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One Book, One Message

Understanding the Point of the Bible


The Bible contains dozens of books, written by dozens of authors, over more than a 1,000 years. So, is
the Bible a collection of separate religious writings, or is the Bible one work—the Word of God?

Principle #1 for interpreting the Bible: Read the Bible like any other book.

That doesn't mean the Bible is the same as other books. The Bible is the Word of God. But, at the most
basic level, how we read the Bible is the same as how we read any other book. We shouldn't be looking
for some magical route to understanding the Bible.

Now, any good story has a protagonist—a good guy, a hero. In the New Testament, the protagonist is
clearly Jesus. Anyone would agree with that. But, disagreement appears when we discuss the Old
Testament. Many Christians view the Old Testament and the New Testament as two completely separate
books. And they view the New Testament as better than the Old.

The problem is that the Old Testament is the Bible that Jesus used in his teaching. It is the Bible the
apostles used when they taught about the Messiah.

The Old Testament shouldn't be considered separate at all. The Old Testament is just as Christian as the
New Testament.

Luke 24:44 – Then He told 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, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

John 5:46 – For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me.

John 8:56 – Your father Abraham was overjoyed that he would see My day; he saw it and rejoiced.

Acts 28:23 – From dawn to dusk [Paul] expounded and witnessed about the kingdom of God. He tried to
persuade them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets.

Acts 10:43 – All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him
will receive forgiveness of sins.

Acts 3:22-26 – 22 Moses said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among
your brothers. You must listen to Him in everything He will say to you. 23 And it will be that everyone
who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from the people.
24
In addition, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also announced
these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your forefathers,
saying to Abraham, And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed. 26 God raised up His
Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.
From God’s Big Picture, by Robert Vaughan. IVP Books (2003). p. 157.
Principle #2 for interpreting the Bible: Be alert for chiasms.

A chiasm is a structure of writing where a series of words, phrases or idea are repeated in the reverse of
their original order.

Daniel 2-7 example1:


A. Four Gentile world empires (Dan 2)
B. Gentile persecution of Israel (Dan 3)
C. Divine providence over Gentiles (Dan 4-5)
B. Gentile persecution of Israel (Dan 6)
A. Four Gentile world empires (Dan 7)

Isaiah 56-66 example2:


A. Righteous foreigners (56:1-8)
B. God’s people unable to do right (56:9-59:15a)
C. The Divine Warrior (59:15b-21)
D. God’s righteousness dawns in his people (60:1-22)
E. Anointed to preach the Good News (61:1-3)
D. God’s righteousness dawns in his people (61:4-62:12)
C. The Divine Warrior (63:1-6)
B. God’s people unable to do right (63:7-66:17)
A. Righteous foreigners (66:18-24)

Chiasms can serve to:


1) help memorization
2) show an emphasis; the center is usually the main idea.
3) show the beginning and end of a theme.

And, the entire Bible fits a chiasm3:


A. Life with God in the Garden, with the Tree of Life (Gen 2:10-17)
B. Marriage instituted (Gen 2:18-25)
C. Satan cursed (Gen 3:15)
C. Satan defeated (Rev 20:10)
B. Marriage fulfilled (Rev 21:1-11)
A. Eternal life with God, in Paradise, with the Tree of Life (Rev 22:1-5)

So, if the entire Bible fits into a chiasm, then the entire Bible has a single theme. Dozens of writers, over
more than 1,000 years, were revealing one message from God. Because of the sin begun in Gen 3, we lost
our relationship with God. And the entire Bible is God's story of redemption.

1
Adapted from Walter C. Kaiser and Moisés Silva, An introduction to biblical hermeneutics: the search for meaning, p. 76
2
John Oswalt, “The Book of Isaiah: A Short Course on Biblical Theology.” Calvin Theological Journal (2004). pp. 54-71
3
Adapted from Miles van Pelt, Biblical Theology course at biblicaltraining.org.
How missing the point leads to heresy:
“Eve was created within the lush beauty of Eden's garden. But Adam, if you'll remember, was
created outside the Garden, in the wilderness. In the record of our beginnings, the second chapter
of Genesis makes it clear: Man was born in the outback, in the untamed part of creation. Only
afterward is he brought to Eden. And ever since then, boys have never been at home indoors, and
men have had an insatiable longing to explore. We long to explore: it's when most men come
alive.4

John Eldredge took a small part of the Bible—that Adam was created and then brought to the Garden—
and he developed an entire theology from that. But, his theology implies that: a) being banished from the
Garden was not bad, since Adam was never at home in the Garden, anyway, and b) Heaven will be more
like Hell since Rev 22 clearly teaches that heaven is a restoration of what was lost in the Garden.
Eldredge missed the point and now teaches a heresy.

When we study any passage of the Bible, the results should be:
1) to see our need for a savior
2) to see how God works out our salvation
3) to worship our savior

If you don't have those three results, you probably missed the point of the passage. Passages often teach
us more than just those main points, but they always, at least, teach one of those points.

This means sermons or Bible studies that concentrate on how:


a) to have a better marriage, miss the point.
b) to live a moral life, miss the point
c) we can be great leaders like Nehemiah or David, miss the point

Everything in the Bible points to Christ.

4
From Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul, by John Eldredge. Thomas Nelson Inc. 2001.