Narrative

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As the name indicates narrative literature is that which lays out its material in a prose style of writing. Information is presented without adornment, poetic structures may be inserted into the text but overall the passage resembles a modern novel in its design. Our concept of discrete sentences, paragraphs, and chapters would be alien to the ancient Hebrew writers, in fact many of the oldest manuscript copies have no sentence or paragraph breaks at all. One must be careful to follow the progression of thought contained by the passage itself apart from the occasionally arbitrary sentence, paragraph, verse, and chapter structure placed upon it by various translators and scholars.

A subset of the narrative form is historical writing which differs from the narrative mainly in the sense of its view of time. Narrative is generally written with regard the present while history is written with regard to the past, and in the case of the books of the kings of Israel and Judah is done so as to present a moral standpoint; contrasting the actions of the various kings to that desired by God. Historical writing also allows present day readers to view past events as though they were there. In this regard Genesis is historic in that Moses wrote what God revealed to him of events that occurred at times ranging from the recent past to events of several thousands of years in the past. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, however, are narrative because Moses is primarily writing about events as they occur and most certainly within the memories of people still alive at the time of the writing.

Typically, the biographical/historical sections of the Bible present events that have occurred in time and as such are similar to the newspapers, historical reference works and biographies of our day. The primary distinction of the Biblical material is, however, that it is presented in the context of God's activity throughout history (preceding time, during time and after time) to work out His plan of salvation for mankind. Consequently there are deeper meanings and greater significance to the Biblical historical narratives than would be given to their modern counterparts. Many have said that the Bible is a historical document and to some extent it is in that it records events and describes individuals in a historical context. In this regard it can be read as history and much useful information can be received. But the Bible is more than a mere historical document and, just as we read a newspaper seeking to understand the bias/viewpoint of its contributors, so we should read the historical portions the Bible within the greater context of God's interaction with humanity to afford its redemption.