Book: Literary Forms in the Bible

It’s a book. And one that I have in Kindle format, and I will say straight up: I would recommend that you get this in print. It’s more of a reference type work, and I just prefer that type of resource in print. I don’t find Kindles as “search friendly” as some people. It may just be me.

What book is it? A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible by Leland Ryken. Dr. Ryken is an English Professor and served (and I assume, serves in an ongoing fashion) as literary consultant to English Standard Version translation of the Bible. He should know literary forms.

First, let us consider the format. The format is why I would recommend a print version, because you have an alphabetical dictionary layout. It makes things easy to find, assuming one knows the alphabet, and makes for easy reading for those of with short attention spans. SQUIRREL!!

However, I don’t find this a text that makes for a read “cover-to-cover.” I’m not convinced that was intended, so that’s not a shot at the work. I think Ryken intended a reference book.

Second, let us consider content. The entries are alphabetized, with a descriptive definition for each literary type like “Anthropomorphism” or “Type Scene.” This includes some descriptive examples from the text of the Bible.

There is not an exhaustive list of every example of the form. That is not as much a drawback as the lack of an index of the passages mentioned. I would have liked that list in the back matter: each Scripture reference used, indexed to its type.

(And in all, I’d love to get my hands on a cross-reference of every Scripture passage indexed to literary type, or have that as a feature in either a commentary series or study Bible.)

Third, let us consider “completeness.” This is the “Complete Handbook,” after all. I’m inclined to think it’s complete, as Ryken knows what he’s doing. But I do wonder about the lack of reference to original language concepts. I’m curious of “story of abundance” is a universal literary form, a Western form, or a Hebraic form.

That does not diminish the value of this book as it is, but does show a limitation or two. I think more could be said in those areas, making a bigger book. Which is likely why there are limitations on what was presented.

In all, a worthwhile addition to the shelf.

EBook provided by the publisher in exchange for the review.


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