Literary Method

The Bible is great literature, whether it be considered in the Hebrew, Greek, or in translation. Always
observe the genre of the passage under study.

Hebrew poetry may be written in alphabetic acrostic. Acrostic may be defined as the practice by which
sets of letters—as the initial, middle, or final letters of liens or words—when taken in order vertically or
horizontally form a word or words. For instance

F orskaing
A ll
I
T ake
H im
may be read in order either vertically or horizontally, and each way a word is formed. In alphabetic
acrostic, each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is used to begin a verse, so that read vertically the alphabet
is formed; read horizontally, the letter becomes part of the first word of the verse.

This principle is beautifully illustrated in the book of Lamentations, where chapters 1, 2, and 4 are
perfect single acrostics—in all three chapters there are twenty-two verses and each begins with a
different letter of the Hebrew alphabet in alphabetical order. Chapter 3 has sixty-six verses, a multiple
of twenty-two, and three verses begin with each letter of the alphabet. Chapter 5 continues the twenty-
two verse pattern, but the arrangement is not an acrostic.

In Psalm 119, we have another excellent illustration of this arrangement: there eight verses begin with
each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew letter is given with its name above each set of eight
verses.

Hebrew poetry is written in rhythm as well as parallelism of thought.

Synonymous/Comparing—where the second idea is similar to the first

Synthetic/Complementing—where the second idea extends the first

Antithetic/Contrasting—where the second idea sharply contrasts the first

Epic is a kind of narrative poetry which deals with heroic action, and it is written in elevated style;
drama is acted poetry; and lyric is sung poetry and is reflective in nature. In the Bible, there is not verse
narrative (epic) as such, but we should hasten to add that Hebrew verse and prose systems overlap.
When this is taken into consideration, we realize immediately those epic incidents such as the account of
Balaam in Numbers 22-24. Job is drama. The Song of Solomon is a lyric.

Biblical prose divides into four classifications:

HISTORY is the branch of knowledge that records and explains past events.

1. Primal or primitive history covers the period preceding the appearance of the Hebrews as a
nation.
2. Constitutional history appears in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, which provide a record of
the revelation of the government of God and the events pertaining thereto.
3. Incidental history consists mainly of certain books having epic incidents joined together by
summaries and a variety of other connectives. Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, and possibly Ruth
may be classified as incidental history.
4. Regular history, a systematic account of successive reigns and with incidents narrated
historically, is found in such books as 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, much of Chronicles, and
Esther.
5. Ecclesiastical history of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah deals with Jewish religion and the
restoration of Jewish religion after the exile; and the New Testament Books such as the
Gospels and Acts, which narrate the founding of Christianity.

RHETORIC is prose for presentation. It is the art of expressive discourse or literary composition. It
embodies both spoken (the condensed speeches of Moses in Deuteronomy) and written rhetoric as 1
and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 &2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 2
and 3 John. Hebrews and Romans may be designated as epistolary and doctrinal treatises.

EPISTOLARY MANIFESTO is manifestos (written statements declaring publicly the intentions,
motives, or views of its issuer) called forth by evil, which is attacking the church. Included in this
group are Colossians, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Peter, and Jude.

PHILOSOPHY is organized reflection, known as the wisdom literature of the Bible. Biblical
philosophy concerns itself with the riddle of life and it is related constantly to the nature of one’s
conduct in life; that is to say, it is essentially an ethical philosophy. Sometimes the reflection on life
is an extremely brief epigrammatic saying and is embodied in a single proverbial couplet; at other
times, it may be longer and could then be classified as an essay on some aspect of life—both of these
are found in the Book of Proverbs. In Ecclesiastes, philosophical reflection is applied to life as a
whole, and particular observations are made on the general problem of the meaning of existence.

PROPHETIC LITERATURE embodies all types of literature. It is not a class of prose in and of
itself.

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