Reading The Bible as Literature an Introduction. Jeanie C. Crain. Malden, MA, 2010. [90-107] 17.
Chapter 5 in Reading the Bible as Literature an Introduction by Jeanie C. Crain is titled “Sub-Genres, A Way of Clarifying and Mapping”. Based upon the title, this chapter should discuss different sub-genres and how they assist the reader in understanding and navigating their way through the Bible. The first section of Chapter 5 introduces sub-genres and how genres function throughout the Bible. The second section discusses several genres which the reader should be familiar with, including allegory, parable, and others.
By beginning Chapter 5 with a brief discussion on the use of studying genre within the Bible, the author is setting up the reader with a background necessary to understand why genre classification is important. If a reader comes from a background of just reading the Bible, and not necessarily recognizing different genres as they read, they could be missing out on the importance of understanding genres within the Bible. The author mentions that understanding genres “...brings interpretive insight and provides a basic foundation for beginning to appreciate the literature in the Bible” (Crain 91). The author goes on to say that genres begin to emerge naturally while reading the Bible. It is easy to point out certain genres throughout the Bible. The academic study of genres within the Bible is important, however, because as the author herself states, there are over 100 genres within the Bible, which would be impossible for any reader to point out on their own without actually studying and learning them first. This first section succeeds in providing a background of the importance of genre for the reader before they begin to actually study the genres.
The second section makes up the majority of the chapter. It includes actual sub-genres and their use within the Bible. The first sub-genre this section begins with is song. Many “words meant to be sung” (Crain 93) are found throughout the Bible, including victory, marching, and celebratory songs. The author goes on to list and describe several of these songs, including the Song of Moses, the Song of Jephthah, and the Song of Miriam. The author discusses the use and importance of music and song within ancient Israel. The author looks in detail at several songs throughout the Bible, showing the reader what characteristics the songs have which they might not be aware of. Throughout this section the author uses several terms which I did not know before reading this book. The glossary came in very handy during the reading of this chapter, and the author was successful at providing detailed examples of many terms, assisting me in understanding the terms and being able to look for them myself within the Bible.
After song, the author goes on to discuss allegory. The section on allegory is one which I found especially helpful, as allegory is one genre I thought I understood, but was actually more complicated than I had initially learned years ago. The author discusses several stories and the allegories contained within them. The author chooses to discuss the controversial topic of whether the Bible should be read as purely literal, purely allegorical, or some combination of the two. This is a subject that can be very difficult to bring up as many people are very divided on the topic. The author handles this discussion very well and leads to the conclusion that although there are people who argue both ways to this day, allegory can lead to a deeper understanding of meaning throughout many stories in the Bible.
The third genre the author discusses is parable. The author provides a definition of what a parable is, how it compares to simile and allegory, as well as details of where parables can be found throughout the Bible. The section about parables is not as long as some of the other genres, but for those who have read the Bible, parables are fairly straight forward and easy to understand. There is not too much detail necessary to understand what parables are and how they function in different parts of the Bible, especially, as the author states, in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Prayer is the fourth, and final, genre the author discusses within Chapter 5. Before reading this chapter, I never considered prayer to be a type of genre. The author, however, successfully explains how prayer functions as a genre, rather than just an isolated conversation with God. The author looks at several different examples of prayer throughout the Bible and even provides a brief discussion on the evolution of prayer “...through the patriarchal and Temple periods...” (Crain 105). This section ends with a brief list of other genres that can be found throughout the Bible, but were not discussed in the chapter.
Overall, Chapter 5 of Reading the Bible as Literature an Introduction, is successful at providing the reader with discussion of several genres throughout the Bible. The author uses genres which readers should be aware of, as well as including terms which they may be unfamiliar with. This chapter gives the reader an overview of several genres which, once learned, are simple to point out in many different sections of the Bible. The author leaves the reader, at least myself as a reader, wanting to continue learning about other types of genres and how they are incorporated throughout the Bible. One main question I am left with at the end of this chapter (through no fault of the author's, just my own curiosity) is whether some genres, considering there are over100, are anachronistically read into the Bible, and not actually written into it by the authors. This chapter, through, provided a great overview of many of the genres in the Bible, while still leaving enough room for the reader to want to learn more.