Hermeneutics - Lesson 15

Interpreting Biblical Narrative (Part 1)

This lesson delves into interpreting biblical narratives, covering historical vs. parables, historical interpretation evolution in the 1700s, narrative selectivity's significance, diverse biblical narrative types, and how narratives capture the human dimension in salvation history. We stress identifying setting, characters, and plot, mirroring regular storytelling techniques, and understanding the deliberate selectivity of biblical authors.

Todd Miles
Lesson 15
Watching Now
Interpreting Biblical Narrative (Part 1)

I. Nature of Historical Narrative

A. Characteristics

B. Changes because of the Renaissance

II. Biblical Narrative

A. Re-presentation of past events for the purpose of instruction

B. Reason for narrative

C. Types of narrative

III. Clues for interpreting narrative

A. Setting

B. Characters

C. Plot

  • This lesson explores John the Baptist's role as the Messiah's forerunner, his imprisonment for condemning Herod's affair, and Jesus' response in Matthew 11, rooted in Old Testament prophecies. Jesus' omission of judgment references confuses John about the Messiah's timing. Believers in the New Covenant, with deeper insight into Jesus, are seen as greater. The lesson promotes patience during suffering and the duty to identify Jesus as the Messiah.
  • This lesson on hermeneutics teaches you to approach the Bible with humility, seek divine guidance, analyze context, consider character roles, examine structure, use cross-references, apply sanctified imagination, and emphasize Jesus in interpretation, all while relying on the Holy Spirit.
  • This lesson introduces general and special revelation, emphasizing their roles in inviting people to know God and providing specific truths for salvation. It explores the process of inspiration, defining it as a concurrent work of a holy God and a human author, ensuring every word of Scripture is both human and divine, crucial for biblical interpretation.
  • This lesson reveals the Bible's divine authority, unity, and human relevance, stressing accurate interpretation for life transformation.
  • Learn about hermeneutics, understanding author intent, and different views on interpretation. Dr. Todd Miles discusses realism vs. non-realism, authorial authority, and introduces speech act theory to show how the Bible engages with readers, transforming beliefs and behavior.
  • This lesson delves into theological text interpretation, emphasizing that meaning is human-made, not inherent. Authors, not readers, shape text meaning. Accurate Bible interpretation hinges on understanding God's authorship, emphasizing His lordship, knowledge, and obedience. Presuppositions about God and human nature are vital for accurate Bible interpretation.
  • From this lesson, you will gain insights into the challenges of translating the Bible, understanding the continuum of translation philosophies, and the importance of selecting a translation that balances accuracy and readability in contemporary language. Dr. Todd Miles underscores the significance of using the best available manuscripts, avoiding theological bias, and staying updated with the latest knowledge of language and culture to ensure a quality translation.
  • From this lesson, you will gain valuable knowledge and insight into hermeneutics and biblical interpretation. You will understand that hermeneutics is not about uncovering hidden secrets but about utilizing your natural ability to interpret communication. Reading and becoming familiar with the Bible is crucial for effective interpretation, and it is essential to address biblical illiteracy.
  • Learn the significance of interpreting Bible passages in the context of redemptive history. Discover the Bible's continuous narrative, emphasizing revelation's progression and God's plan through the David and Goliath story. See how context ensures accurate interpretation, connecting the Bible's parts into a cohesive story of God's redemption.
  • Understanding the Bible through biblical theology is crucial, as it reveals the overarching narrative of God's redemptive plan, centered on His glory and the role of Jesus Christ, enabling a more profound comprehension of individual Bible passages and their relevance to our lives.
  • Dr. Todd Miles underscores the vital role of historical and cultural context in interpreting the Bible. Understanding the era when a passage was penned is crucial for grasping its genuine significance. Using examples like the virgins' parable and Revelation 3:14-22, it demonstrates how historical context aids in discerning interpretations and adds depth to the message. The text emphasizes that, while the Bible offers some historical context, external sources can also enhance comprehension. In conclusion, historical and cultural context is essential for accurate biblical interpretation.
  • In this lesson on Hermeneutics by Dr. Todd Miles, the focus is on understanding the cultural context when interpreting biblical texts. Dr. Miles emphasizes that culture plays a significant role in both the biblical author's writing and the reader's interpretation. He discusses the concept of cultural conditioning, highlighting that everyone, including the biblical authors, the original audience, and modern readers, is influenced by their respective cultures.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles highlights the significance of studying words in their original language and using etymology to decipher their original meanings.
  • Learn how recognizing and applying literary genres in the Bible is crucial for accurate interpretation, avoiding misinterpretations, and approaching Scripture with a nuanced understanding.
  • In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of interpreting biblical narratives. It begins by discussing the distinction between historical narratives and parables, emphasizing the importance of recognizing the markers of historical narrative.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles review biblical narrative interpretation. He emphasizes the importance of context, adding that each narrative should be examined within the broader biblical and book context. He illustrates this with Mark Chapter 5, where Jesus interacts with demons, breaking from the norm to underscore his authority.
  • From this lesson on Hermeneutics and Law, you will gain insight into the intricate relationship between the Old Testament law and New Covenant believers. Dr. Todd Miles emphasizes the challenge of applying ancient laws to contemporary life and introduces the key factors for understanding them: comprehending the nature of covenants and situating oneself in the timeline of redemptive history. This process is likened to using a mall map to find a destination.
  • Dr. Todd Miles discusses prophecy's significance beyond predicting the future. It validates God's deity, reveals future realities, and guides our present actions. Most prophecy is about forth-telling and emphasizes covenant understanding.
  • In this Hermeneutics lesson, you'll gain insights into the challenges of interpreting prophecy, including wrong expectations, historical context, conditional fulfillment, and various forms of prophetic proclamations, while also being reminded not to let contemporary agendas override the biblical text.
  • In taking this lesson, you gain insight into the concept of typology in biblical interpretation. Typology involves finding resemblances between Old Testament figures, events, and institutions and their fulfillment in the New Testament, particularly in relation to Jesus Christ.
  • Learn about poetry in the Bible by exploring Hebrew poetic parallelism and its emotional power in Psalms. Discover how poetry enhances biblical narratives and offers unique insights.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Todd Miles discusses various types of psalms found in the Psalter and delves into their unique characteristics and theological significance. He begins by providing a list of different kinds of psalms, emphasizing that this list is not exhaustive but illustrative, highlighting the diversity of poetry within the Psalms.
  • By studying this lesson, you gain insight into essential figures of speech in the Bible and learn to interpret them effectively, enhancing your hermeneutical skills and deepening your understanding of the Scriptures.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Todd Miles discusses the interpretation of parables. Parables are a specific literary genre with their own rules of interpretation. Parables are designed to teach a single point, although there might be exceptions. Historical context remains essential in understanding parables, as they are shaped by the situations of the day. 
  • This lesson explores Proverbs and wisdom literature, focusing on its distinct genre, interpretation rules. Dr. Miles highlights its purpose, living wisely with God. It emphasizes the fear of the Lord, touches Ecclesiastes' question of meaning, and Job's theodicy.
  • In this lesson on interpreting epistles, Dr. Todd Miles underscores the importance of understanding their structure, argumentative methods, and central theological focus on Jesus Christ and the gospel, even when addressing practical issues within the early Christian communities.
  • Dr. Todd Miles delves into apocalyptic literature, emphasizing its distinct features like revelatory communication and angelic guidance. It unveils profound truths through visions, promoting understanding and righteous conduct.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Todd Miles explores the concept of perspicuity, which refers to the clarity of the Bible. He begins by explaining that perspicuity is a theological term used to describe how clear the Bible's teachings are. It means that the Bible is written in a way that its teachings can be understood by anyone who reads it, seeks God's help, and is willing to follow it.
  • This lesson provides practical guidelines for applying biblical principles. Dr. Miles emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit, examining the original context, and identifying parallel situations in the present. He encourages applications to be personal, specific, measurable, and time-bound, ensuring they lead to tangible actions in your life.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp the Holy Spirit's vital role in biblical interpretation, going beyond changing hearts to enabling comprehension and acceptance of the text. Dr. Todd Miles stresses the Spirit's role in illuminating the Bible, making it relevant to believers, challenging the idea that unbelievers interpret it as effectively, and emphasizing the importance of understanding the text's intent. The ultimate aim is not mastery but being mastered by the text, with the Holy Spirit as a key player.
Hermeneutics is the science and art of the interpretation of the Bible. It's a science because it is an orderly process based on rules you can apply. It is an art because of the nuances in communication and translation.



Dr. Todd Miles


Interpreting Biblical Narrative (Part 1)

Lesson Transcript


Well, let's begin looking at the individual biblical genres by considering biblical narrative. And I don't see any difference between historical narrative and biblical narrative. I'm going to use those terms interchangeably. Regarding historical narrative, then, how did the early church know if something was historical in the Bible? There are some made up stories, the parables, and then there are some true stories. These what I'll call the historical narratives. How did the church understand whether something was historical or not? And the answer was basically this. Does it claim to be historical narrative? Does it come with the markers of historical narrative? There are clues for every literary genre, and narrative is no different. So basically what they did, the early church, they evaluated the literary genre. So then you have to ask the question. So so is this a is this a historical narrative or is it a made up story? Something like a parable would be. Well, then you would you would look at the clues that would be there. For example, in the parables, Jesus usually said something along the lines of the kingdom of Heaven is like. So he's making a formal comparison between the story that he's telling and the Kingdom of Heaven. Then then you have to ask yourself, once you've said, Well, I see the markers of historical narrative, that that is the setting is established, characters are identified there, there is a plot. The the biblical characters or the characters in this story are treated as though they are true and real people. Then then you have to ask yourself, what's the relationship between what the author meant as he's telling this story and what really happened? And you might think that question wouldn't have to be asked, but it started to be asked in pretty much like the 1700s and up until the 1700s, the relationship between what the biblical author meant and what actually happened, Well, it was universal. They were one and the same. And then with the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance that followed, people began to ask "why" questions and they weren't willing to accept things on a say so basis. This was very helpful in the Protestant Reformation, where we're not going to accept what the Catholic Church says merely because the Catholic hierarchy says. So. We want to evaluate according to the scriptures, according to the Church fathers. But when that idea permeates out into the culture, not accepting things on a say so basis, well then people began to think, well, I can I can reject a lot of what the Bible has to say as well. I don't need to accept something merely because the Bible says so. There was a decline in superstition, but also a decline in respect for authority, even biblical authority. And, you know, where do you stop with that? We were all children of the Renaissance. We are all committed to to science where we're rationalists of sort. When we get sick, we typically go to a doctor or we go to someone who can prescribe a medicine to us. Maybe our first impulse is not to go to a pastor. Well, at any rate, but by the late 1700s there were two stages of interpretation. Then if people are going to say, Well, I'm not going to accept this on a say so basis, you would first step determine the literal or the grammatical since the document that is, you would do some sort of exegesis. And instead of just assuming that what was written actually happened, you would then do a second step, perform an historical assessment. You assess whether it really happened or not. And what would happen is that preachers would explain that, well, this story's made up. This this talk of people rising from the dead and acts, heads floating and people being healed with a touch. I mean, well, we know that can't actually happen, but the biblical authors told this story to communicate something true to us, just not the facts of the event. So they read the narrative as though it didn't actually happen. It was essentially a moral fable. So the story of Jesus getting up from the dead. Well, in our, you know, enlightened era of the 18th century, we know that people don't actually get up from the dead. And so it was rejected that Jesus literally got up from the dead by by many. And then you would ask the question. Okay, so what were the gospel writers trying to communicate? What what were they trying to say? What were they trying to teach? So the scriptural narratives, the biblical narratives essentially became mythical. The best way to understand is maybe get into the subconsciousness of the biblical author. We have to try to figure out psychologically what was he thinking. And so get behind the text, get under the texts, get around the text, do anything but actually engage the text itself. This this approach, it was said, would honor the integrity of the author. But we'd have to question whether it honored his intelligence or his integrity in terms of his telling something that is true. Or knowingly saying something that is false in this continue to have a strong impact. 1700s, 1800s into the 1900s had a huge impact on the academy. And and even conservatives were affected by this until people began to think, you know what, I think we've lost the ability to read a story. Reading stories is intuitive. We've been trained over time in how to read a story, and now it's just it's subconscious, it's intuitive for us how to do it. And in a fellow who pointed this out was a man named Hans Frie. He wrote a book called The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative. And in this book, he basically points out to to the academy who's trying to get behind the story and into the subconscious. Since the author, he says, we've forgotten how to read a narrative. We learned how to read narratives when we were kids. And then you go away to seminary or advanced academic training at especially liberal institutions, and you're brainwashed into forgetting everything you ever learned about how to read a story and are retrained and how to get into the subconsciousness of of the author. And I think Frie was right. And so there's been a bit of a renaissance now in how to read a story. And this is important because a lot of the Bible is narrative. Narrative makes up about 40% of the Old Testament. It makes up the majority of the four gospels in the Book of Acts in the New Testament, and that's the majority of the overwhelming majority of the New Testament, the four Gospels and Acts. And so about 60%, 3/5 of the entire Bible is narrative. We still haven't. Define precisely what narrative is. Well, historical narrative is the re-presentation of past events for the purpose of instruction. And it's not representation, but it's re-presentation of past events for the purpose of instruction. And I get that from, from John Sailhammer or someone that I mentioned earlier before. And so according to him, there are two dimensions to any narrative one, the course of the event itself. Remember when we were talking about John Sailhammer He was trying to get us to pay attention to the biblical text rather than thinking that the primary thing was the event. He's not saying the event doesn't matter. He thinks it really does. He's just saying our only access to the event and the only pristine inherent access to the event is the scriptures. So pay attention to that. And so two dimensions to every narrative, the course of the event itself, what actually happened, but two, the perspective of the author. What is the author trying to do in telling this story? And so the purpose of biblical narrative is not simply to tell us what happened. Right. This is not Joe Friday in Dragnet. Like just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts. No, it's to relate the story to biblical faith and the overall context of redemptive history. Are you saying that the biblical authors had an agenda? Yes, they absolutely had an agenda. And we're going to talk about that even more as this time goes on. Axiom number 14, a biblical narrative is not merely a record of what happened, but it is also the divine interpretation of what happened. And you get both in biblical narrative. The biblical authors, they don't just tell us what happened. They don't just tell us who the characters were and what they did. They tell us how to feel about the characters and the outcomes. For example, if you're reading the Book of Exodus and you start to feel sorry for Pharaoh, you are misreading the text. That's not a legitimate reading of Moses. This book of Exodus. I don't know how many of you have seen the musical Wicked before, but it's it's loosely based on The Wizard of Oz. It's supposed to be the back story that the prequel, if you will, to The Wizard of Oz and what we're told in the musical Wicked. And it's it's a delightful musical. I would highly recommend it, but it's not a good reading of The Wizard of Oz because we're told in the movie Wicked that that the Wicked Witch of the West, her name is Elphaba in the musical, and she's actually a misunderstood and she's pretty much the most genuine good character in the entire story. Glinda, on the other hand, is this kind of smarmy prom queen, cheerleader, airhead type of girl who's vindictive and and not always nice, although she has her moments. Well. That makes for a really fun musical. But it's not a legitimate reading of The Wizard of Oz. It's not a legitimate prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Frank Baum did a wonderful job writing The Wizard of Oz, and he tells us in there how we're supposed to feel about these characters. How do we know that the Wicked Witch of the West is wicked? Because that's her name. That is her name. The Wicked Witch. How do we know that Glinda is good? Because that's the name that Frank Baum gives her. Gets Glinda the good. Right. And so Frank Baum tells us how we're supposed to think about these characters. And if we read through The Wizard of Oz and feel sorry that the Wicked Witch got a little wet in the end and therefore was destroyed. We haven't read The Wizard of Oz properly. We've misunderstood it. We don't have that option. Narratives come to us with a structure. Each segment of the narrative has an internal relationship to the other segments, and the structure then makes up this total set of the different relationships. And one thing that I want you to recognize and understand is that narratives have to be selective. They have to be selective. That is a narrator or an author can't tell you everything about everything. And so the biblical author, the narrative writer, the narrator, will select his material in order to convey his point. For example, in the creation narrative that I'm going to attribute that to Moses in the creation narrative that Moses writes, why is there no mention of the creation of the angels or the stars or the other galaxies? The creation account is told in terms instead of how it relates to human affairs on the land. I mean, what's the whole point of the sun in the moon to divide the day in the night and to be signs for the seasons, for the days to year and years? Now, I would submit to you that God is thinking way more about what the Son is going to do than merely act as a timepiece for human beings. And yet for Moses, that's what it's for. That's what it's for. And it's not that Moses is a moron, but he's saying, this is the point. We might think that's like, Here, I'll show you Genesis one, the creation of the cosmos. Here it is in my Bible. Here it is. The creation of the cosmos. One page. Is there stuff that's left out? Yes, I think there is. Could Moses have said more? Could God have inspired even more? Yes, I think so. Would I like there to be more? Well, the curious part of me wishes that there was a little bit more there. But this is what God has given to us, and this is sufficient. What was Moses thinking? I suspect that Moses is writing the creation narrative as like the prolog for the people of Israel who, before he dies, are on the eastern shore of the Jordan River and they're about to go into the promised land where they're going to be surrounded by all sorts of pagan nations, none of whom worship the one true God, the covenant Lord of Israel. And so Moses delivers to them a creation account. That is true. It's true. I'm not saying it's not true. It's just more could be said. But he delivered what he delivered to them so they would understand who they were as the people of God and the nature of this God that they worshiped. And so the creation is done in a very orderly manner. It's by the one creator, God, who speaks the universe into existence. And that in Moses, his judgment was what the Israelites needed to know when they went into the land. Would I like for there to be more detail about what actually took place? Would it solve some problems that are going on even in the church between young Earth and old Earth creationism? Yeah, that that would be a little bit helpful. But apparently, in God's judgment, not necessary, because God has given us his sufficient word to go back to what I was saying earlier, Moses wrote with an agenda, and he wasn't necessarily trying to answer every single conceivable question that would come up. He wanted to answer specific questions, and so he selected his material, not in a tendentious way, not distorting facts or making stuff up. But he selects the material that he writes in order to get us from where we are to where he wants us to be. So we'll come back to this principle of selectivity in a moment. We might ask the question why narrative? Why narrative? Why is there so much narrative in the Bible? And maybe that would be a good question for you all to consider for just a moment before we dig into the details of how to interpret narrative. Why did God choose for there to be so much narrative in his word? Well, I left you the question. Why so much narrative? 60% of the Bible? Why is so much of it narrative? Why would God do that? Why not just an encyclopedia of God facts? Why not that? Well, hopefully you came up with something along the lines of Everybody Loves a good story. Yes. Stories are more fun to read. Right. Further. We relate to stories as people because the stories in the Bible are about people. The Bible is a very is a theocentric book, for sure. That is, it's God centered. But the Bible is also anthropocentric. It's very human centered. This is salvation. This is the cosmos. This is everything from a very human perspective. Humans are the the ones created in the image of God. Humans are the ones who brought sin into the world. Humans are the one who have to pay the penalty for sin. Sin, as we find out in the opening pages of the Bible, is a human problem, and it requires a human solution. And yet, as we read along, we find that humans can't solve this problem. We actually can't solve this problem. Only God can save. Enter Jesus the incarnation where God saves, but He does so as as a human. And so the Bible is very relatable because of the stories that are there. Stories are easy to remember. We remember them oftentimes much better than strict teaching. I find that with my kids as we're driving home from school and they're lamenting that they couldn't remember a few factoids, but then quote in verbatim whatever nonsense movie that we watched lately. Right. But they can remember those things better. That's just human nature, I think. Narratives cover the breadth of life because they're about life. And what's wonderful about the biblical narratives is we don't get a holy history per se. We don't get what what I call hagiography, like a whitewashed history. In the biblical narratives, we get the good with the bad. And so the biblical narratives, I would argue, are validated by our experience. Now what what kind of narratives are there in the Bible? I'm going to list and describe a few kinds of narratives, not because these categories are important. These are a a taxonomy, if you will, categories of biblical narratives that we put on top of the text. The biblical authors never say, I'm about to tell you a hero story. So. So read it according to this. Now, these are things that we attach to it, but I run you through some of these now so that you'll recognize that there's a diversity of kinds of narrative, even within the biblical genre of narrative. So there there are reports. A report is a very brief, self-contained narration, usually third person style about a single event or situation. And so there may be battle reports. Those are always kind of interesting. You get a list of like how many people died. There are construction reports. Those are not as interesting to me, but maybe to some people. They are things of that nature. There are another kind of of narrative is heroic narrative. And heroic narrative is a a series of episodes that focus on on the life and exploits of a hero whom people will later consider significant. The epic, if you will. It tells the heroic exploits of a virtuous hero. It's usually longer and it magnifies the hero's exploits for the sake of this story. And David would be someone who the biblical authors pay a lot of attention to. We get a lot of heroic narrative about David. There are also prophets stories, and you might think, Well, a prophet story would be a story about a prophet. But that's that's true. But but the purpose is to present a life as a model worthy of of emulation. There are comedies in the Bible. This is not like a sitcom or a rom com. Not not that sort of thing. A comedy is a narrative whose plot has a happy ending. And oftentimes in comedies there are disguises and mistaken identities and irony. The the unlikely conquest of obstacles at the Book of Esther is is is is a comedy in that regard, not because it's it makes you laugh, but because there are unexpected turns and there's irony and and things turn out very happy in the end if you're rooting for God's people. But again, that's the that's the perspective of the biblical author. How do we interpret narratives? Well, I imagine you already know how to do that. So let me make you aware of what you already know. Axiom 15, Interpretive interpreting narrative rests on identifying, setting characters and plot. And this principle of selectivity. Let's go back to the to the idea of of selectivity. The Gospel of John is very significant when it comes to the principle of selectivity, because John, as I mentioned in the earlier lecture, he almost makes fun of us. Jesus did a whole bunch of other things, and I'm not going to tell you about them, but what I have written. So that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you might have life in His name. John tells us precisely why he is writing that his agenda he wants us to believe. And so he selects certain things. He could have told us. Lots of things. He even brags about that. Right. But he doesn't tell us about all things. He selects certain things. And I would argue that John wrote a little later than the other gospel writers did. The other gospel right Gospels had been circulating for some time. Matthew, Mark and Luke. And John writes a different sort of gospel for us. And he picks different sorts of things. There aren't any. There aren't any parables in the Gospel of John. John or John tells about the life of Jesus, mainly in Jerusalem. We if you read the Gospel of John, only you would think Jesus hung out in Jerusalem all the time. But he really didn't. He would just make his pilgrimages there when Jewish people were supposed to go down for the feast. But that's where all of the gospel, John, for the most part, takes place. John selects seven I am statements. He has seven miracles as well. Jesus, do more miracles. How did Jesus do other significant things? Yes, he did. There aren't a lot of sermons in the Gospel of John, but there are lengthy discourses with people. So there's a lot of red letters, if you will, in the Gospel of John. But you don't have the Sermon on the Mount or the sermon on the plane, that sort of thing. Instead, you have him interacting with the Pharisees, long, long discussions with them and with a lot of theology. John selected his material intentionally to convey his point. He doesn't tell us everything about everything about Jesus. Even he admits that I'm not telling you about everything. I picked up some things. That's the principle of selectivity. Why am I hammering this point in? Because authors have an agenda and they selected what they selected intentionally. I tell the story of my son Marcos. When? When he was younger, you know, two, three, four, or five years old or so, we would sit around the kitchen table and we'd all be gathered there and to eat. And my wife wants to have family discussions. And she would go around the table and and say, I want you to tell us one significant story from your day. And Marcos has been a part of this. And as he's learning how to talk, he he wants to participate more and more because the guy the guy likes to talk. And and that's always been the case. And and and eventually got to the point where Marcos can participate. Marcos tells his story from your day. All the other kids are moaning and complaining, and they'd say something very brief. Marcos would just start talking. And it was a free flow of thought with no obvious end in sight. And and every now and then, Camille would say, Oh, that was a great story. Marcos, thank you so much. And Marcos would protest, are not finished. And then he would just go on with more free flow of thought, with no agenda, no principle of selectivity at all going on here. The biblical writers are better storytellers than Marcos, so they employ this principle of selectivity. All narratives also include a setting characters and a plot. One of my favorite authors is P.D. James, who writes British mysteries set in Great Britain, and she did a number of little YouTube videos where she explained how to write. And and what's what's very interesting about her is that when you read her novels, the very first chapter there is page after page after page at the very beginning describing the setting. And then she goes into great detail about one character and you're kind of cringing because that one character is always like the extra in Star Trek who's never going to survive. You know that this is going to be the murder victim. But all this setting and then a lot of detail about this one character and then one page later, boom, that character is bumped off, murdered. But but you're now into the story. You've entered into the world and you have attached yourself to this character in some way. You care about what happens to them. Either you're annoyed by them and want them to die or you. That's a little some Christian I know, but. Or. But it's fiction, right? Or you. You like this character and you're dismayed when they die. But. But you're invested now. You're involved. And. And so every one of her novels, great, gory detail about the setting, what color the leaves are, what the temperature is like, how the wind is blowing and the smells from the ocean, and all this lengthy discussion of one character. And then they're gone. But you're you're now in the story and you've gone from you have setting character and a plot. She she would often say. You establish a setting and you have a character. Well, that's not a story. But if you have a setting and a character and something happens to that character. Hmm. Well, now you've got the makings of a plot. If that person is dead. Then you've got a mystery. And if that person is dead because there's a bullet wound in that person. Now you've got a murder mystery and you've got a murder mystery. But you have to have setting. You have to have characters. You have to have plot. The biblical authors understood that Anderson did that. And so look for the setting. There's always a setting to the biblical narratives. And when the author establish a setting. Pay close attention to it. Now, the setting could be a geographical place, but it could also be time as well. And so look for chronological succession words like first or now or then. Sometimes the biblical authors will use foreshadowing, which is just a way of establishing the setting in John chapter two, verse 20-22, John writes this "the Jews then said, They're talking to Jesus. It's taken 46 years to build this temple. And when you raise it up in three days. But Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead. His disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture in the words that Jesus had spoken." Here John is using foreshadowing. He's telling you what's about to happen. To establish what's the setting or the culture, the the. The time, the temperature, all those sorts of things that's going on in that particular moment. Sometimes it works the other way, and John's really a master at this as well. And John, chapter four versus seven and eight, he tells us, kind of brings us up to speed as to what had happened in the past that we didn't know. And in John four, the story of Jesus with the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman, there came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, Give me a drink. And then, almost parenthetically, verse eight for his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. What's John doing? He's establishing the setting for us. He's telling us who's there. He hasn't told us anything about the characters yet, but he's told us what characters are there, and that establishes what's going on in the narrative. Because we might think, Why would Jesus ask this woman to give him, Well, let's get him water, But why not the disciples? Especially since it's the Samaritan woman? Sometimes the authors will use something called freeze. Here, they'll interrupt the story. To give us some more details that's necessary for the right interpretation of that story. I would argue that when we're reading about Joseph in the latter part of Genesis, when we get to, for example, in Joe in Genesis chapter 37 were introduced to Joseph. We already know about his brothers. There a problem? But Chapter 37 focuses on Joseph, how he gets this coat of many colors. He's the apple of his father's eye. He enjoys great privilege. His brothers don't like it. He gets a bunch of dreams, tells of the brothers machinations to bump him off, and then they say, Well, why kill him when we can get rid of him and make money at the same time? And so they sell him into slavery. And the last verses of chapter 37, Genesis 37. Ah, Meanwhile, the Midnight sold Joseph in Egypt to Potter for an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the guards. And then the Joseph narrative ends for a while. It's interrupted with one of the creepiest stories in the entire Bible. Genesis Chapter 38. The Story of Judah and Tamar. And. And we might think, why? Why is this important? We already know that Joseph's brothers are creeps. We know that. Is this like, meanwhile, back at the ranch? Joseph's brothers are still creepy. I don't think that's necessary because after the story of Judah and Tamar, then we didn't. And now we return you to our regular schedule programing. And we pick up with Joseph in Egypt, and he's in Potiphar's House. At this point what's the point of of of that interruption or that freeze. It's like things freeze for Joseph and then we're told a story about Judah. Well, I would suggest to you that we're told that story of Judah because of the progeny that result from that ridiculous relationship that Judah has with Tamar. These little boys that are born who become the heirs of Judah. And so later on, when Joseph gets to confront his brothers and say, Hey, I'm Joseph. Right. And he reveals himself to them, which I man, I hope there's some videotape in heaven, because I would love to see that scene where Joseph's brothers like, it's Joseph. Oh, it's Joseph, right? Because. Because this is like God on earth. Basically for them. He can snap his fingers and they are dead. Right. But. But Joseph tries to. He knows that they're. They're frightened and scared. And in Genesis 46 we get these great words certain that 46:45, we get these great words of Joseph, God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore, it was not you who sent me here but God. Now, Joseph knew that his brother sent him and he. You know, they meant evil against him. God meant it for good. But this, I think, tells us the main point of the whole Joseph narrative. And is it possible that the whole Joseph narrative from Genesis 37 to 50 is really focused on what happens to Judas Son. And we're told Joseph goes into slavery in Egypt. Judah has that boy who's going to become part of the messianic line. And then the details with Joseph are how God is keeping Judah's line alive. I mean, that seems to be a little bit about what? About what? Joseph says. God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and keep you alive by a great deliverance. Because when Joseph's family comes to Egypt, along comes Judah and Judah's sons, born of Tamar and Judah's grandsons and Tamar's grandsons as well. God sent me here for the saving of many lives, is what Joseph said. I think he was saying more than he knew there. He spoke better than he actually knew. He wasn't just keeping Joe his family life, Jacob's family life. And he wasn't just keeping Judah and Judah's offspring alive. But if. If Judas Line fails in Canaan, due to starvation if they're not kept alive. And where does that leave us? Joseph was sent to Egypt, I would argue, so that our lives could be saved as well. This is all part of God's plan. Anyway, that's you can do with that whatever you want. But it is interesting that the Joseph narrative is interrupted to tell us about Judah and the multiplication of his line. And the multiplication of that line makes it into Jesus's genealogy. Explanation is another narrative trick. John Chapter 20. I'm doing all these John passages because John's my favorite book of the Bible explanation. John Chapter 20. We read this and this is after Jesus had risen from the dead and they all run to the tomb. When they hear about it. Both Peter and John run. When they hear the woman's report, they want to check it out for themselves. And and I love what John writes here. Then the other disciple who reached the tomb first also went in and he saw and believed for as yet they did not understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead. The next verse, Peter finally makes it. I love the fact that John went out of his way to point out that he was a faster runner than Peter. I, I love that. But. But. But notice the explanation here. He reached the tomb, went in. He saw and believed as yet they didn't understand the scriptures that Jesus must rise from the dead. But now they're beginning to get it. John gives us these little tidbits of explanation in the narrative that help us understand what was going on. So I skipped over geography because that's the obvious part of setting but bit geography and time and then who the characters are, who are there. Once you get characters there, we need to know something about them. And the biblical authors are really good at that. The characters are the who of this story. And so look for look for narrative comment about who the characters are. 1 Samuel Chapter 25, Verse three. We read now the name of the man was Nabal and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved. He was a Calebite. There's some details about about noble and some details about Abigail. We know something about who these characters are. Sometimes clever writers will use certain characters to describe other characters. And Jesus does this, or the gospel of John does this. 147. Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit. John uses Jesus to describe Nathaniel for us. Pay attention to that. Not only is it John writing it, but it's coming out of the mouth of Jesus. I think he knows what Nathaniel is all about. And then sometimes the biblical characters will just describe themselves or we learn something about them in their own speech. So. So pay attention to that. Sometimes biblical authors will give us insight into what's going on in a person's mind. In 2 Samuel 13, verse 22. When When Absalom hears of Amnon's rape of his sister Tamar. We get but absent spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad. Why? For Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister, Tamar. The narrator tells us something about what's going on in the heart of Absalom. Self-description. Sometimes the. The speech of self-description is not what the speaker thinks he's saying. We learn more about what the speaker says than what his mere words convey. This is this is Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel four At the end of 12 months, he, Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of the Royal Palace of Babylon. And the king answered and said, Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of My Majesty, I we we learn much about Nebuchadnezzar. Are there not necessarily what Nebuchadnezzar wanted to convey, but boy, we sure do learn a lot about him. With that. We look, we learn about characters from their actions as well. For example, Exodus chapter 32, verse 19 As soon as Moses came near the camp, he's coming down the mountain with the with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. He saw the calf and the dancing. Moses His anger burned hot and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. We learn a little bit about Moses there. That might have been the right thing to do, but I still think he regretted it because he had to carve out two tablets and lug them back up Mount Sinai on his own. He didn't have to do that the first time God did it for him. The abilities of the characters are often very important in Acts Chapter 18, we learn about Apollos. Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord and being fervent in spirit. He spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus. Though he knew only the baptism of John, he began to speak bold in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately, and when he wished to cross to acquire, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who, through grace had believed, very powerfully refuted the Jews in public showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. Here we get a lengthy description of policies, abilities and why he becomes such a significant early figure in the church where persons from tells us a bit about them. The biblical authors aren't afraid to caricature people by where they're from. At times that might that might seem weird to us and maybe it might violate our own sensibilities. But this is what the biblical authors do, and they communicate something truly in it. Then the characters are often contrasted one with another. Jacob and Esau, we we learn about each of them as we compare them to each other. Saul and Jonathan and David, those three, as they interact with each other, we're able to contrast them one with the other and we learn much about them. What kind of things do we learn about the characters? Well, they come in all sorts of varieties. They're in literature. There are deep characters or flat characters. Contrast Goliath with David, for example. Goliath is flat. He's like, you know, he's like Hulk or Goliath. Smash. You come at me like a dog with sticks. David, though, is a deep character. We know what's going on in his heart. And there's he's he's complex as well. Some some characters are dynamic. They change over time. Others are static. They don't at all. Unfortunately for Eli's sons, they were very static characters. They don't change at all, even when they're warned. Samuel does. The Apostle Paul does. More dynamic. Different roles are played. There's to any plot there's there's got to be some sort of protagonist that is the central character, the focus of the narrator. The protagonist isn't always the most virtuous character, too. Then there's an antagonist that's the character who opposes the protagonist. Often the plot will hinge on the conflict between the protagonist in the antagonist, and then another character device is a foil. This is a character used to contrast the other characters. Sometimes the foil will be an individual that that catalyzes the actions of others. I don't know if you've ever read the book Les Miserables or Seen the musical, but there's a very central character whose name is Cosette and she really doesn't ever do anything. She just gets older and wanders around and every other person interacts with her and she drives so much of the plot, even though she doesn't actually do anything. Marius falls in love with her opinion, is jealous of her. Jean Valjean is trying to protect her, and the whole plot is driven by this one character who just lives life and grows up. And yet she doesn't ever actually do anything except love Jean Valjean and Marius. Isaac might be a good example of this. Have you thought about Isaac? He's really passive. He doesn't really do anything at all. He's not like Abraham, and he's not like Jacob. Jacob is a man of action. Most of the time it's not good, but he's definitely a man of action. Abraham is a man of action. Isaac Yeah, not so much in Isaac's in Isaac's life or during the during the Sphere, The chapters of Genesis, where Isaac is, is like the main patriarch, if you will, who actually drives the action. Rebecca. She is far more active. She is far more calculating. She drives the drama far more than Isaac, as is Isaac. A foil, I think. Probably could be. I mentioned earlier that that the protagonist is the focus of the narrator. A really interesting exercise is to do a narrative analysis of. Daniel six. Daniel six tells us the story about Daniel in the lion's den. But what's interesting here is Daniel doesn't do much in that. And we might think if we were doing a narrative analysis of Daniel chapter six, that Daniel is the protagonist because he's the good guy and he's he's the hero of the whole book. Daniel We call it Daniel. After all, that's a pretty significant clue as to who the book's about. But in Daniel six, if you were to do like a story board, like a movie director, would, Daniel's not in that many scenes, but you know who's in almost every scene? Derrius. The king. We're not told what's going on in Daniel's mind, but we know what's going on in Darius is mind work. We follow. We follow from scene to scene. Darius, as he goes to as he's in the palace and he can he's talked to by all those, you know, the the different ministers and leaders who are jealous of Daniel and and who are definitely the antagonists, for sure. And then Daniel is confronted by Darius. Darius does that. And then we go to the Lion's den, and Darius is there. And Darius. And then instead of staying in the lion's den with with Daniel, the theme goes back to the palace with Darius. And we spend a sleepless night with Darius. And then Darius wakes up early in the morning and he runs back to the Lion's den. And we know what's going on in his heart. We know what's going on in his mind. We know about his sleeping habits. We don't know anything about what happened to Daniel that night, other than he did not get eaten. But we only find that in retrospect, as Darius finds out about us, we're on pins and needles wondering what's going to happen with Daniel as we live that out with Darius, not with Daniel. So I wanted the assignments that I give. And in my seminary classes, as I ask people to do a narrative analysis of Daniel six and I'm always interested to see is anybody going to have the guts to say that Darius is the protagonist of Daniel six I think he might be that the protagonist doesn't have to be the good guy, doesn't have to be the hero. He's just the central character and the focus of the narrator. There's all sorts of other characters. There's satiric portrait. This is a character who's held up by ridicule or to ridicule by the author, someone like Ahab. In King Ahab, there's an entourage. You know, that's not just the thing that basketball players have nowadays. These are like, you know, David's mighty men. Those are characters. There are stereotypical characters, the Pharisees, for sure, the Pharisees. I'm not saying they get an untruthful rap, but they probably get a bit of a bad rap. I know that we typically think of the Pharisees like they enter the scene and we want to hiss and boo at them. They're always in just in at loggerheads with Jesus all the time. There's always conflict between them. But I think the reason there's always conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is because they're actually closer to where Jesus is at than any of the other significant powerbrokers in in Israel. But certainly when we think of Pharisees. They fit a stereotype of religious hypocrite. Religious hypocrite. There are also agents. These are ones who show up to drive the plot. But but they're fairly flat. They just show up and do something significant that drives the plot, even though we don't know much about what's going on inside of them. All of these are different kinds of characters. The biblical authors use them in their writing. Well, and how how are we supposed to identify with the characters as we're reading the narratives? I would say there's a continuum of like strong disliking for characters to strong likings, and a biblical story usually works by causing us to identify with one of the characters. Oftentimes when they're experiencing hardship now as a follower of Jesus, this is my advice to you. Don't identify yourself as the hero of the story. I remember I walked through the story of David and Goliath earlier. You're not David. David is a type of Jesus, right? You're not, David. But. But you know who you are. You're not Goliath. Hopefully you're not an enemy of the Lord. You're not the Philistines. You're part of that assembly that's too scared to go out and tell the true Messiah shows up and lead you into victory. I whenever I read the Gospels. I'm really interested to think about how the disciples are reacting. How are they thinking this? Because that's who I am. I'm a disciple of Jesus and and I see myself in them a lot. Usually I see the worst of myself in them. But I think those are the characters that his followers of Jesus were supposed to identify with, identify with. If you're if you're part of the family of God, identify with the people of God. And what's great about the scriptures, as I said earlier, it's not a whitewashed history. It's not hagiography. You're not going to be the hero, but you're going to find something very real as you identify with them. Look for the plot. The plot, a plot development. We usually have an opening and then there will be some sort of conflict. Remember those words of P.D. James? If you just have characters with no conflict, you don't have a story. But when there's a conflict of sorts, now you've got a story. And that conflict, if it's well-written, the narrative will rise in intensity. The conflict will until there's some sort of climax where things come to a head and then there is some sort of resolution or denouncement somewhat where the the the dots are connected and all the loose ends are tied up. And then there's some sort of ending as well. These these. This is the basic plot development that there's different types of plots. There's tragedy where the objective is missed. There's comedy where the objective is reached. It's a happy ending. And then sometimes there's hanging plots where things are just unresolved and you're wondering what's going to happen. That's how the whole Old Testament ends. In my estimation, it's like this temple is not all that great and what's going on here and. So pay close attention to to all of these things.