Review: Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible, by Thomas Long.

Long Literary Forms

Thomas Long provides a solid introduction to the literary forms of the Bible and how a preacher should interact with them. The book begins with a relatively brief consideration of reading different genre and the process of moving from text to sermon. Long emphasizes that the Word is to influence not only the what, but also the how, of preaching. In effect the preacher is to seek to grasp and replicate the total impact of a text on its reader.

Long then moves into the various literary forms of the Bible. His approach for studying each genre is helpful, although not a process for preparing a message. Firstly, the genre must be recognized. Then the rhetorical function of the text is observed, with a sensitivity toward the literary devices within the text. The text is then analyzed to determine how its impact on the reader is created. Finally, Long briefly considers how a sermon might create the same impact in today’s listener. These final thoughts in relation to sermon possibilities are at times a little brief.

Long considers five genre – psalms and proverbs are Old Testament specific. Narrative covers both Old and New Testament material. Parables and epistles deal with the rest of the New Testament coverage. Sadly prophetic and apocalyptic literature are missing. Throughout the study, Long’s repeated emphasis is that the rhetorical effect of the literature is to be recreated through preaching.

Long’s relatively short book is high on value. This review does not affirm every statement in the book, but does affirm its value for anyone concerned with Biblical Preaching. To only cover five “literary forms” and not deal with the prophetic and apocalyptic forms is unfortunate. However, what is included fits the purpose of the book and is effective in making the reader think through the implications of genre study for Biblical preaching.

Before buying this book, please read the review on Jeffrey Arthurs’ new book, Preaching with Variety.

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