Dale Ralph Davis: My OT Narrative Crib SheetNovember 13, 2009
Here are some notes I made recently, based on Dale Ralph Davis’ excellent book “The Word Became Fresh” (preachers, if you haven’t read this book, why not?!). They list eleven things to look out for (I’ve numbered these myself) when seeking to interpret Old Testament narrative texts. I guess most of these would be relevant for New Testament narratives too.
1. Narrator’s revelation, or reticence. Does the narrator comment on how we are to perceive the story in question? (rare) Or is there a reserve about what we are to make of it? If the latter, we are probably meant to think for ourselves.
2. Eavesdropping. Is there some salient detail we know, that the character(s) don’t know (eg. Job 1)?
3. Selectivity. Is the writer deliberately selective? Is there something he leaves out that we think he should include. It is probably irrelevant. What does he include and why. (eg. We’re not told Jonah’s final response to the Lord in chapter 4)
4. Sarcasm. Is there anything deliberately sarcastic in the text? Anything that the reader is meant to laugh at? Something presented that is preposterous?
5. Imagination. Does the author anywhere paint a picture, to help us see what is going on? (eg. Taking a great number of verses to describe an opposition army).
6. Surprise. We must learn to be first time readers. There are shockers everywhere in biblical narrative, if we’ll open our eyes. (eg. Jonah sleeping easy below deck: hardly a troublesome conscience there!)
7. Emphasis/Repetition. What does the author say more than once? This is usually an emboldened, or underlined.
8. Intensity. Is there a particularly concentrated portion of text, packed into just a verse or two (Naomi’s family disaster in just five verses; 600 years of Israel’s history covered in 13 verses in Joshua). These are clearly meant to jolt the reader.
9. Tension. Where is the tension point, or points in the narrative? Where do you feel these are?
10. Nasty. Is there something nasty and unpleasant in the narrative? What can it teach us?
11. Application/Appropriation. Look for the procedure the main character(s) follows, good or bad, and compare it to the modern day believer/unbeliever. Is there a conceptual application: not so much a thing to do or something to feel, but a new way to think? Look into your own sinful heart, you’ll soon find application! What is God doing in the narrative? What do I learn about him? Is there a doxological application (have I simply to praise God for something?).