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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

Conclusion

This essay began by broadly categorizing the various books of the Bible under the headings “narrative” and “non-narrative.” Those basic divisions hold true, but they also need some final clarification, because many of the books of the Bible combine these two categories to some degree. Many of the Bible's narratives contain non-narrative material, and many non-narrative books have strong narrative elements. Exodus and Numbers, for example, narrative books of the Pentateuch, contain important non-narrative sections, most notably the sections of legal codes (for instance, Ex 20–23 ). The Gospels, likewise, incorporate much non-narrative material into their stories (for instance, the Sermon on the Mount in Mt 5–7 ). As noted above, the prophetic books include biographical and autobiographical stories about the prophets. Job, a wisdom book, is set within a narrative frame. A letter is part of the narrative in Ezra (4.11–22 ).

As we have also seen, one biblical book can fit into more than one category. Revelation is the Bible's fullest example of an apocalypse, a narrative form, but it also can be categorized as one of the New Testament epistles. Jonah is a novelistic narrative, but it also is categorized canonically as one of the prophetic books. Daniel is both novelistic and apocalyptic narrative. Some Psalms, for instance Ps 37 , can also be considered as wisdom literature, or at least as having been influenced by wisdom traditions. Also, many of the broad categories can be further refined. Hebrews and 1 Peter, for example, New Testament epistles, can also be categorized as sermons in letter form.

The categories suggested in this essay, then, are only a starting point. They provide the basic tools necessary to recognize the varieties of literary types that make up the books of the Bible, but each reader will discover ways to refine, expand, and deepen these categories through continued Bible reading and study. And while each of us will have our favorite biblical book or favorite literary type, it is only when the Bible is allowed to speak in all its variety that we can perceive the span and depth of biblical faith.

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