Saturday, February 20, 2010

The History of the Bible

“One of the most universal human impulses can be summed up in a familiar four-word plea: Tell me a story.”[1]

History is, at its most basic element, a story. It is the retelling of past events. The history in the Bible is no different. It is made up of stories—stories about people and events; stories about everyday life and the life of the supernatural; stories about intrigue and mystery; stories about betrayal and deception; stories about conquest and victory; stories about defeat and humiliation; stories about love; stories about hate. In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a modern (or ancient) literary theme that is not found in the pages of Scripture.

Leland Ryken says, “…imagine yourself trying to describe the content of the Bible to someone who has never read the Bible. You would very quickly find yourself describing what happens in the Bible, and to ‘tell what happens’ is to tell a story.”[2] In fact, out of sixty-six books of Scripture, twenty-two of them, or one-third, is narrative. The Bible has 1,186 chapters of which 553 (46%) are narrative.

It quickly becomes clear that God has invested much in “telling the story” his way, and it is in this story that we are to see God. We use the word “narrative” because “story” has gained a mythical or fictional connotation.[3] Narrative “narrates” an event or series of events.

Stories are very effective ways of teaching. It helps the reader to enter into the lives of others and experience life as they experienced it (cf. 2 Sam 12:7 – You are the man). It reminds the reader that human nature has not changed all that much while human history has.

[1] Leland Ryken, Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), p. 35.

[2] Ryken, Words of Delight, p, 35.

[3] Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible, 2nd ed, p. 79.

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