Download PDF: Narratives

Narratives comprise about 40% of the Old Testament, making it the most common genre in the Bible.They come in various forms including: reports (e.g., battles, dreams, and histories), heroic epics, prophet stories, comedies, and speeches. When reading each type of these narratives, there are unique questions to ask which will aid in the interpretation process. So determine where your passage fits and answer the appropriate questions in the space provided below.
Since narratives often involve the recounting of facts and events, theological themes and devotional content are usually developed from a larger context. Look at the bigger picture and see what all the reports/historical accounts have in common and how it fits into the broader sweep of God working in history.

Questions for Reports

Questions Response
What is the main subject of the passage?
How does that topic fit into the larger theme of the context?
What is the report teaching?
Does this report have anything in common with other reports surrounding it?

Questions for Heroic Narratives

Questions Response
What is the hero’s relationship with God and with other people?
What values does the hero represent?
How is the hero challenging the world view or values of the Biblical world and/or our world?
What are the larger themes (election, conquest, etc.)?
What are the similarities between their nation and the Church?

Questions for Comedies (i.e., plots with happy endings such as Esther and Joseph)

Questions Response
How did the tragedy change to triumph?
How was the character developed in the narrative?
What God’s role direct or indirect?
What is the main theme of the narrative?

Questions for Speeches (frequently farewell speeches)

Questions Response
Why did the speaker give the speech?
What is the main point of the speech?
What is the theme of the larger context?
How does the speech contribute to the larger theme?

In terms of application, Russell points out that it is important not to allegorize the story (x means x). Instead, he continues, ask these questions:12

Questions Response
What is God doing in the world? How is He the “hero” of the story?
What has God done through His people?
Is the individual a good or bad example?

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