The Gospel as Narrative

The Bible is the most magnificent epic that has ever been written. This may not seem controversial yet, but what I am about to propose probably will be to some…I think.

The Bible, for those who have read it, heard it, or studied it, seems to come naturally packaged as a story, but from my view, this conceptualization does not seem at the forefront of how we understand the Bible, the Old Testament, Israel, the Gospel, Jesus, mission, or salvation. Sure, we understand creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, but does this really sum up the totality of the Bible?? I think this methodology obviously highlights some key points, but it also cheapens the story in a couple of ways:

-The reason we limit the story of Scripture it to Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration is because we want to allow evangelism to be quick and easy.

  • This is not necessarily bad, but it allows for a chopped up story that is not necessarily creating a discipleship-culture, but a soterian(salvation)-culture.

-We want to make it easy for people to understand the flow of Scripture, and we want to highlight the key points needed for salvation.

  • This is also not a bad thing, and some of it has to do with cultural and contextual aspects that will not be discussed here. I think though that in telling disciples that this all they need to know to share their faith is not necessarily the best approach to establish biblical literacy.

This method of creation, fall, redemption, restoration also creates major gaps in the story of the Bible:

-Where the heck is Israel??  (For instance, how can Jesus make sense without King David?)

  • I think many of us can make sense of Jesus without King David or Israel. Isn’t there something very wrong with that?

The shortened version of the story of the Bible is widely used, and is not necessarily bad, but I think it leaves out major happenings in the narrative and cheapens the Bible story  to only be concerned with one’s personal salvation (here is where it might get controversial…if it hasn’t already). While this is obviously important, I do not think this encapsulates the full outcome of the Biblical narrative. I think one of the main issues with this is that it does acknowledge how for instance Israel fits into our conception of salvation, the Kingdom of God, or anything of the sort. This model cannot substitute the rich, connected narrative of the Bible.

There is a scholar out there by the name of Scot McKnight. Perhaps you have heard of him, or maybe you haven’t. Either way, he has a book out called The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Simply put, Mcknight’s beef is with evangelicals today who have equated the gospel story with the plan of salvation (how one receives salvation). He seeks to bring evangelicals back to the true meaning of the word gospel. He promotes a gospel that is rooted in the story of Israel and cannot be separated from it. Jesus as the fulfillment of the story Israel. If Mcknight had to sum up the gospel in three words he would say this: Jesus is Lord. The foundation of his definition of gospel is rooted in  1 Corinthians 15:1-6. What he finds there is that the gospel is encapsulated in the fact that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised according to the Scriptures. That is the gospel. For Him it is the fulfillment of this long narrative of Israel, and not how one is to receive salvation necessarily. I recommend this book, and if what I just described challenges you, then the book surely will, too.

One of my favorite words in Greek is the word ἐξηγέομαι, which is where we get our word exegesis. Exegesis is usually defined as interpretation of or explanation of a text, usually Scripture. In the greek, though, this word is much more specific than that. The word usually means to quite literally “to take someone through something”. Usually this “something” is a story. It literally means “to someone through a story”. I love this because it emphasizes exactly what McKnight, and now I, am getting at. Namely, that there is great significance within the totality of the Bible story because each instance (specially Jesus) is built on what has happened previously in the story. I think that when we begin to read the Bible and ask the question, “How does this fit into the story?”, our understanding of God, His character, and the history of his people will be seen afresh. What is more is that when we understand how everything in the Bible fits together,  we better understand and feel the breadth of God’s love for His creation.

One comment

  1. It’s so true, it really doesn’t make sense to view Jesus apart from David.

    These are good thoughts. Thanks for writing!

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