Strand: Scripture, Israel and Jesus (SIJL1-2E1)

Levels 1 and 2

The Old Testament contains a variety of literary forms that explain the relationship between people and God.

Examine and articulate the relationships that the people of Israel had with God.


The Bible is a sacred library of books set within two volumes: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament contains a variety of literary styles, including myth, history, legend, dreams, poetry, humour, irony, proverbs and narratives. It reflects the faith journey of the Israelite people (also known as the Hebrew or Jewish people) before the time of Jesus. For people of faith, the Bible is a living document, which is always brought into dialogue with the times in which it is encountered; communicating insights about God, people and their relationships with one another.

 A useful approach in teaching scripture to children is to use Dr Margaret Carswell’s ‘Composite Model.’ This includes three steps:

  1. Prepare to hear the Word: Teach the background to the text. For example, the cultural, historical, geographic, religious, political and scientific understandings of the time. (Resources include The Friendly Guide to various books of scripture, the introductory page at the beginning of each book of the Catholic Youth Bible, multiple resources in your school’s RE library section).
  2. Hear and Encounter the Word: Tell the story over and over to the children verbally before reading a high quality Catholic translation of the text to them. (e.g. NRSV or NIV). Identify the literary form, then allow the children to engage with a close reading of the language of the text, using learning strategies appropriate to this literary form. It is important to note that the background and language of a passage of scripture always must occur before attempting to interpret it. What then might this text have been saying to the original audience about God, people and how they were to get along together?
  3. Respond to the Word: Invite children to wonder/learn/inquire further. What might the text now challenge them to consider? What might this scripture passage be saying about God’s dream for the world? Those with a faith stance are invited to pray in this time.

Examples in Scripture include but are not limited to:

Creation: Genesis 1:1-2:25 Two stories of creation.

Literary Form – Origin Stories / Myth – these stories reflect moral or spiritual truths, in this case, the peoples’ faith in one God, the God of Israel, rather than factual history or science.

The call of Abram (Abraham) and God’s covenant with him. Genesis: 12:1-3.

Literary Form – Legend – these stories focus on the patriarchs and matriarchs as a way of unifying people by remembering their common ancestors.

Moses and the burning bush: Exodus Chapter 3:1-20.

Literary Form – Call Narrative – the call of Moses by God and the commissioning of him, followed by an objection, reassurance and the sign of the burning bush. He was then able to lead his people out of the slavery of Egypt, to return to the land of Israel.

Book of Psalms: Psalms 1-150

Literary Form – Poetry – these were written originally to be sung in the Temple and reflect the literary devices such as imagery, rhythm, meter, metaphor etc. They are still sung as part of liturgy today and reflect the broad spectrum of human experiences, positive and negative, for a group of people united in faith.

See Learning Lites: Revelation, Covenant, Creation Myths, People of God

More Information

See Learning Lites: Revelation, Covenant, Creation Myths, People of God


The Catholic Youth Bible: Second International Edition, Saint Mary’s Press.

Turner, M. (2014). A friendly guide to the Old Testament. Mulgrave: Garratt Publishing.

External Links