What are the "genres" of books in the Bible?


I was watching one of Fr Barron’s videos on youtube:


And he said that we cant read the Bible correctly without understanding that each individual book in the Bible falls into certain “genre.” For example, Psalms is more of poetry, Deuteronomy are historical legal codes (not rules modern Christians are meant to follow, merely a recording of what was followed back then), Genesis is mythical, Joshua is historical, etc.

I was wondering if anyone could detail for me which genre each book in the (Catholic) Bible fall into. Because honestly, the Bible is difficult for me to read - a large amount sounds to me like the Israelites are merely using God to justify their invasions, so I can easily understand why atheists object to what they’re reading at face value.


He is very correct that we should begin by learning about the books of the Bible before we actually begin reading them, such as the authors, who they were written to or for, when they were written, etc. BUT I truly disagree with his comment about Genesis being mythical, I mean I passionately disagree! He is going against the grain of the traditional Catholic school of thought. For a sound concise brief introductions I highly recommend clicking on the Aquinas Study Bible link below and read all the short introductions of each book of the Bible that is from Bishop Richard Challoner’s footnotes. That is a great way to learn about the bbooks of the Bible.


Here is short categorical answer

Genesis-Deuteromony is the Law of Moses

Joshua-2 Maccabees is historical

Job-Sirach is the Poetic Books

Isaiah-Malachi are the Prophetic books

Matthew-John is about the Coming of the Messiah

Acts is about the birth of the Catholic Church

Romans-Hebrews are Pauls Letters

James-Jude are the general Letters

Revelation is Apocalyptic


Among the generally recognized genres and categorizations of the Bible are the following (note that other systems and classifications have also been advanced):
*]Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
*]Historical narrative/epic: Genesis and the first half of Exodus Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemieh, Esther, Jonah, and possibly Acts
*]Law: the last half of Exodus; also Leviticus, Deuteronomy
*]Wisdom: Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes
*]Psalms: Psalms, Song of Solomon, Lamentations
*]Prophecy: Isaiah, Jeremia, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
*]Apocalyptic: Daniel, Revelation
*]Gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and possibly Acts
*]Epistle (letter): Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude
[/LIST]As for Genesis being myth, with respect to the first 11 chapters, that is in fact accepted as true, even by most contemporary Catholic scripture scholars. **HOWEVER **scripture scholars understand the term "myth" in a different sense than most of us. It does not mean "fantasy" or "untrue". There are several threads on this issue here if you would do a search. After chapter 11, Genesis, as indicated above, is historical.

See: forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=193617

Additonally, the is some substantial dispute among scripture scholars regarding the historiciity of the books of Ester, Judith, Tobit and Ruth. Many believe them to be allegory. I beleive some of the Catholic Answer apologists, possibly Jimmy Akin though I may be wrong, have written on this.


"John Paul II on Allegorical Books of the Bible":

He didn’t give an exhaustive list of allegorical books (many would put the book of Job into that category), but in 1985 John Paul II gave a brief review of the books of the Old Testament in which he stated:"The Books of Tobit, Judith, and Esther, although dealing with the history of the Chosen People, have the character of allegorical and moral narrative rather than history properly so called."

See link above for more.


Get Peter Kreeft’s “You Can Understand the Bible” It opened up a world of understanding for me on the Bible!



It really depends on what ‘mythical’ is supposed to mean in this regard. I agree with you that Genesis is not a ‘myth’ in the sense that some people today understand the word to mean; i.e. completely fictional fables with no basis in fact or truth and which only gullible idiots take seriously. However, speaking specifically within the background of folkloristics, ‘mythology’ simply denotes a sacred narrative that tells how the world or mankind came to be in its present form, and which typically involves gods and heroes of remote ages past. In other words, a ‘myth’ is a story that serves to define the fundamental worldview of a culture by explaining aspects of the natural world and delineating the psychological and social practices and ideals of a given society. (Heck, the original meaning of the word mythos simply meant ‘tale’ or ‘story’!)

In this sense, yes, Genesis - especially the earlier chapters - qualifies as a ‘myth’, or if you want to distinguish the positive sense of ‘myth’ from the negative, a mythos - you could say that it is the mythos, par excellence. The mythos above all mythoi even. I mean, it tells the story of God’s creation of the world, and explains how man was made, how he later fell from grace, and how the world became what it is now. It speaks of the progenitors of mankind, heroes of yore, and founders of nations. All of these elements qualify Genesis in a literary/narrative sense as a mythos.


Thank you for the information & discussion everyone. I see there are some conflicts, I'll try to make the best of it.

Reading the Bible is really the thing that tests my faith the most :o But it's a major cornerstone of Catholicism, so I feel like I have to understand it if I want to be an honest belief about my faith.

Concerning Genesis being myth, I believe Fr Barron described it as, Genesis uses "mythic" language to describe an event that really occurred. It uses terms and language people in those days could comprehend. While it is a literal event, it is not using literal language, but figurative.

Ex. If I'm trying to describe what despair is like to a child who'd never experienced it, I might describe it as though I'm in an endless hole of blackness, alone, I have no one to turn to and can't get out of." The child will understand the context, and know I didn't fall into a deep hole. But if I write it down in a book, and someone reads it a millennia later, they might interpret it as a literal event of me being in a hole.


Do you think maybe Fr. Barron didnt say mythic but metaphoric? I definately stand by that!


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