A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible

By Leland Ryken

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A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible

By Leland Ryken

... Show All

To truly understand God’s Word, we must know both what it says (content) and how it says it (form). This accessible guide features over 250 alphabetically arranged entries explaining common literary forms found in the Bible. Each entry contains a succinct definition, helpful illustrations, and a representative list of passages where that particular literary form is present.

More than merely a dictionary, this indispensable resource will help Bible readers better understand the underlying structure of Scripture—giving a clearer shape and deeper meaning to each and every page of God’s Word.


Leland Ryken

Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for nearly fifty years. He served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version Bible and has authored or edited over sixty books, including The Word of God in English and A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible.

Product Details

Category: Biblical Studies
Commentaries & Reference
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 224
Size: 5.5 in x 8.5 in
Weight: 9.6 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-4114-9
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-4114-8
ISBN-UPC: 9781433541148
Case Quantity: 48
Published: October 31, 2014


“Coming from a world-renowned expert in the literary forms of the Bible and drawing on the expertise that can come only from a lifetime of college teaching, this marvelous new book will take its place as an essential reference work that should be in the library of everyone who seeks to study or teach the Bible in greater depth. Highly recommended.”
Wayne Grudem, Distinguished Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies Emeritus, Phoenix Seminary

“Here is a book, indeed, to keep at hand: it will hold a permanent place by my Bible. Leland Ryken illustrates the interrelationship between meaning and form in a manner that is erudite, accessible, and illuminating. Learning about literary forms in the Bible deepens our understanding and appreciation of Scripture, and glorifies our God as Author of all.”
Carolyn Weber, Professor, New College Franklin; award-winning author, Surprised by Oxford

“This extremely useful book will be warmly welcomed by teachers, not only within churches, but also in college and university settings. A highly practical vade mecum for any serious reader of the Bible, for students of the Bible in its literary dimension it will become practically indispensable. Leland Ryken has made yet another superb contribution to our textual resources for biblical learning.”
David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities, Baylor University

“Here is a reader-friendly handbook that will significantly enhance one’s understanding of the Bible. What a wonderful tool for pastors, laypeople, and students alike, who will now be able to benefit from Leland Ryken’s wise insights and marvelous literary skills. I heartily recommend this volume.”
David S. Dockery, President and Distinguished Professor of Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; President, International Alliance for Christian Education

“A ready reference for scholars and general readers who wish to understand the Bible better and in its own terms, Ryken’s handbook needs to be on every serious Bible reader’s shelf and used often. A profoundly helpful resource.”
Michael Travers, Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Oklahoma Baptist University

“In this essential handbook, Ryken guides us to a proper understanding of the many literary forms of Scripture. Pastors and all readers of the Bible will deepen their understanding of God’s Word if they read this book cover to cover and keep it nearby for future reference.”
Tremper Longman III, Distinguished Scholar and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

“Our kind Father has gone to great lengths to speak to us, yet sometimes our finite minds struggle to comprehend the complexities of his Word. This book will greatly enhance your ability to understand confusing passages, as well as see deeper richness in the old, familiar stories. Ryken helps you become more skillful at interpreting the Bible and knowing how to apply it accurately. The result will be a great increase in your love and admiration for our heavenly Father, who shares his heart with us in profound poetry, striking stories, colorful dialogue, and vivid imagery. Those who love Scripture, or want to love Scripture more, should read this book!”
Barbara Duguid, author, Extravagant Grace

“This is a genuinely helpful resource for all readers of the Bible, but it is an especially excellent reference for teachers and students of the Bible as literature. Ryken’s volume will help readers experience, enjoy, and understand the Bible in new ways. The breadth of entries is thorough and truly impressive. Individual entries are concise but include enough explanation and examples to successfully illustrate each literary form discussed. This book is written by an expert in literature and the Bible, and it shows.”
David V. Urban, Professor of English, Calvin University; author, Milton and the Parables of Jesus

“This uniquely useful and accessible handbook will be a favorite among the tools used by serious students of the Bible. In recent decades, attention to the literary structures of the Bible’s various genres has become prominent. With all of the distractions of the modern world, study tools like this will help Christians to be imbued with the mind of Christ through his Word. I highly recommend this superb contribution to biblical studies.”
Gregory E. Reynolds, Editor, Ordained Servant; author, The Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures and Yuletide: Poems and Artwork

“Leland Ryken’s handbook is a well-conceived, concisely written, hugely helpful resource for students and teachers alike. Far from turning the Bible into ‘mere’ literature, Ryken draws us deeper into the authoritative and inerrant truths of the Scriptures. Just as we cannot know Christ apart from his incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth, so we cannot fully know the Bible until we understand the literary forms in which it was written.”
Louis Markos, Professor in English and Scholar in Residence, Houston Christian University; author, The Myth Made Fact