The Literary Genre of the Book of Amos -- By: Stephen J. Bramer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 156:621 (Jan 1999)
Article: The Literary Genre of the Book of Amos
Author: Stephen J. Bramer


The Literary Genre of the Book of Amos*

Stephen J. Bramer

Many books on Amos continue to be published, evidencing scholarly interest in this prophet and the book that bears his name. Van der Wal’s bibliography on Amos lists approximately 1,600 titles written from A.D. 1800 through June 1986.1 In 1991 Hasel observed that more than eight hundred items had been written about Amos since the 1960s and that 350 of those were not found in van der Wal’s bibliography.2 Since Hasel’s work was published, many other items on Amos have appeared.3

*This is article one in a three-part series, “Studies in the Structure of the Book of Amos.”

Stephen J. Bramer is Associate Professor of Bible Exposition, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

This fascination with Amos is not difficult to understand. While the length and content of Amos make it a manageable book to handle, the text has enough variety to provide a good range of issues for study.4 The ease of separating many of the pericopes and the variety of supporting genres5 make it an excellent book for those interested in source and form criticism. Critical issues are in reasonable supply, but the general sense of a passage is seldom in doubt. This is especially appealing to those working with the overall structure of the book.

Views on the Genre of Amos

Scholars differ, however, on the genre or kind of literary composition that characterizes the Book of Amos as a whole and the subgenres of the various parts of the book. Some do not attempt to identify the book’s overall genre. Shalom M. Paul, for example, never clearly identifies the genre of Amos except to say that “Amos delivered a devastating diatribe against the nation’s distorted concept of the wholesale panacea of the cult”6 and that it was a “message of doom.”7 He does admit that Amos’s book contains an “extensive array of literary genres” which “includes judgment speeches, dirges, disputation sayings, exhortations, admonitions, vision reports, narratives, and eschatological promises.”8 Paul sees many common literary genres represented in Amos’s composite of independent collections.

Gary Smith also declines to identify the overall genre of the book. Instead, like Paul, he designates various genres and...

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