Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible

By Thomas G. Long | Go to book overview

5
PREACHING
on narratives

There are two odd things about the Bible and stories. The first odd thing about biblical stories is that there are so many of them. There are battle stories, betrayal stories, stories about seduction and treachery in the royal court, stories about farmers and fools, healing stories, violent stories, funny stories and sad ones, stories of death, and stories of resurrection. In fact, stories are so common in Scripture that some students have claimed, understandably but incorrectly, that the Bible is exclusively a narrative collection. This is an exaggeration, of course—there is much non-narrative material in the Bible—but the claim that the Bible is a “story book” is not far off the mark. There is, indeed, a narrative understructure to the Bible, and even its nonnarrative portions bear a crucial relationship to the “master” stories of Scripture.

The reason this is odd is that religions do not necessarily depend upon narrative to convey their thought. Lists of precepts, thematic essays, systematic theologies, riddles, or even probing and open-ended questions are among the literary options available to teachers of religion. Stories are, in some ways, notoriously ambiguous and inefficient devices for conveying truth, and it is a puzzle worth pondering that narrative is the dominant form of choice for biblical writers.

The second odd thing about the Bible and stories has been expressed by Adele Berlin: “It is ironic that, although telling is so important in the biblical tradition, there is no word for story. There are words for songs and oracles, hymns and parables … [but] there is nothing to designate narrative per se. “1 It is odd that the Bible does

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Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Preface 7
  • Part 1 - The Approach 9
  • 1 - Learning How to Read 11
  • 2 - Moving from Text to Sermon 23
  • Part 2 - The Literary Forms 41
  • 3 - Preaching on the Psalms 43
  • 4 - Preaching on Proverbs 53
  • 5 - Preaching on Narratives 66
  • 6 - Preaching on the Parables of Jesus 87
  • 7 - Preaching on Epistles 107
  • 8 - Sermon Notes 127
  • Notes 136
  • Index of Names and Subjects 141
  • Index of Biblical Texts 143
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