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Methods of Studying the Bible Series Introduction: The Old Testament Genres

The Bible is a unique collection of 66 books written across two covenants known as the Old and New Testaments. It is God's story of His plan to rescue, redeem, and restore what we lost in the fall of humanity that took place in the Garden of Eden. "In God's plan and through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, the relationship between God and humanity was restored" (Cartwright, Gutierrez, and Hulshof, p.3). The restoration that occurred can be experienced personally through the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit that leads to conviction of sin and repentance. Studying the Bible, or God's Word to us, is a multifaceted process that should be done correctly in order to respond correctly to its teachings. Through this series on studying Scripture, we'll cover several methods such as studying the different genres, making an in-depth-approach to biblical passages, and understanding biblical stories within their context.

The Different Genres

Before Biblical passages can be studied by themselves, the bigger context of Scripture that a passage fits within should be analyzed first. Context, context, context should be the Bible student's version of the realtor's location, location, location mantra. Among the methods of studying the Bible is understanding its genres. Both the Old and New Testament have a collection of differing genres that overlap.

The Law

The first five books of the Bible are known as the Torah, or law. Scripture also includes a genre of itself known as the Law. This may seem confusing at first glance as the first five books of the Bible contain what is known as narrative and law. However, as this series continues, distinguishing between the two will become second-nature. We'll cover the genre of the law below and the legal material that God ordained to Israel.

Three things to remember regarding God's law code to Israel:

  1. The legal code was given to Israel by God within the contexts of their story in the Bible

  2. The Laws mentioned in the Torah are tied to the Mosaic, or outward, conditional covenant. This covenant was a "conditional covenant tied to Israel's obedience" (Cartwright, Gutierrez, and Hulshof, p.183) since Christ hadn't come to earth yet to atone for sins and the Holy Spirit did not indwell believers yet.

  3. The law's principle is to reveal "our guilt before God" (Cartwright, Gutierrez, and Hulshof, p. 183).

Each law held within the Torah reveals God's attributes of justice, mercy, holiness, compassion, etc. When this principle is understood, moral absolutes begin to be realized since we are not comparing ourselves to other people, but instead to a blameless Judge who created life, emotion, and all of creation.


Narrative, at its core, is story. Story makes up as much as 40% of the Bible, according to Bible scholars Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. This includes books such as Exodus, Genesis, Joshua, Ruth, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, Exra, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Job, Esther, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Job, Daniel, Haggai, and Jonah (not in this order).

Each narrative has a framework of beginning, middle, and end. The narrative genre tells a story of a segment in history that includes real biblical characters and their encounters that ultimately point to God. "For example, 1 Samuel 4-6 details how God brought victory over the Philistines through the ark even though the Israelites treated the ark of the covenant as a good luck charm" (Cartwright, Gutierrez, and Hulshof, p. 190).