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The Beauty and Power of Biblical Exposition: Preaching the Literary Artistry and Genres of the Bible (O'Donnell, Ryken)

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The Sacred Duty and Delight of Handling the Word of God

In order to understand, appreciate, and faithfully preach the word of God, pastors must discern the literary nature of the Bible. Instead of just acknowledging the various genres of Scripture, pastors and teachers should allow these genres to influence how the text is approached and communicated. In The Beauty and Power of Biblical Exposition, they will learn how to both read and preach the Bible as a literary anthology. 

To accomplish this, Douglas Sean O’Donnell and Leland Ryken teach pastors how to faithfully preach while keeping the original authors’ intentions in mind, helping them grow in their craft and love for God’s word. They explain how to read 6 genres—including narratives, parables, epistles, poetry, proverbs, and visionary writings—for the purpose of captivating congregations with the richness of Scripture.

  • Written for Pastors: Especially young pastors or those just out of seminary 
  • Practical: Contains guides, tables, and examples to help develop sermons
  • Heartfelt: Written with the desire for pastors to learn and grow as communicators
Douglas Sean O'Donnell (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is the senior vice president of Bible editorial at Crossway. He is the author and editor of over a dozen books, including The Beginning and End of Wisdom; The Pastor's BookThe Song of Solomon and Matthew in the Preaching the Word commentary series; and Psalms in the Knowing the Bible series. He also contributed the Song of Solomon and Job to the ESV Expository Commentary.

Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) served as professor of English at Wheaton College for nearly fifty years. He served as literary stylist for the English Standard Version Bible and has authored or edited over sixty books, including The Word of God in English and A Complete Handbook of Literary Forms in the Bible.


“This book is a sumptuous feast for preachers which, if savored and digested, will prepare a banquet of life for those who listen to it. It is a delight to read from beginning to end. Formed by a deep love of the Bible and for the God who gave it, O’Donnell and Ryken have given us a wonderful gift. Whether you are a novice preacher who wishes to have your mistakes corrected gently but wisely, a tired preacher who has lost the romance of the art form, a burdened preacher who is taking shortcuts because of the demands of ministry, or an experienced preacher for whom well-worn homiletical paths have become second nature, there is something here to edify you richly. This book will make you smile and provide fresh enchantment with the text of holy Scripture. Read and enjoy!”
David Gibson, Minister, Trinity Church, Aberdeen, Scotland; author, Living Life Backward and Radically Whole

“With masterful and inspirational challenges to preachers, O’Donnell combines his and Ryken’s years of biblical preaching insights into a descriptive and useful manual for biblical exposition. This work, with its relevant examples, encourages preachers to read the Bible through the lens of various literary genres of Scripture while faithfully preaching the Word of God with authorial intent and transformative purpose.”
Robert Smith Jr., Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

“As Virgil once stood before Dante, this volume now stands before you as a wise tour guide of the contours and depths and great beauty of the Bible’s literary genres. Preachers will benefit from numerous insights packed into each chapter (as will their congregations), and all readers will have their appreciation of the Scriptures enriched by the obvious affection that O’Donnell and Ryken have for God’s Word. Let this book encourage you in your Word work.”
Robert S. Kinney, Director of Ministries, Charles Simeon Trust; Priest, Christ Church, Vienna, Austria

“Preaching faithfully and well is the challenge of a lifetime. We need all the help we can get. There is much wisdom here, the fruit of long experience and careful study, all compiled with warmth and clarity. This book will be a helpful resource for preachers and for those who seek to train preachers.”
Christopher Ash, Writer in Residence, Tyndale House; author, The Priority of Preaching

“Leland Ryken has been perhaps the clearest and most helpful voice in understanding the literature of the Bible for our generation, and here Douglas O’Donnell ably brings Ryken’s insight and voice specifically to the preaching task. The strength of this book lies especially in its affirmation of the importance of paying attention to the function and beauty of literary form, but also in its setting forth of particular strategies for reading and for preaching, helpfully illustrated through particular examples. Clearly, literary form matters to God; and as preachers, it should matter to us, in both our preparation and our delivery. The Beauty and Power of Biblical Exposition will serve you well on both fronts. It is a compelling testimony to the power and profitability of God’s beautiful Word.”
Mike Bullmore, Senior Pastor, CrossWay Community Church, Bristol, Wisconsin

“One of the great needs of our day is for pulpits to be manned by preachers who are committed to proclaiming the truth of Scripture and equipped to sound the beauty of the gospel. This work has drawn its bow toward a worthy and unmoving target. These two men have each been shaping voices in my life as a preacher and a hymnwriter, and I am expectant to see how the Lord will use this contribution to mold the next generation of expositors.”
Matt Boswell, Lead Pastor, The Trails Church, Celina, Texas; hymnwriter