The Biblical Story in One Sentence

IMG_1185Biblical theology proceeds from the biblical storyline. Of course, many biblical theologians would disagree with this statement, some even denying that a unified grand narrative exists. The absence of a unified biblical story leads to the denial of the possibility of a “whole Bible” biblical theology since such a theology necessitates some form of unity within the canon. Against this view, most evangelicals affirm the presence of a cohesive narrative within the Bible from creation to new creation. Of course, such a supposition demands defense, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Admittedly, the biblical story is complex with many characters, themes, and subplots. It contains a long history, is told in multiple languages (Hebrew and Greek with a bit of Aramaic), and takes place within multiple cultures. Nevertheless, the Bible displays an astonishing theological coherency. This conherency can only be understood as it emerges from the biblical story.

Assuming that the Bible tells one, unified story across both testaments raises the question “what is the biblical story?” While one does not want to be reductionist, the main plotline of Scripture can be summarized concisely. In my biblical theology classes, I have tried to summarize the biblical story in one sentence. Here is my attempt:

God, the Creator-King, is reestablishing his kingdom in the world through keeping his covenant promises to Abraham, Israel, and David in the life, death, and resurrection of his son Jesus the Messiah, who will reign forever in the new creation with his new covenant people.

This sentence covers the primary theological themes that tie the biblical story together: creatiold-hands-bibleon, kingdom, covenant, and Christ. I find this helpful for students, church leaders, and missionaries as they grow in their knowledge of the Scriptures and apply them to life and ministry. This sentence gives the hooks on which to hang doctrinal positions. Most importantly, this sentence helps to summarize the story within which believers are called to live.

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8 thoughts on “The Biblical Story in One Sentence

  1. Hi Wendel,

    I really like your attempt at a one sentence summary! My question would be – how do you expect people to use this summary, practically speaking, in interpretation? Also, am I right in assuming that your summary is deliberately post-fall? (eg. you start with re-establishing).

    Have you read Goldsworthy (According to Plan) and Vaughn Roberts summary, God’s Big Picture? For them, the kingdom of God = God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule & blessing.

    The simplicity of this basic summary is that it ‘works’ at every point of the biblical story, and as you read from Gen to Rev it becomes fleshed out.

    Cheers,
    Sam C.

    Like

    • Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your comment and question. I appreciate the interaction. You raise an important issue – the use of the sentence for interpretation. There are a couple things I would say. First, the sentence summary helps to place any given text within the overall storyline of Scripture. Thus, it helps people understand the parts (individual texts) in light the whole. I find that this helps my students understand the relationship between texts as well as the function of particular passages within the larger framework of the Bible. Second, the short summary helps people understand the broader movement of Scripture from creation to new creation, thus answering the question ‘what is the Bible really about?’ This guards against isolated interpretation removed from context and forces interpreters to consider the big picture.

      As for a post-fall starting point, I don’t think this was necessarily my intention. Though ‘is reestablishing’ is the first verb in the sentence, I start with ‘God, the Creator-King,’ to highlight the act of creation. It is not possible to spell out everything in a single sentence, so I tried to use words that allude to central themes. In addition, I intentionally used ‘reestablishing’ rather than ‘establishing’ to allude to creation and fall since reestablishing implies an initial establishment.

      I plan to do a few follow-up posts to unpacking the sentence bit-by-bit. I do this in my biblical theology classes and students often find it helpful.

      Goldsworthy and Roberts – yes, I have read both and found them helpful. In fact, According to Plan is translated into Chinese and I use it as recommended reading in my classes. I like the emphasis on kingdom (king, people, place). My attempt with the sentence incorporates these ideas, but seeks to be a bit broader with the grand narrative and God’s purposes.

      Hope that helps. Thanks again!

      Blessings,
      Wendel

      Like

  2. Pingback: What is Biblical Theology? Two Definitions | wendel sun

  3. Pingback: Kingdom and Covenant, Part 1 | wendel sun

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  5. Pingback: Kingdom and Covenant, Parts 3 and 4 | wendel sun

  6. Pingback: Kingdom and Covenant, Part 5 | wendel sun

  7. Pingback: Kingdom and Covenant, Part 6 | wendel sun

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