This is the first week of the series: Unrolling the Scroll. See the introduction here.
Sometimes we view the biblical stories like those junk drawers in our homes. They contain things you don’t want to throw away, and some things you use regularly, but the only unifying factor for the drawer is that everything just needed a place to be put! Each item may be touching but they are not really connected. This is not the right way to view our Bibles.
The Bible has a variety of human authors, genres, and episodes, all unified by a single Divine author and Story. The books of the Bible are not merely unified by the leather cover, but by God himself. Yes, there is a unity even between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Here is the Big Idea: God has given us structured Scriptures.
- Do you think that the Bible is unified? Should we keep all of it or part of it?
- Do you believe that there is a main point of the Bible that everything is pointing to?
- How do you align priestly underwear in Leviticus with multicolored horses in Revelation? How can one book have rules about unclean food and then statements about all food being acceptable?
To answer these questions we need to start with a firm foundation.
God is the author of the Scriptures. The Scriptures are God’s revelation to man. This means that they are:
- Inspired: 2 Tim 3:16. Inspiration is “the work of the Holy Spirit in enabling the human authors of the Bible to record what God desired to have written in the Scriptures” (Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms)
- Inerrant (without error)
- Authoritative (I need to obey): Therefore, I am not a master over the text, but a servant to the text. This is a huge difference from what people often think.
- The Scriptures have a purpose, because they were given by God
- The Scriptures are unified, because they were given by one Author
- The Scriptures are structured, because they are working toward a unified end
Beginning and Ending:
We can see the structure in the way we have our Bibles arranged in front of us. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, begins with creation (ch 1), institution of marriage (ch 2), and the entrance of Satan and his deception (ch 3). The final book of the Bible, Revelation, addresses these in reverse order. We have the punishment of Satan (ch 20), the Marriage of Christ and his Bride (ch 21), and the New Creation (ch 21-22). God has a plan and is working it out. He will not leave undone any part of that plan.
So, we have Genesis and Revelation acting as bookends to God’s work in His creation. In one sense, Genesis is the Prologue and Revelation is the Epilogue.
The Rest of Scripture:
In Luke 24:27, 44-47 we see the way that Scriptures were divided in the time of Jesus. “27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
“You will often hear this referred to in popular circles as the Tanakh. Tanakh is simply an acronym for the names of the three sections. In Hebrew, the word for law is Torah. It starts with a “T”. The word for prophets in Hebrew is Nevi’im. That starts with an “N” sound. We will just put “N” in English. Finally the writings begin with the “K” sound or a hard “C” sound. In Hebrew they are the Ketuvim. So you have this T, N and K, and then they just simply stick the simple “A” vowels between the consonants and you get Tanakh. Those are the three divisions: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.” (Van Pelt)
In the way our current Bibles are structured, we have Law, History, Poetry, Prophets. We classify our English Bibles by genre, chronology (see Ruth), and authorship (see Lamentations, works of Solomon). This does not mean that our Bibles are wrong, or deceptive. It merely means that we have a harder time seeing the unity that is there.
We see another instance of how Jesus saw the unity of Scriptures in Luke 11:49-51. Jesus states, “from Abel to Zechariah.” Abel was killed in Genesis, Zechariah was killed in 2 Chronicles 24. Why did he choose those two? Because they were from the first and last books of the Scriptures, showing their rejection of God’s prophets was consistent.
Most of what you have read, and the following charts, are taken from Dr. Miles Van Pelt’ lectures. I highly recommend you listen to them. I have found them very challenging.
Here is a chart from Van Pelt that I have slightly modified showing the structure of Scripture. Van Pelt, M; Biblical Theology of the OT diagram
So what? God has given structured Scriptures. What difference should that make?
- When we think of God’s revelation to us in Scripture we need to recognize that the Bible has a variety of human authors, genres, and episodes, all unified by a single Divine author and Story.
- We need to read the Bible, not picking and choosing pieces to keep and pieces to get rid of it.
- As we read, we must understand where we are reading in order to properly understand it, and properly apply it.
- We need to read our Bibles. God wants you to know him!
People have conflicting views of the Bible. Some view it as a dictionary for their theological arguments. Others see it as a self help book, or a book of rules, or maybe a novel. Which way do you view our Bible?