Verbum Tip 4d: Bible Browser - Literary types

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Nov 19 2020 7:53 PM

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Facet: Literary types


Mangum, Douglas. 2014. The Lexham Glossary of Literary Types. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

The list of types to learn is too long to be included in a post – think > 175 entries. A single verse may fit more than one of these categories, each picking up a different perspective of classification.

Bible Browser

Setup is again the NRSV translation with People: Abraham selected.

Not surprisingly, a common Literary Type for text mentioning Abraham is “saga, Abraham”:

Saga, Abraham — (OT) The cycle of stories in Genesis centered on the patriarch Abraham[1]

Within People: Abraham > Literary Types: Saga, Abraham, the inclusion of 31 verses as “Novella” catches my attention:

Novella — (OT) A well-structured narrative of some length crafted for a particular purpose such as teaching a moral or theological lesson.[2]

It is quickly apparent that the narrative of Genesis 24:1-67 is being treated as a novella. This is where a user needs to be careful. Tagging text as historical fiction, novella, or myth often creates a visceral reaction that is unfair to the tagging. Be very careful to read the glossary definition rather than applying your own meaning. Then try to be dispassionate in determining how that definition fits the text. This is often the most educational aspect of identifying literary type. If you find errors, report them.


There is no interactive displaying this material.

Context Menu and Information Panel


The Information Panel includes information that we have not seen elsewhere – the full reference range to which the Literary type applies. This may define meta-pericopes -groups of pericopes that constitute a larger logical unit of study.

In the Context Menu, the Look up function is missing from the Context Menu (Missing Lookup in Context Menu for Literary typing). However, the standard functions of initiating searches and copying the search argument are available. The search arguments are, in order:

  • <LiteraryTyping ~ Novella>
  • <LiteraryTyping ~ Prose>
  • <LiteraryTyping ~ Saga, Abraham>

Notice that these are in standard datatype format. However, if I use them in an everything search, I find almost no results. Therefore, if I initiate a Bible Search from the Context Menu, the corresponding search arguments are:

  • {Section <LiteraryTyping = Novella>}
  • {Section <LiteraryTyping = Prose>}
  • {Section <LiteraryTyping = Saga, Abraham>}

The use of the Section option in the search allows the search to consider the range as shown in the Information Panel.


We explored two selections in the Bible Browser:

  • NRSV àPerson: Abraham
  • NRSVà Person:Abraham à Literary Types: Saga, Abraham à Literary Types: Novella

For the first case, we can replicate the results with a search argument of <Person Abraham>. Both approaches yield results of 510 verses:

{Section <LiteraryTyping = Saga, Abraham>} INTERSECTS {Section <LiteraryTyping = Novella>} defines the text in which I wish to find <Person Abraham>. So I enter <Person Abraham> AND ({Section <LiteraryTyping = Saga, Abraham>} INTERSECTS {Section <LiteraryTyping = Novella>}). Both approaches yield results of 31 verses.

Essentially using the Bible Browser is connecting a list of search terms with the logical operator AND.

Odds and Ends

The list of available search terms is the glossary headwords in Mangum, Douglas. 2014. The Lexham Glossary of Literary Types. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

The number of values total and applied to a particular passage makes literary type a poor candidate for a Visual Filter.

The standard author rant for Anki cards applies.

Because multiple values are permitted and there is no overarching hierarchy, new values of literary types are easily accommodated. Feel free to suggest additions as you come across useful distinctions.


The marriage of Isaac and Rebekah is coded as a novella within the Abrahamic saga. What people are involved in that story?

The story of Abraham is one of constant travel. What places are involved in the Abrahamic saga?



Yes, we have reached the point where it is time to start thinking about application rather than just copying examples.

[1] Douglas Mangum, The Lexham Glossary of Literary Types (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

[2] Douglas Mangum, The Lexham Glossary of Literary Types (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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