Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel Part 2: The Literary Quality of 1 and 2 Samuel -- By: John A. Martin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 141:562 (Apr 1984)
Article: Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel Part 2: The Literary Quality of 1 and 2 Samuel
Author: John A. Martin

Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel
Part 2:
The Literary Quality of 1 and 2 Samuel

John A. Martin

[John A. Martin, Assistant Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary]

In recent years scholars have given an increasing amount of attention to the Bible as literature.1 The study of literature is nothing new, but the study of the books of the Bible as literature is a field which is still foreign to many scholars trained in the classical approach to exegesis and interpretation.2 As the tools of literary analysis have been brought to Scripture, new insights have emerged that have aided in interpretation.

Just as no serious interpreter would come to 1 and 2 Samuel without some knowledge of the background, culture, syntax, grammar, and style of those books, so also no interpreter should approach them without some idea of their literary character. This article seeks to uncover the way the author accomplished his purpose by using literary devices. Though many areas could be examined, this article will deal with the genre, the reversal-of-fortune motif, and the characters in the books.

Viewing Samuel from a literary standpoint in no way impugns the inspiration and inerrancy of the text. In fact those who hold to a high view of the Holy Spirit’s activity in the original autographs should be pleased to study the literary style the Holy Spirit and the human author used to convey this historical account.3

The Genre


The term genre is normally used in literary analysis to mean a certain kind of literature in which one expects a certain type of

traits from the words.4 This is where the battleground of evangelical hermetieutics is being fought in the present day. The battle is not so much over literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of the words of the Bible as it is over the genre of literature presented in various parts of the Bible.

Historical narratives carry one set of connotations while fairy tales carry another. Romance novels are understood by the readers differently from history textbooks. A present battle in evangelicalism is not so much over what the words mean (the “nuts and bolts” of exegesis) as much as it is over the type of meaning to be assigned those words in the context in which they occur. The genre of literature is extremely important if one is to understand the meaning of the text.

Samuel And History

The bo...

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