How to Read the Bible: Literary Styles

The Bible is a collection of many books,
telling one unified story from beginning to end. But all those books were written in different
literary styles. Yeah, think of it like walking into a bookstore where every aisle has a different kind of literature. There’s history, or poetry, or nonfiction, and when you choose an aisle and pick up a book you’re gonna have very different expectations, different things that you’re looking for. Right, they’re all literature but they communicate in really different ways. Yes, and so the same thing is true for the Bible. If you don’t pay attention to what style it’s written in, you will miss out on the brilliance of each book. So, what are the main types of literature in the Bible? Well first and foremost is narrative. It makes up a whopping 43% of the Bible. After that is poetry, which is 33% of the Bible. And then there’s what you could call prose discourse, which makes up the remaining 24%. Nearly half the Bible is narrative. Yes, and this is no accident. Stories are the most universal
form of human communication. Our brains are actually hardwired to take in
information through stories. And stories are really enjoyable. Why is that? Well stories train us to make sense of the seemingly random events that happen in life by taking those events and then putting them
in a sequence, and then together you can start to see the meaning and purpose of it all. And what links this all together? Well good stories always have a
character who wants something and then through these characters an author can explore life’s big questions like who are we or what’s really important in life. And a good story always involves some kind of conflict; some challenge to overcome just like in our own lives. And that forces us to think about our own challenges, why there’s so much pain or disappointment
in the world and then what can we do about it? And stories usually end with some kind of resolution giving us hope for our own stories. Since these are Bible stories, are the
characters showing me how I should live? Yeah, that’s not quite the point. Most Bible characters are deeply flawed. You should not be like them. But, we are
supposed to see ourselves in them which helps us then see our lives and failures
from a new perspective. And without even realizing it these stories will start to mess with you and change how you see the
world, and other people, and yourself. Now there are different types of narrative in the Bible. Yeah, there’s historical narrative, but also narrative parables, short biographical narratives like the four Gospels. We’ll look at all these in
later videos. Okay. Next up is poetry which honestly
I don’t read a lot of. Yeah, you’re like most people. But, one out of every three
chapters in the Bible is poetry. Yeah, why so much poetry? Well poems mainly speak through dense creative language, linking together
images to help us envision the world differently. Poems use lots of metaphor to evoke your emotion and your imagination. Lots of fancy language. But
wouldn’t it be easier just to tell me what I need to know? Well think about it.
In life we tend to form mental ruts and we think in these familiar well-worn
paths that are very hard to get out of through logic or reasoning. And what good poetry does is force you off the familiar path into new territory. Sneaky.
And there’s different types of poetry in the Bible; there’s lots of types of songs
or psalms. There’s the reflective poetry of the
wisdom books and then the passionate resistance poetry of the prophets. Okay, the last big literary type is called prose discourse, and it makes up a quarter of the Bible. Yeah, these are speeches, letters, or essays. And the focus here is building a sequence of ideas or thoughts into one linear argument that
requires a logical response like, “Hey! have you thought about this thing? You
should also consider how it connects to this other thing. And if you do then you
will see that this is the result and in light of that conclusion, therefore, you
should probably stop doing that one thing so that this other thing will be
the outcome.” So, you’re persuading me with reason. Yeah, discourse forces you to
think logically and consistently and then do something about it. Biblical discourse is found in law collections, in wisdom literature, and
the letters written by the apostles. Okay, so each book of the Bible has one literary style. No, actually most books have a primary literary style, like
narrative for example. But then embedded in the narrative you’ll come across
poems or parables or a collection of laws. Every biblical book is a unique
combination of literary styles. And to read that book well I need to be familiar with each literary type and how it works. Yeah, so you know what to pay attention to and what questions you should ask. But before we look at each type there’s one more unifying feature of biblical literature, that’s really important and really cool, and that’s what we’ll explore next. Hey everybody. Thanks for watching this Bible Project video. It’s one part of a much
larger series on how to read the Bible. You can find more of those videos and
all of our videos for free at We’re a non-profit crowdfunded animation studio, which means you can actually join us and help us make more videos. Again, go to And one more
thing, this video is lovingly dedicated to my former teacher Ray Lubeck. He first introduced me to all the ideas that we explored in this video. If you want to
learn more about these ideas check out his book called Read the Bible for a
Change by Professor Ray Lubeck. Love you Ray. Thanks so much.

100 thoughts on “How to Read the Bible: Literary Styles

  1. Website:
    Explore our videos:
    Download resources:
    Listen to podcasts:

    Follow us:

    Thank you to all of our generous supporters!

  2. Thank God for each staff of The Bible Project for making it a little easier to understand the timeless Holy book.

  3. There's also a lot of subtext.. in all of it. Phonetics. It's very ingrained in languages all over the world. And it's all a true story. You might even look at your own name and life and think what you can do for God and look at what has been done in your life with situations and people you talk to, that happen through the Spirit, by Him.

  4. THE BIBLE IS AN IDOL! THE BIBLE IS THE MARK OF THE BEAST! Jesus died to sent the promise of Holy Ghost (Spirit), not a book. Constantine (1st) beast compiled 50 bibles, legalized Christianity and set up the false prophet (pope). 666 is a number of a man, not a chip (RFID). King James (2nd) beast, born 6/1566, 6th of Scotland, authorized a bible in 1611 that now has 66 books to control people with, an image of God's word they make to speak (the bible says!). They got mark by carrying it (bible) in their hand and memorize it (verses) in their head. By having faith in this idol, they break the new covenant of having faith in the Living Christ through the Holy Spirit, who is the true word of God under this new era. A book cannot replace our King. If you esteem the bible as the word of God by putting faith on it then you have taken the mark of the beast. The bible became only history and has no authority in this generation. The bible is good for history but not for faith. Our faith must only in the spirit. Don't steal the faith of God's people from the past, it will fail you. You cannot live by someone else's faith. You need your own faith to build upon and live by it until the end. The bible cannot lead you home (heaven), the Holy Spirit can. Ask Lord Jesus -Yeshua for the promise gift (Holy Spirit). Link: the-bible-is-the-mar­

  5. This made my Sunday.. Its like I knew this wisdom and didn't know how I knew

  6. Love your videos!! They're simply accurate how we can understand the Bible. Keep working on this project!

  7. Thank you guys so much for this series, just discovered this and I am mind-blown ! May the Lord bless for helping us truly understand his word !🙏🏾

  8. So many comments with people so excited that Jesus wasn't shown as white.

    You know what's really worth celebrating? That God became HUMAN — in the form of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Focusing on the race of Jesus in these videos is no better than always portraying Jesus as white — it's merely a distraction from the true nature of Christ.

    God Bless the makers of the Bible Project!

  9. Hey guys, awesome work and inspiring idea. I would love to help if I can in animation or design. Let me know if you still need people to help out in this way. God bless

  10. One question, what great "literary style" again are for example the following verses?

    Numbers 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones.
    Deuteronomy 2:34 utterly destroyed the men and the women and the little ones.
    Deuteronomy 28:53 And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters.
    I Samuel 15:3 slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.
    2 Kings 8:12 dash their children, and rip up their women with child.
    2 Kings 15:16 all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.
    Isaiah 13:16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled and their wives ravished.
    Isaiah 13:18 They shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.
    Lamentations 2:20 Shall the women eat their fruit, and children.
    Ezekiel 9:6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children.
    Hosea 9:14 give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.
    Psalm 137:9 "blessed is he who dashes babies against a rock"

  11. Always funny to see grown up people that think that the almighty creator of the universe communicates via ancient books full of talking animals.

  12. I love how you used an artistic style to match each literary style as you explained them that's so beautiful!

  13. Can i have indonesian's subtitle please? Thankyou very much, God Bless you…

  14. Can you guys make a video on How the coming of Jesus saved the world. It would be really profitable to the faithful and the others too.

  15. I usually find that videos with awesome cinematography and animations are just that. I would say the vast majority of videos would use these carnal means as the primary attraction for said videos…

    But that is not what I have found here. Here, I find that you use scripture and a desire to study and learn about them as your primary mode of attraction. Which, in the long run, will weed out those who are here for a show (those uninterested in what really matters).

    Thank you for your dedication to the Truth/Bible. Moreover, for not shying away from the unpopular theological issues in our culture today.

  16. The best I really really enjoy the breakdowns in all your videos thank you sooo much

  17. so much to enjoy with the videos!!! thanks! one thing i noticed said in the commentary regarding characters in the bible words to the affect of: they are deeply flawed, we are not to be like them. This is going too far and in fact for example, Heb 12 Cloud of Witnesses, and no few other scripture portions, is a remark in direct conflict with bible counsel. The aspect of their lives where they obeyed and followed God, applied faith, etc. is according to the bible to be emulated, is in the bible for future believers to aspire too. Nuance of difference that is not small really. Please be careful.

  18. I have for a long time been told that Hebrew poetry was sung, not just read aloud….that would be a significant distinction with rather wide implications

  19. Appreciate what you explain! i recently reading ''How to read a book'', it really inspire me when i find the connection between them.

  20. Your graphics are stunning and the depth, clarity and conciseness of your content is equally impressive.

  21. this is awesome my nieces and nephews are totally going to watch this instead of all this other cartoons.

  22. Beautiful … Good initiative and Great work… May God bless you all for making the Bible reach to the many people.😀

  23. Yes, this is all true. However, what strikes me as an avid reader and someone who has read the whole Bible several times is how well the whole thing hangs together. I, like to think, I have developed a knack for recognizing an author's voice in various pieces s/he has written, and it is clear to me that one person is responsible for the Bible for Genesis to Revelation. Now who could possibly have been that unique and reconizable voice over a span of thousands of years?

  24. The ten comandments says honor my mother and farther……… but what if my mother and farther dont belive in jesus or do say they believe but do not follow the comandments should i cut them off or continue to try make them follow the comandments ? If i must i will but why should the child teach the parent is that my punishment for my sin in this world ???? Plz give me sone insite

  25. Hi, i have a question, is there some bible or guide that specify the literary genres by chapters? Cause i had find by book but i understand that on a book there are narrative chapters anda poetical chapters. How can i find a guideline?

  26. I gotta say watching these episodes have made me cry. I was once a true Christian who would always go to church with mother when I was younger, but as I grew I was definitely thinking the wrong way. Eventually I decided i didn't want to go anymore and life has really changed. Suffering, lost, stuck in the mud. And I'm just over here tearing up thinking, I'm taking things for granted. God wouldn't want me to be like this. He wants to put me where I need to be. And I'm feelin like the bible is what I should start reading. Intentionally. Iva just always had problems with reading. Attention problems. Losing focus. But watching these beautifully animated videos have shown me more of what I could be learning. I'm very flawwed. And I always feel like I don't deserve alot. Always isolated. But now I'm praying for the better days. Amen

  27. Faith. God gave me Faith. so I can believe bible. when the holy spirit with you you can believe everything. hi sis and bro
    I'm Korean. do you want foreign Christian friends and conversation? let's talk about Jesus. asd me at kakaotalk .
    Id esther1186

  28. Hell Is Real & It's Forever Servus Christi > cut and paste to watch that will save you from false teaching presented here in The Bible Project.

  29. The Bible is banned in 50 countries and yet no one talks about how much hatred, racism, discrimination and opression The Father's children get for realising Who is The Meaning In Life. Who IS Life.

  30. Amazing how you use your skills to bring the Bible closer to anyone and everyone! God bless! 😊🙌

  31. great video thanks man did this for school like right now im in religion class watching this so thanks man great guy i'd love to meet ya. great guy man have a great day man. thanks for all the info man love ya. sorry if its too soon man but i love ya. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoixiooxox love ya have a great day man. oh yeah call me man. my number is 000 man love ya. bye love ya.

  32. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu Huddooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

  33. I'm going to read the bible with different perspectives rightnow ,after watching this video, and yes, Rightnow.

  34. total rubbish.. if God was real and these messages were soooo important for our mortal souls.. you would think that God could find a better way to communicate..also if God was all knowing he would have known it would all turn to crap

  35. See if i was creating mankind i would make sure my creation could obey with say a thousand or so people if it was good then i would allow it to grow but it was blatantly obvious it wasnt good so im afraid i would have to have a rethink before we got out of hand which it has!!

  36. i like how every character in the videos are not white with blonde hair.

  37. Amazing videos , you guys have great content. You just got a new sub . Really trying to find the lords way .

  38. You guys are doing REALLY GOOD work, inspiring us, that I can see Afrocentric characters, it’s beautiful. Thank you and may His mercy’s follows you

  39. Brittney or 🌚 of. The Bible is very important to everyone I was scared to read the Bible
    😃😂😂 you feel 😍

  40. 🙃😘🙃😘🙃😘🙃😘😫😤😭. Brittney sorry by late the birthday dinner 🤣. Love 💗😇 good luck 🍀 come we’ll take care the boys 🍁😄😄😄😄😛😛😛😛🙂😏😒😏😏😫😫😤😠😡🥵🥶🥺🥺😏😛😭😋😋🥰😛🙁🙁🧐😘🧐xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Cccvhygf

  41. “I don’t believe there has been a revelation of god. I don’t believe he has ever shown
    himself to us. I think that the books in which such a revelation claims to have occurred are
    self-evidently man-made, and show many many signs of contradiction, of fabrication, of myth and legend; or of having been as H.L. Mencken bluntly puts it, “tampered with.”

  42. Can anyone tell me what the art style is in the poetry segment of the video? Much appreciated

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *