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Literary Approaches to the Bible (Lexham Methods Series)

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An Introduction to Literary Criticism

The study of the Bible has long included a literary aspect with great attention paid not only to what was written but also to how it was expressed. The detailed analysis of biblical books and passages as written texts has benefited from the study of literature in classical philology, ancient rhetoric, and modern literary criticism. Literary Approaches to the Bible introduces the various ways the study of literature has been used in biblical studies. Most literary approaches emphasize the study of the text alone—its structure, its message, and its use of literary devices—rather than its social or historical background. The methods described in this volume are focused on different ways of analyzing the text within its literary context. Some of the techniques have been around for centuries, but the theories of literary critics from the early 20th century to today had a profound impact on biblical interpretation. In this book, you will learn about those literary approaches, how they were adapted for biblical studies, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Praise for Literary Approaches to the Bible

Students entering biblical studies courses at the college or seminary level are often baffled by the array of new methodologies they encounter. Reading their Bible and going to church never prepared them for the likes of form criticism, redaction criticism, rhetorical analysis, narrative criticism, or structuralism! What these students need is a simple and clear introduction to the presuppositions, technical terms and goals of these methods. The Lexham Method Series meets this need. More specifically, this fourth volume, Literary Approaches to the Bible, introduces students to recent literary approaches that analyze texts as narrative and literary wholes. The book is clear, accurate and readable. Highly recommended. I only wish these volumes were available when I was in seminary!

—Mark L. Strauss, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary San Diego

This collection provides an excellent introduction to various methodologies utilized in literary interpretation of the Bible. Each essay gives a definition and explanation of the method being presented, examples of its application to the biblical text, and a balanced assessment of its advantages and limitations. Students and practitioners of biblical interpretation will find this a very helpful introduction to various literary methods of interpretation, which are not presented as the means of interpreting the Bible, but rather one tool to be utilized alongside others to assist the interpreter in grasping the meaning and significance of the text.

—David R. Beck, associate dean of biblical studies, professor of New Testament and Greek, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

About the Lexham Methods Series

The Lexham Methods Series is designed for exegetes who need to learn, refresh, and master the tools of biblical scholarship. The books present scholarly information in an easy-to-understand format and focus on cutting-edge methods for biblical interpretation while avoiding jargon. The four volumes give you a complete overview of every major type of biblical interpretation, featuring history and key figures, methods and terms, and a how-to section, giving you a strong foundation for further research.

Learn more about the other titles in this series.

Top Highlights

“Therefore, instead of trying first to pinpoint an inexact origin, let us begin with a different type of answer: The shifts in biblical interpretation in the late twentieth century have little or nothing to do with the Bible itself. Instead, they have everything to do with the changes occurring in Western thought and culture.” (Pages 2–3)

“Literary Approach to the Bible. By ‘literary approach,’ a very general and nontechnical term, Bible interpreters mean reading the Bible with an eye for any method that could fit into any literary theory (new or ancient, conventional or radical). In contrast, when we speak of ‘literary criticism,’ we are talking about a specific consideration and analysis of a literary text by means of a literary method. Therefore, a literary approach is a general way of speaking of some type of literary criticism. In contrast, ‘literary theory’ describes a philosophical consideration of the many possible methods and meanings that a reader may be informed of by the text.” (Page 4)

“we could describe literary criticism as the practical application of some form of literary theory” (Page 4)

“In general terms, rhetorical criticism or narrative criticism is an approach to biblical texts that uses a close reading strategy to read the text as a whole. The goal of the approach is to understand the author’s communicative goals and to realize how texts persuade readers by interpreting biblical passages according to general principles of literary convention.2 Readers are interested in the literary texture of documents. They look for stylistic features—structure, repetition, key words, characterization, word choice, and discourse, for example.” (Pages 65–66)


  • The Literary Approach to the Bible by Douglas Estes
  • Canonical Criticism by David Schreiner
  • Old Testament Rhetorical and Narrative Criticism by Suzanna Smith
  • Inner-Biblical Interpretation and Intertextuality by Jeffery Leonard
  • Narrative Criticism of the New Testament by Daniel Brendsel
  • Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament by Douglas Estes
  • Structural Criticism by Gretchen Ellis
  • Poststructural Criticism by John DelHousaye

Product Details

  • Title: Literary Approaches to the Bible
  • Editors: Douglas Mangum and Douglas Estes
  • Series: Lexham Methods Series
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Format: Logos Digital, Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781577996668
  • Trim Size: 6x9

About the Editors

Douglas Mangum is an academic editor for Lexham Press. He holds a PhD in Hebrew from the University of Free State and holds a Master of Arts in Hebrew and Semitic Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is an associate editor of the Lexham Bible Dictionary, editor of the Lexham Methods Series, and a regular Bible Study Magazine contributor.

Douglas Estes holds a PhD in Theology from the University of Nottingham. He is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Practical Theology and the Director of the DMin Program at South University—Columbia. Previously he served in pastoral ministry for sixteen years. He is a regular contributor to Bible Study Magazine.

Sample Pages from Literary Approaches to the Bible


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    Print list price: $27.99
    Save $3.00 (10%)