NT Wright on Genre and Reading

dr who

“Aooh, THAT is not historical narrative! Never fear, we’ll get you sorted. I’m The Doctor!”


One of the themes I’ve explored repeatedly in talking about Genesis and Bible interpretation in general is that of genre, and the necessity of recognizing the genre of the material we’re reading. Today I came across a easy-to-understand analogy for this.

I went to the cinema the other day with my two nephews and niece. It wasn’t an ordinary cinema. It was a three-dimensional production. Instead of looking at an ordinary movie, it seemed as though everything was coming out of the screen straight at you. Everybody shrieked as balls were thrown, water splashed, cars rushed out of the screen straight towards us. Cinemas like that were popular in the early days of movies, and they seem to be making a come-back, at least as a novelty for children.

Of course, for the three-dimensional trick to work you have to put on a special pair of spectacles, which the movie theatre supplies at the door. If you don’t wear them, everything looks a bit blurred and you can’t see the point. Once you’re wearing them, you’re part of the action and you can understand what’s happening.

When you read any great literature you need to know what sort of spectacles to put on. I’m not talking about ordinary glass spectacles, the sort you may need to read with. I’m talking about the lenses you need to have inside your head if you’re going to become part of the action, if you’re going to understand what the writer is talking about and what it all really meant. This is true whether we’re reading the Bible or Shakespeare, Goethe or Chaucer, or the great writers of our own day.

-NT Wright, Matthew for Everybody 1:202-3.

I like it.

2 comments for “NT Wright on Genre and Reading

  1. So, Ben S. 2 points. I’m finally glad to see what you look like in real life. Also, if I wear those special glasses, can I write on Genesis as well as you?

  2. Excellent insight. But I did realize that all this scripture reading and understanding would have been much easier if the original authors had just used psychic paper.

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