LDS Perspectives Podcast: “Genre in the Bible,” with Ben Spackman

Please note that this will not be available until July 19. We apologize for publishing the notice too early. Please check again on that date.

Listen on the LDS Perspectives site, or directly with this link.

From the New Testament, we learn that Jesus’s favorite mode of teaching was through fiction; he taught parables. Although the characters and events may not be historical, few Christians question the truth in the messages.

Despite comfort with parables, some Christians become unsettled thinking about elements of the Bible as being non-historical. Biblical scholar Ben Spackman points out that this hesitancy is inherited from Enlightenment thinking, which regarded revelation as truth and truth as scientific or historical fact. This thinking, Ben points out, causes many readers to jettison common sense and plain readings of scriptural text.

Often times when reading scripture, the assumption is made that the text is either literal or figurative, but these two categories are insufficient to describe the different genres of scriptures.

It would be more helpful to approach the Bible as if it were a library that contained books of many different genre instead of being all the same type of writing. No Christian would presume to label all scripture as parable. Likewise all scripture should not be labeled as history. The Bible contains books of satire, law codes, poetry, parables, myth, conquest narratives, and prophetic revelation among other things.

The type of “thing” or genre of a given book is indicated by genre markers. For instance, Americans can tell a book is a fairy tale if it begins with “Once upon a time.” Genre markers in the Bible can be identified similarly by biblical scholars familiar with the culture.

Readers should also keep in mind that ancient Israelites approached the use of history in scripture differently than modern authors. Historical accuracy is actually a modern concept. Biblical writers often fashioned history to teach a higher purpose. If some of the historical details were fudged, then that was regarded as acceptable if done to make a point.

Join Laura Harris Hales of the LDS Perspectives Podcast as she interviews biblical scholar Ben Spackman about the different genres of literature found in the Bible.

Check out the resources referenced in the podcast at LDS Perspectives

2 thoughts on “LDS Perspectives Podcast: “Genre in the Bible,” with Ben Spackman

  1. “Despite comfort with parables, some Christians become unsettled thinking about elements of the Bible as being non-historical. Biblical scholar Ben Spackman points out that this hesitancy is inherited from Enlightenment thinking, which regarded revelation as truth and truth as scientific or historical fact.”

    This is hardly the most important factor in people’s concerns over “history”. When people talk about “historicity”, they’re rarely talking about standards of historiography, they’re usually talking about whether something actually happened or not. And on some subjects, that has major consequences: if there were no Nephites/Lamanites, then who appeared to Joseph Smith? If Christ did not appear post-resurrection at Bountiful, than how can the Book of Mormon be an additional witness of his resurrection? And if Christ did not rise from the dead, then how can we be resurrected and what hope is their in the Christian gospel?

    The latter concern, of course, was famously discussed by Paul (1 Corinthians 15:14-19), considerably before the Enlightenment. And since there’s been key figures in academic biblical studies who have sought to regard events like the resurrection as non-historical, it’s less than accurate to regard the issue as inconsequential, as an academic debate merely around genre, or that people’s concerns as simply an artefact of Enlightenment thinking.

  2. Arguing for the recognition of genres in the Bible is not tantamount to denying the resurrection, good heavens.

    Also, the podcast isn’t even available for another six days.

    The bottom-most link doesn’t work, has an extra h in hhttp://…

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