Genre (Part 4)

Author: Taylor Eising — Host: Dylan KraayenbrinkPosted on: August 24, 2023

Unlocked: Daily Devotions for Teens
Unlocked: Daily Devotions for Teens
Genre (Part 4)

READ: ISAIAH 7:13-14; MATTHEW 1:18-23

Another tool that can help us understand Scripture is genre. The Bible has lots of different genres, like historical narratives, parables, poetry, letters, wisdom literature, apocalyptic literature, and more. Today, we’re just going to take a look at one genre: ancient biographies. Specifically, we’ll look at the book of Matthew.

Like the rest of the four Gospels, Matthew is an ancient biography about Jesus. And while modern biographies attempt to cover all the facts of a person’s life in chronological order, ancient biographies only cover certain events about a person’s life, and they aren’t necessarily in chronological order. Instead, the author chooses different events and facts about the person and arranges them in a certain order to make a point.

For example, Matthew (who was one of Jesus’s disciples) makes the point that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures. To do this, Matthew tells the story of Jesus in a way that embodies the story of Israel. Jesus is called out of Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23) like God called Israel out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 13:17-22). Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17) parallels Israel’s journey through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-31). Immediately after this, Jesus wanders in the desert for forty days (Matthew 4:1-11), similar to how the Israelites wandered the desert for forty years (Numbers 32:13). Finally, He climbs up a mountain to teach His followers (Matthew 5:1-2), like Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the law from God (Exodus 19-20). Matthew also arranges Jesus’s sermons into five long segments (chapters 5-7; 10; 13; 18-20; 23-25) to parallel the five books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This makes the point that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Torah, and He is the perfect, sinless Israel that the Israelites could never be.

Understanding the genre the book of Matthew was written in helps us grasp its message: Jesus is the One the Israelites had been waiting for. And, because we know that ancient biographies are arranged to make a point, we can understand why the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) look slightly different: they’re making slightly different points about who Jesus is! When we look at all of them together, we get a fuller picture of Jesus—who loves us so much that He died and resurrected from the dead to save us from sin and death. • Taylor Eising

• Why does genre matter in the Bible? How does Jesus’s fulfillment of promises show God’s love?

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said…Matthew 1:22a (NIV)