Monday, February 27, 2012


It probably won’t surprise anyone that the best thing about the Academy Awards last night wasn’t actually on the Academy Awards, but happened a little later. (For my Baptist readers, be warned, this has an ad for vodka preceding the clip. For my Catholic readers, sit back and have a drink, the clip starts in about 60…)
If only this were real, it might just be the movie that would make me willing to shell out 30 bucks for tickets and snacks and the opportunity to sit in an auditorium full a bunch of attention deficit teens armed with cell phones.
Now some might say there’s just too many genres represented in Movie: The Movie, too which I could only respond, “Please, I’m a Bible reader.” You see, while a lot of people who never actually crack open the good book think of it as nothing more than a big “how to” manual, the fact is the Bible is an assortment of books collected over centuries containing a myriad of genres.
Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D. breaks them down this way:
Major Genres within the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament):
  • Foundational Myths & Legends - stories about the origins of the world, the first generations of humans, or the early years of a nation, intended to provide a foundational world-view upon which people base their communal and individual lives (Gen, parts of Exod, Num, Deut)
  • Legal Codes - collections of laws and instructions by which the people are to live (Lev, parts of Exod, Num, Deut)
  • Genealogies - lists of inter-relationships between peoples, either of successive generations or of different nations (parts of Gen, much of Num)
  • Annals - semi-historical narrative accounts of select events in a nation's life, focusing especially upon political and military exploits of its leaders, since usually written under royal sponsorship (Josh, Jdg, 1 & 2 Sam, 1 & 2 Kings, etc.)
  • Prophetic Books - collections of the oracles or words of God spoken to the people through human intermediaries (prophets) and the symbolic actions they perform at God's direction for the people's benefit (Isa, Jer, Ezek, etc.)
  • Psalms/Odes/Songs - poetic lyrics of songs/hymns intended for communal worship and/or individual prayer (Ps)
  • Prayers/Laments - words addressed by people to God, esp. reflecting situations of crisis or lament (Lam)
  • Proverbs - generalized sayings and aphorisms containing advice on how to live well: "do good and avoid evil" (Prov)
  • Wisdom Literature - various types of inspirational stories that encourage people to live wisely (Job, Wis, etc.)
  • Apocalypses - symbolic narratives that interpret historical crises through God's eyes to provide hope for a better future (Dan)
Major Genres within the New Testament:
  • Gospels - proclamations of the "good news" about Jesus intended to establish and/or strengthen people's faith in him; quasi-biographical, semi-historical portraits of the life, teachings, and actions of Jesus (Mark, Matt, Luke, John)
    • The NT Gospels contain many sub-genres of literature (see below)
  • Acts - a partial narrative account about the beginnings and the growth of early Christianity; not a complete history of the early Church, since it focuses only on the actions of a few missionary leaders (Acts)
  • Letters - real letters addressing practical and theological issues relevant to particular communities (esp. Paul's)
  • Church Orders - collections of instructions for the practical organization of religious communities (1 Tim, Titus)
  • Testament - a document that gives a dying person's last wishes and instructions for his/her successors (2 Tim & 2 Peter)
  • Homily/Sermon - an exegetical sermon that cites and interprets older biblical texts in reference to Jesus (Heb)
  • Wisdom Collection - a collection of general instructions on how to live an ethical Christian life well (James)
  • Epistles/Encyclicals - more stylized works in letter format; "circular letters" intended for broader audiences (1 & 2 Peter)
  • Apocalypse - a vividly symbolic narrative that "reveals" God's views about a historical crisis, in order to provide encouragement for a difficult present and hope for a better future (Rev)
Smaller Genres and Sub-Genres within the New Testament:
  • There are many other smaller genres found within the various biblical books.
  • For example, the NT Gospels contain narrative materials, discourse materials, and some mixed genres:
    • Narrative genres include the following:
      • genealogies
      • narrator's introductions, transitions & summary passages
      • miracle stories
      • call & sending stories
      • conflict or controversy stories
      • vision reports
      • legends & myths
      • etc.
    • Discourse genres include the following:
      • parables & allegories
      • hymns & prayers
      • laws & legal interpretations
      • short exhortations: individual sayings or proverbs
      • longer speeches: discourses or monologues
      • etc.
    • Mixed genres include
      • longer narratives that contain extended dialogues
      • "pronouncement stories" or "apothegms" (short narratives that climax in a short saying or proverb)
  • Many of these sub-genres can also be further sub-divided; for example:
    • "Miracle stories" can include healings, exorcisms, restoration miracles, nature miracles, etc.
    • "Psalms" include enthronement psalms, processional songs, individual laments, hymns of praise, etc.
    • "Sayings" include legal sayings, eschatological sayings, prophetic sayings, wisdom sayings, "I am" statements, etc.
  • The above lists are not comprehensive, but include only the more prominent categories of biblical literature.
So, pretty much something for everyone no matter what their taste (though, to be honest, most of the good sex and violence is located in the Annals). So the next time you’re in the mood for something specific, don’t rule out the Bible. It’s got you covered.


Edgewise said...

"...the Bible is an assortment of books collected... containing a myriad of genres.
Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D. breaks them down this way..."

Hmm--might be an inspiration here for structuring a media website (or somethin'...) At least if I had the time and/or money for such an endeavor. (Who knows? I may yet win the Powerball [or somethin'...])

Y'know, in an *oblique* sense, *something* or other about this outline makes me think about the ending of "Fahrenheit 451."

EegahInc said...

"might be an inspiration here for structuring a media website"

That is a pretty good idea... which I will happily wait on somebody else to do. I have enough trouble getting two or three posts a week done here.

Rocket Scientist said...

Great post as usual, and you had our whole family in stitches with the movie preview.

EegahInc said...

All credit for the laughs has to go to Jimmy Kimmel and his writers. It's nice to know that dating Sarah Silverman for five years didn't rot away his sense of humor.