Beautiful Form and Content
God is a God of beauty. I am fond of a statement that a student of mine made on a paper, “If God didn’t neglect beauty when he created the world, why would he neglect it when he gave us the Bible?”
God has implanted in people longing and desire for the true, the good, and the beautiful. The Bible speaks to all three of those. The point is, beauty is one of those things. The writers of the Bible were masters of their craft. They know how to write well-told stories with memorable characters. They know how to invent metaphors that are striking, apt, and accurate. If beauty of expression was important to the writers of the Bible, it needs to be important to us.
Combining 1,200+ study notes related to the literary features of the Bible, the ESV Literary Study Bible helps readers understand God’s Word more fully, in all its richness and beauty.
Additionally, everything that the authors put into the text that they wrote is important. Everything. That includes the details of artistry, of verbal beauty, of a well-crafted story. Those things have to matter to us because they’re part of the text.
The big principle—the goal of Bible study and reading—is to relive the text as fully as possible. And that includes the artistic dimension.
The goal of Bible study and reading is to relive the text as fully as possible.
Everything that God prompted the writers of the Bible to put into their writing is important. He would not have prompted the writers to include things that are unimportant. We, therefore, need to take seriously everything that we find in the text.
I also want to raise the question, Did God inspire the forms of the Bible or only the content? Well, there is no content apart from the form. Furthermore, we believe that, by way of inspiration, God moved the writers to produce what he wanted them to produce. So, I think that it’s a fair inference that God did inspire the forms as well as the content of the Bible.
Leland Ryken is a contributing editor to the ESV Literary Study Bible.
Most literature is fictional at some level, but fictionality is not a defining trait of literature.
Your whole Bible “applies personally.” This Lord is your God; this history is your history; these people are your people; this Savior has brought you in to participate in who he is and what he does.
We will often neglect what we don’t prioritize. And book reading is often neglected because it fails to be a priority.
What are the literary qualities of Scripture and why should we not just read the Bible for what it says, but for how it says it?