Sixty-six of them.
Across centuries of authors, cultures, and geography.
Thoughts and words scribbled in the wilderness and in the sprawling metropolis of the ancient world; by educated people and by shepherds; by pastors and by business people; by free people and by people who are in captive exile. They are words of teaching, of story-telling, of prophetic anger, of poetry and prayers.
And they are our words. They belong to us.
(Or, perhaps more accurately, we belong to them.)
Either way, this epic story can be difficult to understand:
What story does it tell?
Is there even a coherent story through it, or does the whole Bible just not really “fit”?
What do you do with all the apparent contradictions?
How do you understand it?
Can we understand it?
Being a people “of the book,” I think there’s a lot riding on these questions. The Bible can be intimidating and frustrating: what does ancient Israel have to do with 21st century Christianity? How do you square all the blood-letting in the Old Testament with the “peace and love” message of Jesus? How do you get past the occasional-yet-seemingly-endless list of names and genealogies?
It seems like there are two reactions to the challenge of the Bible: either people manipulate the Bible to do and be what they want it to be, or they just run away from it.
Both of these reactions are unacceptable.
In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp says that creative projects should have a “spine”, that central thing that holds the whole project together. “The spine is the statement you make to yourself outlining your intentions for the work. You intend to tell this story. You intend to explore this theme. You intend to employ this structure. The audience may infer it or not. But if you stick to your spine, the piece will work.”
Does the Bible have a spine?
I think it does, and I think we can find it.
In late 2013, I started to wonder if you could extract a few passages and stories from the Bible that would show the “spine” of the Bible. Then, I stumbled across Rob Bell’s Tumblr series on the Bible, and thought to myself, “Yeah, I should try this.”
So here it goes…
I think there are a handful of critical Bible passages that serve as the “spine” of the Story that God is telling through the Bible, and over the next few months we’re going to explore them together. Roughly, they can be found in or around:
- Genesis 1-2
- Genesis 3
- Genesis 12:1-4 and 15
- Exodus 20:1-21
- Deuteronomy 28
- Jeremiah 39
- Amos 5
- Isaiah 55
- Matthew 2
- Luke 4
- Mark 8
- John 4
- Luke 22
- Mark 15
- Luke 24
- Matthew 28 (+ Acts 1)
- Ephesians 4
- Revelation 21
Essentially, what I’m saying is that you can draw a line through these scriptures and see that God is up to something, and that you can see the “spine” of God’s story in Scripture. That’s not to say that there aren’t difficult parts to understand or process, but there is a story through it. (Oh, and by the way, it’s not simply “God loves you.” While that’s accurate and perfectly lovely statement, God’s mission is much, much larger than that.)