual patterns? (For example, three times of questioning? Two acts that fail? Four journeys)?
  2. Connections Do any of the above connect with similar things elsewhere in the Bible?
  3. Translations How do you several English versions compare? What does the original Greek or Hebrew say?
  4. Parallels Do parallel accounts differ (for example between the gospels, or Samuel, kings, and chronicles)?
  5. Puzzles What is surprising or does not fit? What questions do I take to the commentaries?
  6. Emotions Do I like this text? Do I not like it? Why? With what feelings am I left?

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Keep calm and carry on teaching.

God bless, Malcolm