Literary Genres in the Bible

HomeChristianity and the BibleLiterary Genres in the Bible

The Bible isn’t one book. It’s a collection of 66 books by different authors, in different genres… that is, different categories or kinds of writings. Some are history. Some are biography. Here’s a list.

This list is not in any sense authoritative. The Bible does not describe most of its books in these terms, so there are sometimes different lists with different categories and sub-categories, depending on the person making the list. Each genre may also be called by different names, which I’ve noted and defined in the last list. Below are three lists:

  1. Books of the Old Testament and their genres
  2. Books of the New Testament and their genres
  3. A list of all 66 books, ordered by genre

Some books fall into a primary and secondary genre, which I’ve noted. If you have any corrections or additions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Old Testament BookGenre
GenesisHistory
ExodusHistory, Law
LeviticusLaw
NumbersHistory, Law
DeuteronomyHistory, Law
JoshuaHistory
JudgesHistory
RuthHistory
1st SamuelHistory
2nd SamuelHistory
1st KingsHistory
2nd KingsHistory
1st ChroniclesHistory
2nd ChroniclesHistory
EzraHistory
NehemiahHistory
EstherHistory
JobWisdom
PsalmsPoetry
ProverbsWisdom
EcclesiastesWisdom
Song of SolomonPoetry
IsaiahProphecy, Apocalyptic
JeremiahProphecy
LamentationsWisdom, Poetry
EzekielProphecy
DanielProphecy, Apocalyptic
HoseaProphecy
JoelProphecy, Apocalyptic
AmosProphecy
ObadiahProphecy
JonahHistory, Prophecy
MicahProphecy
NahumProphecy
HabakkukProphecy
ZephaniahProphecy
HaggaiProphecy
ZechariahProphecy, Apocalyptic
MalachiProphecy
New Testament BookGenre
MatthewGospel
MarkGospel
LukeGospel
JohnGospel
ActsHistory
RomansEpistle
1 CorinthiansEpistle
2 CorinthiansEpistle
GalatiansEpistle
EphesianEpistle
PhilippiansEpistle
ColossiansEpistle
1st ThessaloniansEpistle
2nd ThessaloniansEpistle
1st TimothyEpistle
2nd TimothyEpistle
TitusEpistle
PhilemonEpistle
HebrewsEpistle
JamesEpistle
1st PeterEpistle
2nd PeterEpistle
1st JohnEpistle
2nd JohnEpistle
3rd JohnEpistle
JudeEpistle
RevelationApocalyptic

Books by Genre

Each book of the Bible may fall into more than one genre, so they may be listed more than once.

History

The genre of history may also be known as narrative.

Law

Wisdom

Poetry

The genre of poetry often contains elements of wisdom literature.

Prophecy

Prophetic books also generally fall into the category of history, but are distinct from historical literature that has no direct prophecy.

Apocalyptic

Apocalyptic literature is a type of prophetic literature, but tells the future using literary devices such as symbols, metaphors, allegory, and more. The word means “revelation,” suggesting an unveiling of information rather than a straight-forward prophecy.

Gospel

The Bible contains four gospels. They are widely considered history, but are distinct in that each is a collection of historical narratives gathered for a specific audience or purpose. They may also, in a sense, be considered epistles because they were written to communicate with a particular, though broad, group of people.

Epistle

An epistle is a letter, written either to a single person or to a group of people. Ephesians, for example, was written to Christians in Ephesus. Philemon, on the other hand, was written only to Philemon.


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