Yesterday we looked at just some of the challenges that come with preaching epistles, gospels and historical narrative. Now for the other four genre. Which do you find the hardest?
Poetry – Psalms and songs are readily leaned on in times of personal trial, but preaching them well is not so easy. The imagery is sometimes alien to us. The forms and structures are unfamiliar. The genre taps into the affections and emotions in a way that can be difficult to communicate. The temptation to dissect and turn the passage into an epistle is very real. As is true with every passage, but especially here, the passage does not give a complete theology of . . . whatever it’s about.
Wisdom – The Hebraic parallelism and other forms of wisdom literature are especially foreign to our ears. The wisdom literature often sits in the context of a covenant system that applied uniquely to Israel in relationship to God, so application can be treacherous territory if we’re not careful. The brevity of statement provides a different challenge than an extended narrative.
Prophecy – Written by a certain kind of person, to a certain people, at a certain time . . . none of which is the same today. It can be really challenging to enter into the historical context of the prophet, and also to enter fully into the written context of the book (where the start and end of each burden/oracle is often hard to discern). While the prophets reveal the heart and plans of God very boldly, there is plenty in form and content that appears obscure to contemporary ears and sensibilities.
Apocalyptic – Biblical apocalyptic is a genre that is challenging to contemporary interpreters. Many seem so quick to dismiss the content by reference to the genre that all meaning is apparently stripped from the texts. Then there is the conflict in the commentaries and even disputes in the pews over issues of eschatology that can quickly zap any zeal to announce an apocalyptic preaching text. As with prophecy, the challenges are there in terms of interpreting in context, and in applying to contemporary listeners.
Personally I would list the hardest for me as: 1 – historical narrative (Old Testament), 2 – wisdom, and 3 – apocalyptic (because of the potential problems from the pew, more than the interpretation of it). What about you? Let’s make sure we’re not avoiding some genre and growing complacent with others.