The majority of Scripture is narrative, and when taken together, it provides an overarching story. First and foremost, the Bible is about God and his activity in the world among sinful humanity. It is this story that provides unity and cohesion to the Bible. It is imperative to understand the narrative to truly understand everything else that it contains. Narrative is not only key for correct doctrinal understanding. The grand narrative of Scripture is essential for a solid ethical foundation. A counter-cultural worldview grows out the story of God, defining who we are and setting the stage for the appropriate course of action for our lives.
The Biblical narrative has been a topic of interest for me lately. Last year, I completed some Bible class material for the Story of the Bible.
There have been a few different ways to outline the various “acts” of the biblical story. The main one that I have used is the following:
- Community of Israel
Other outlines I have seen have six sections, inserting “Sin” in between section 1 and section 2 above. Certainly, sin propels much of the action of the story, and it is a valid inclusion. Another insertion I have seen is an expansion of #4 and states that you are part of the story. What’s interesting about the Biblical narrative is that it is not completely written, in a manner of speaking. We are still playing out God’s purpose in the world. We get to participate!
Despite those omissions, this outline has several other teachable points within it.
- The central element. This outline has a chiastic structure, with corresponding elements for creation and consummation, and community in the OT and NT. The keystone of the story is the person of Christ, and this chiasm visually illustrates Christ’s role in the story of Scripture.
- The bookends. This rendering of the story begins and ends with God’s great cataclysmic activity. Creation shows God’s intent for the world, which becomes marred by sin. Consummation illustrates the goal, or telos, of creation. There will be a new heavens and a new earth; all things will be made right.
- The role of community. This outline illustrates the important role community in the story. God does not fix the problem by snapping his fingers and magically causing the sin problem to go away. He works in the midst of sinful humanity to form a community that will be his people. As such, they bear the burden of a sin-laden world, and they foreshadow the ultimate redemption to be seen in the consummation of the ages.
- Alliteration. As every good preacher knows, you have to have alliteration, right?