Is the Bible a novel? Or a history book?


Is it a novel or a history book


Neither and yet a little of both. It is a combination of several different literary genres. More like a library of books.


It is both a novel and history book


The Bible is a library. It contains a variety of different genres of books, written at different times throughout history.
It is not a science book. You will find a bit of husbandry in Genesis as Jacob intentionally breeds a healthier stock for himself.
The main purpose of the Bible is spiritual. When the chosen people of God do not follow God’s laws, bad things happen. The human authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit, use words and images that will best convey God’s message. That includes poetry and symbolic language, borrowing from the cultures surrounding the Israelites.

The gospel of St. John says In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Many people speak about the Bible as the Word of God. In really, the words of the Bible are meant to bring us to the Word, into an intimate relationship with God. Christ is the Word incarnate. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.


The Bible is a collection of books.
The books are written by many authors over several thousand years.
The books cover many genres, poetry, parable, sermon, legal, genealogy, narrative, historical…

The Bible is Gods word written in human language.
The Bible is what God wants us to know for our salvation.
The Bible is Gods self revelation. To us.
The Bible is Gods love for us.

The Bible has two parts, the Old Testament, and the New Testament.
The Old Testament is about our Jewish heritage, Gods covenants with His people, and was and is preparing us and he people of the Old Testament for the Incarnation

The New Testament is about Jesus.


The Bible is God’s love letter to His children.


If you have a Catholic Bible (Protestant Bibles are done differently), take a look at the contents page. You will see that the Old Testament is divided into four sections: The Law or The Pentateuch (five books), Historical Books (sixteen books), Wisdom Books (sometimes called Poetical Books), seven books; and finally the Prophets (eighteen books).

If you’re looking for history, the second section would be the place to start. If you’re looking for a novel, however, you won’t find anything strictly matching the fiction genre anywhere in the Bible.

If you want to follow this link, first click on Look Inside, and then on Table of Contents.


As I see it, “Is it X or Y” limits the conversation. Even novels must have facts in them or else they would make no sense. A history book would not have poetry in it - and would become obsolete the moment it hit the press.

The scriptures are timeless.


Here’s the rub. The Bible is not a book; it is a library, that is, a collection of ancient books. Each book, therefore has its own literary genre.

It has history books: Joshua, Judges, the books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Maccabees… The Gospels. The acts of the apostles.
It has lawbooks: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
It has legends and mythology: Genesis (yes, this will rile up some people).
It has a songbook and hymnal: Psalms
It has a collection of letters: the epistles.
It has teaching material: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, Wisdom.
It even has a form of erotic poetry: the Song of Songs.
And it has novels, or more precisely, novellas: Tobit, Esther, Judith.

And then there are genres that aren’t commonly used today but were popular in ancient times:
Prophecy: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, etc.
Apocalyptic: Daniel, Zechariah, Revelation

Recognizing these genres are important especially when considering the statement that “the Bible is without error.” Yes, that is true, but that does not mean it does not contain incorrect facts. But if you consider that Judith is a novella rather than a history book, then it all falls into place: the “without error” part is not contradicted by all the messed up historical narratives in that book. The truth being taught is the lesson the novella’s author intended to impart. The same is true for Genesis.


I think the word novel, that being a work of fiction, would be completely false. The Genesis account may be allegorical to an extend, but to say “fiction” is pushing it a little too far. Then you start going into the “made up imaginary friend” argument.


There are works of fiction in the Bible, Christ often uses parables to teach, there are legends and epochs. There is poetry and comedy and tragedy and there are vast histories.

The Bible is not intended to be a Science textbook, but, other than that I think it touches every genre!


It is the inspired Word of God given to men as an instruction guide for us and how we are to live our lives.


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