Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is alive and active”. This is a great encouragement to us as we read, listen to and study the Bible as we can know that the words we are reading are not just something from a long time ago, but have relevance to our lives today!
During this, our second Wednesday session looking at getting into the Word of God, we explored the different styles of writing we can find in the Bible. Although our Bibles usually look like one massive book, in reality there are 66 different books in the Bible—like a library. And just like a library, each book is different, written in a different style and with a different purpose. You wouldn’t read a novel in the same way as you’d read a recipe book!
Understanding some of the different styles of writing we find in the Bible can change how we go about reading it, and give us a reason why some bits seem easier to understand than others.
The different styles can be found all through the Bible, and some books are a mixture of styles, but here are some examples:
Law — the Law reveals God’s will and his character and can be found in books such as Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
History — for instance Joshua, Kings, Chronicles, Acts and the Gospels.
Wisdom and Poetry — e.g. Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Psalms, Song of Songs, Lamentations.
Epistles (Letters)—there are 21 letters in the New Testament, written to churches and individuals.
Prophesy — God’s word for specific situations in the present and also revealing the future. Many prophecies have already been fulfilled. There are sections of prophecy in many books, but the main books of prophecy are from Isaiah to Malachi in the Old Testament, and Revelation in the New Testament.
Thinking about the style and purpose of what we are reading can affect the way we read it. For instance, when reading history, we might choose to read a bigger chunk so that we can take in the whole story—it would be hard to take in the account of Noah and the great flood if we only read a couple of verses each day! However, when we are reading Psalms or Proverbs, it might be better to read only a few verses and really think about them in detail (meditate on them).
Some of these styles of writing are more difficult to read than others, so don’t be discouraged if you find parts of the Bible hard to understand. As you get into the Word and learn more and more, things that used to be confusing may start to become clearer, and you can always ask somebody to help you make sense of it all.
While it’s important not to ignore the ‘hard bits’ in the Bible, most people find it easier to start with the more straightforward books, like the Gospels and Acts. The Old Testament history books are action-packed, full of tales that might be familiar to you from childhood, like Jonah and the Whale, Noah’s Ark, and David and Goliath, and they reveal a lot about God’s character and plan for his people. Many people find the Psalms encouraging and comforting, and some of the New Testament letters are short enough to read in one sitting and packed with wisdom that applies to our lives today.
Why not give it a go and read or listen to a part of the Bible you’ve never attempted before?