Have you ever read through the Bible with your children? Just as reading living books aloud together can create a special family bond, reading Scripture together on a daily basis shapes thoughts and nourishes relationships with God and with one another in a very powerful way.
My favorite Bible reading plan, the one included in my Well Planned Day line of planners, is one that focuses on a different literary genre each day. I love this plan because it tends to keep the kids’ attention and ensures that every family member will hear from their favorite portion of Scripture at least once a week.
But, perhaps the greatest strength of a plan like this one is that it helps shape how we read and understand Scripture. Since various forms of literature combine beautifully to form one continuous story of grace, it is critical that we learn to approach each portion of Scripture appropriately.
Literary Genres of Scripture
Here’s a quick look at the various genres found in the Bible and how to best approach them.
Also referred to as the Pentateuch and the Torah, this section of Scripture is essentially God’s introduction of Himself, His nature, and His purity to the people of Israel. There are times when these five books seem to be a bit of a drudgery. But, when we realize how much we know of God because of what we find in the Law, we read this section of Scripture with a new appreciation – even the rather dull parts.
This portion of Scripture represents the greatest of all living books! God created us to learn from story, so it is very appropriate that He would choose to reveal Himself more thoroughly through the story of His interaction with mankind.
Psalms is frequently combined with the general poetry section of Scripture, but it is also important to process through this book with singular focus. This collection made up the original congregational songbook for God’s people. We learn how to pray and praise our Savior, offering Him the depths of our hearts, by reading and studying Psalms.
Ancient Hebrew poetry tends to differ greatly from our own English poetry! So, by reading Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, we learn a bit about the way the ancient Israelites thought and processed. But, we also glean from their wisdom. Unlike Psalms, these books of poetry do not offer promises as much as they offer nuggets of wisdom based on cause and effect. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we see it laid out in Proverbs, for instance, but we can help our children see the power of chasing after Wisdom and refusing Folly as we ponder these words of wisdom.
Found in both the Old and New Testaments, prophecy can make for interesting and often confusing reading – especially in those sections that deal with future events. But, foretelling the future is actually not the primary focus of biblical prophecy. Instead, the focus is to point out that when God’s children obey His Word, He is honored and glorified through us, and even the bad things that happen are worked for His glory and our good. When we disobey Him, however, His heavy hand of discipline will weigh upon us until we see that He is right and just and good.
Gospels & Acts
These first five books of the New Testament could also be classified as history. In fact, we can read them in a similar fashion. But, they are set apart because they hold the unique story of Christ’s incarnation and the foundation of His church.
The word “epistle” means “letter.” And that is exactly what we see in the bulk of the New Testament – letters from church leaders to both congregations and individuals. As we read them, we do well to think of why we love our favorite teachers. Their investment is usually personal and full of passionate love. Realizing that same passion lay behind the writing of the Epistles helps us learn to grasp the message of these letters.