Week 5 Narrative – Introduction to Narrative in the Bible (March 18)
What is narrative and why is it so important that it is included in this study guide? It is important to understand narrative because it is the most widely used genre (type of literature) in the Bible. “Narrative” could be called “story”, but this definition does not really do it justice. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart have a great explanation for narrative in their book, “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth”. This is what they say:
“Narratives are stories. Although from time to time we use the word story to describe them, we prefer the word narrative because story has come to mean something that is fictional, as in “bedtime story” or “a likely story.” It also tends to mean a single story with a single set of characters and a single plot. The Bible, on the other hand, contains what we often hear called God’s story—a story that is utterly true, crucially important, and often complex. It is a magnificent story, grander than the greatest epic, richer in plot and more significant in its characters and descriptions than any humanly composed story could ever be. So for those portions of this great divine story that have a story form, the term narrative is preferred in technical usage since it is a more objective, less prejudicial term.” (page 86)
These stories or narratives give us historical examples that we can learn from. There are times in these narratives when we have to remember that we are to learn from the examples and not necessarily imitate the heroes of the story. For example, David and Abraham give us excellent examples of faith, but we are certainly not to follow their example of adultery, murder and dishonesty.
Let’s use our first example of narrative to understand how we should NOT interpret it. This is a story that many find difficult: Read Judges 11:29-40.
Clearly, when we consider the greater context of the Bible, we should not follow Jephthah’s example (Deuteronomy 12:31, 18:10, Jeremiah 19:5), but let’s consider what there is to learn from the story.
1. What are the things that Jephthah did wrong?
2. What are some things that this narrative is not telling us to do?
3. What can we learn from this story? Does it give us an example of how important we need to take our commitments and doing what we say we will—especially if those commitments are directly to God?
4. Consult your Prayer Journal.