Live from Milpitas! Part 1

Tim and Jon discuss literature design patterns in the Bible to a live audience and answer questions from the audience.

Episode 13
1hr 16m
Apr 2, 2018
Play Episode
Show Notes

This is a special episode in our podcast series on “How To Read The Bible”. Tim and Jon went on the road to do this podcast live before an audience in Milpitas, California! Tim and Jon discuss literature design patterns in the Bible and answer questions from the audience.

The guys do a brief recap of the How to Read The Bible series. There are key elements to reading the Bible well. Understanding plot, character, setting and biblical narrative style. (We have videos on each of these, you can see the links below in the show notes.)

In this episode, the guys combine all of these elements to talk about “patterns and design elements” in the Bible. Tim and Jon use the “hyperlink” analogy, saying that all the stories in the Bible link to each other in subtle and creative ways. People can learn to see these links and see the stories layering on top of each other by understanding key design patterns and techniques.

Below are timestamps of questions and examples:

(36:16) Jon asks the question, "Is understanding design patterns in the Bible an “elite” way to read the Bible?" Isn’t the Bible supposed to be user friendly? It seems like studying to understand the historical context of the ancient Hebrew biblical literature is a time consuming task that some people might not be able to do.

(40:38) A gentleman asks a question about the city of Joppa being mentioned in both the book of Jonah and in Acts. Is this intentional and a reference to a hidden theme in the Bible?

(42:25) A gentleman asks a question about the creation of stories in the Bible. What’s the role of historical accuracy, retelling and condensing of events in the writing of the Bible?

(49:58) A gentleman asks a question: If the Bible is a magnificent piece of timeless art and literature, How do you explain the Bible to people who value brevity and directness, not artful literature and analogy?

(52:40) Tim gives an example of word plays and repetition in the Bible. The hebrew word “Tov” means good. Tov/Good is used in the creation story as a key repeating word. It develops first to describe creation. Then it describes humans (very good). Then it describes the “tree of the knowledge of good and not good/evil.” This theme culminates when the woman “sees that the tree is good” when the serpent tempts her, she has effectively switched places with God. God was the original one who “saw things as good”.

(1:03:05) Tim gives another example in Luke. The baptism of Jesus culminates with God speaking from heaven declaring Jesus is his son. Then the next story is not a story, it’s a genealogy that works its way backward to Adam being declared “the son of God”. Then Jesus is tempted, with the devil asking him if he “really is the son of God”. Then Jesus goes to his first town and people ask “Who’s son is this?” Then Jesus casts out a demon who declares that Jesus is “the son of God”. Luke uses repetition to make a point to the reader, that Jesus is indeed who he has been declared to be, he is the Son of God.

(1:07:10) Tim gives an example of the selection of Saul to be the king of Israel. The hidden word in the story is “see or seeing.” At the start of the story, we are told Saul is tall. This is a strange detail. Most Bible characters have no physical attributes described about them, but here, Saul is tall, which is later used as a symbol in the story. Saul looks for a “seer” or a “prophet” when searching for his father’s donkeys. Why would the word “seer” be used in the story? Because it is a hidden key word in the story. Samuel “sees” Saul. Samuel tells Israel to look upon Saul and “see” their king. Samuel and Israel “see” Saul and they are impressed by his height. But Saul is not a good king and God rejects him. God sends Samuel to anoint a new king. God says he has “seen a new king.” Samuel “sees” Jesse’s son Eliab and thinks one of these is to be the new king. But God speaks to Samuel and says “God doesn’t ‘see’ as humans ‘see’, humans ‘see’ with their eyes, God ‘sees’ the heart.” This line is the climax of a whole trail of breadcrumbs that started at the introduction of Saul.

Show Resources:

"The Art Of Biblical Narrative" by Robert Alter

Our How To Read The Bible Video Series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak06MSETeo4&list=PLH0Szn1yYNedn4FbBMMtOlGN-BPLQ54IH

Show Music:

Defender Instrumental by Rosasharn Music

Produced By:

Dan Gummel, Jon Collins, Matthew Halbert-Howen

Thank you to all our supporters!

Scripture References
Genesis 1-3
Luke 3-4
1 Samuel 9
1 Samuel 16

Podcast Date: April 2, 2018


Speakers in the audio file:

Jon Collins

Tim Mackie

Members of the audience

Jon: Welcome to The Bible Project podcast. Last year, Tim and I, were in Milpitas,

California for a conference called Regeneration. While we were down there, we did a

live recording of this podcast with a couple of hundred leaders from around that

area, and today, we're going to release the first part of that live recording. It was a

ton of fun being down there with Tim.

If you've never been in a room with Tim while he geeks out about the Bible, well,

you're in for a treat. Tim just gets excited. No other topic lights Tim up like the topic

we addressed that day. The topic at hand is what we've come to call Design Patterns

in the Bible.

If you've been following this project, you know that we like to talk about how the

Bible is literary genius. One of the things that makes the literature of the Bible so

sophisticated is how every story in the Bible seems to be aware and riffing off of

every other story in the Bible. No matter what author, no matter what time period, it

all connects together with this amazing awareness of how stories are told, why

they're told that way. The patterns that emerge become immensely important for us

to understand what the authors were trying to communicate to us.

This might seem really geeky, maybe not that useful, maybe just sounds really

strange. Well, hang in there. We're going to break down what it is and we'll follow a

few design patterns through Scripture. As we do, I guarantee you're going to see

how rich, insightful, and profound the literature in the Bible is. Thanks for joining us.

Here we go.

Tim: How are you guys? Hello. Look at these chairs to sit in. I don't know if you can see


Jon: We brought in down special from my grandma's house, which makes me feel at

home. Thank you for doing that.

Tim: Hello. How are you all?

Jon: It's good to be here.

Tim: Welcome to here. Here we go. We're going to do this. This is a new kind of

experiment for us. As we were thinking about what to do with this time, Jon and I

also have a to-do list for video production. And so we needed to actually have this

conversation that we were going to have. Then Jon pitched the idea of "Let's just

have it with a group of people." Because he's always prodding me with questions,

and so let's just let a whole group people contribute.

This is actually part of our normal process where I put together a bunch of stuff, we

talk for hours, then he goes and writes a summary, and that becomes the first draft

of the script for the video. So a video will come out of this conversation. There you

go. Is that cool deal?

Audience: Yeah.

Tim: Deal. Cheers. Let's see. What's some other maybe introductory stuff?

Jon: Typically, it's just Tim and I in a room talking through his notes or have notes like

this, which I've never seen. I feel like a magician now. I've never seen these notes.

Then we'll also put them up on the screen so you could follow along?

Tim: Yes, what's in his hand, it'll just be up there. FYI.

Jon: Then, my role is just to be a really persistent, annoying student. What we'll try to do

is at certain times, stop, we'll have a couple mics, and if you want to jump in on the

annoying persistence, then you can ask a question as well. Tim loves it. He never

ever gets frustrated with me.

Tim: No.

Jon: I'm always surprised.

Tim: For Jon and I, I guess we're just taking for granted that everyone knows what The

Bible Project is and that we make Bible cartoons for the internet.

Jon: The Bible Project, we make Bible cartoons in it. They're up on YouTube and on our

website. We go through themes of the Bible and how those themes are woven

through all Scripture from beginning to end and how they have its climax in Jesus.

Then also, there's a whole series of videos that Tim's pretty much solely responsible

for the literary structure and design of every book of the Bible, which are really

helpful. We've been doing a new series called How to Read the Bible. That series is

going to be about 15, 18 videos.

Tim: 22.

Jon: 22 videos?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Perfect. That's going to be 22 videos. And we've been going through biblical

narrative. Has anyone seen the biblical narrative videos? A couple of you guys? Cool.

There's one out on plots.

Tim: That's the one that's up right now.

Jon: Oh, that's the one that's up?

Tim: Yeah. Then, next comes characters. Then after that is setting.

Jon: Oh, yeah. Those aren't out yet.

Tim: They aren't out yet. They're in production, and written. But they are being made.

Then, this one's yet to exist.

Jon: Let's do a quick overview of the biblical narrative, plot, setting, character, and then

set this one out.

Tim: Nearly half of the Bible is ancient Jewish narrative. Both in the Hebrew Scriptures and

in the New Testament, the Gospels and Acts are ancient Jewish style biblical

narrative. They're at the same time some of the most beloved parts of the Bible

because narratives are really a universal form of human communication. It's just

easy. But every culture has its own unique way of telling narratives.

In the biblical tradition, these authors developed a really brilliant, truly brilliant set of

tools for how they tell their stories, and they're really, really, really different than how

modern Westerners create, and perceive how stories work.

That was the goal of the video series. You might think, "Four videos?" Just read the

narrative. And it's like, "Okay, yeah, that's fine." But there's going to be all kinds of

things. I've discovered over the years, all kinds of really amazing layers of meaning

to stories in the Bible that I just simply was unaware of, or never saw before until I've

actually learned how to read them as Jewish narratives, Jewish literature with a really

particular set of conventions and attributes and ways that these stories work. There

you go.

Jon: Big picture, biblical narrative, there's plot setting character. Let me try to summarize

what the main takeaways for each of those were, really quickly.

Tim: Deal.

Jon: And then you can correct me. Biblical plot - that video is out. I think the biggest

takeaway for me is that a biblical plot is like any plot. We're familiar with plots. We

watch movies, we read books. So there's character, and there's setting, there's this

call to adventure, there's all this rising tension that leads up to a conflict, which

ultimately has a resolution and then the characters change and comes to a new

normal, a new world. Biblical stories have the same plot structures.

In the video, we looked at Gideon and how if you don't see the overall plot and

understand a story in that context, you could easily say something the author didn't

intend. We looked at Gideon and The Fleece, and we saw how Gideon was asking

God for a sign and he put a fleece on the ground, make the fleece dry, and the

ground wet. And God does it.

You read that story and you're like, "Oh, my goodness, that's a great story on how to

discern God's will." But then you read the story in context of the whole biblical plot

and you realize that it's just one part of this whole rising plot tension of Gideon not

trusting God.

That's a big takeaway. But I think the bigger takeaway with plot, which the video

didn't have a lot of time to explain, but the podcast goes in a lot of detail if you've

listened to our episode on plot, is that there's like embedded plots in the Bible.

You have the story of Gideon, which takes place in a whole series of stories that

make up the Book of Judges, and that entire set of stories has its own plot structure.

You call those what?

Tim: Movements.

Jon: Biblical movements?

Tim: I call them movements. It's like Acts because I thinking about acts of the play.

Actually, I thought that was really helpful.

Jon: Then those all fit into a grand biblical plot from creation to new creation. So seeing

how these plots are embedded, it's like at any given moment reading the Bible

you're like in inception. You're like a plot within a plot within a plot.

Tim: That's good. I don't think you've brought that up before. That's a good analogy.

Actually, each subplot you're in, it's easy to forget the governing plot. Like why are

they in this little sub-world? Because of something a plot conflict caused up here

that force them to go down and do this other one. It's actually really good. That's


Jon: Good analogy?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: That's plot. the video is not out yet. It's almost out. Actually, I don't know if it's

almost out.

Tim: Sorry. For plot, to conceive of the Bible it's an epic narrative, which means it's a

sprawling narrative - all huge cast of characters. It's like many epic narratives that are

out there in the world.

For modern Westerners, the most familiar ones now are Tolkien's. J. R. R. Tolkien's

world - "The Lord of the Rings." Epic narratives. Because even they're separate story

worlds. There's the Ring trilogy but then there's "The Hobbit" which is its own totally

own plot, but it is related. It's like the pre-plot that makes sense with the others. And

that's totally how the Bible works.

So it's all it's difficult when you're in the thick of the Book of Kings, and you're

looking at Jehoahaz and his wife Athaliah and you're like, "What does this have to do

with anything? Why do I care about this?" So you always have to rise above and be

like, "Family of Abraham, God's blessing to all of the nations through these people."

Another illustration I've used is of the Russian nesting doll of dolls within dolls,

within dolls within dolls. The whole point is to see them as a set. It's not just that you

have one of them, and then just sit them on whatever, your dresser. It's to display

them as a set because that's how they make sense is as a collection.

So learning how to keep track of the layer’s plot, each layer will give a new context

and new layers of meaning to events happening down here at the ground level. If

you begin to see how these authors have designed little mini-episodes within their

larger arcs, you begin to see bigger patterns, which is what we're going to talk about

today. But learning to track plots and subplots it's like one of the bread and butter

things about learning to read biblical narrative well.

Jon: Nice. Another basic element of narrative is characters. A character is the person

experiencing the plot - going through the plot. Biblical narrative is full of characters.

How would you summarize the big pic with characters?

Tim: At least in the history of Christian reading, especially of the Hebrew Scriptures, we've

had a hard time knowing what to do with these Bible characters. Some of them are

very relatable, and we sympathize with their struggles, like an Abraham or David or

Joseph or Ruth. But then other characters in the way they figure into God's plans are

really problematic for us, like a Samson or a Jacob.

I think somehow, especially in the Western Christian tradition, we tend to view the

Bible as some kind of moral instruction book. The characters in the Bible are

obviously there to be examples for us. The problem is that they're all mostly really

immoral people, really screwed up people. And that's thrown Western readers for

such a loop that look at our children's literature about the Bible. It's often hard to

recognize the actual biblical story in the children's versions that our kids are raised


I have a version of the story of Jonah in a children's book at home. I don't read it to

my kids, but I just remind my mind of an example of what so screwed up about how

we read the Bible. It doesn't even have the last chapter of the book of Jonah, where

he's doing outside the city bomb that his enemies didn't get roasted by fire from


Because if you end the story with Jonah obeying and going to Nineveh and then

Nineveh is repenting, that's a great story. It teaches you to obey God. It's a very clear

story. But the whole thing is about that last chapter, which turns the entire story

upside down. And all of a sudden, everything means the opposite of what you

thought it meant. It's absolutely brilliant.

Apparently, that's too sophisticated for children? In a way, it is because this is not

children's literature. This is extremely sophisticated literature.

So what tends to happen is that biblical characters are presented to people who

grew up in the church in these rewritten versions of biblical stories so that when they

actually come to read the Bible itself, the way these characters actually behave in the

real story is a scandalous to us. We don't understand it. Why does God bless people

who lie and murder and why does the Holy Spirit come on Samson when he's a

violent sex addict? Is he an example? Am I supposed to be like him? Well, I guess

not. I'm not going to kill people with [inaudible 00:15:20]. You guys are with me?

So what are these people here for in the stories? We're going to make a whole video

about that. Because we are supposed to relate to them, but they are not put there as

moral examples for us. They're more put there as mirrors for us to see ourselves and

to see our own flaws, and failures, and successes. And how these characters relate to

God begin to give me a clue of what it means to relate to God in complex ways.

There you go.

Jon: Great, perfect. The final element is biblical settings or settings in general. Every story

has to take place somewhere and that "where" is the setting. Settings are easy to

gloss over in any story, and not appreciate how effective of a literary device it

actually is.

If I'm telling you a story, and it takes place in a spooky house, just an old rundown

house, that's the setting. You as a listener are going to remember other stories that

happened to take place in an old run down house. And what are you going to think?

You're going to think, "I know what's going to happen. I've been here before."

The author can set your expectation really quick about what a story is going to be

about simply by the setting that the author puts it in. In the video, we're going to

talk about the setting of Egypt as a case study, and how that setting becomes very

important. But they're all over, and I was super surprised.

When we got into this, I realized we could do a whole series of videos on settings

and how they're used. From the wilderness being a setting, Jerusalem, Mt Zion,

Bethlehem, on and on and on, they become these very important places where

certain things happen and author wants you to remember those stories. They're

building on that. I don't know if we have to really get into more of it.

Tim: Yeah, it's awesome. It's awesome. Again, for modern readers, because when we

read the stories were like, "Oh, this is the history part of the Bible," this is just what

happened and that just is where that event happened. That event happened in

Moab. That event happened in Gilead, Gibeah, or whatever. And so we don't think to

come to these narratives with the expectation that the last story that happened in

whatever, Gilead, that may be like four books ago, but the author knows. The author

totally knows.

What you'll find is that key places keep getting repeated throughout the biblical

narrative and places acquire a symbolism based off of the events that happened

there. You have to start from page 1, and they began to build significance as you go

through the story. It's absolutely brilliant.

Jon: Do you like to do wilderness? That's a good example.

Tim: Yeah, yeah. A great example is...maybe a shorter one, I think...I don't remember

doing the video. I don't remember. To the east?

Jon: Yeah, we did.

Tim: Especially, in the book of Genesis, there's this real echoing motif where after the

garden rebellion of Adam and Eve, they're banished. Little detail. They're banished to

the east. Then after Cain and his murdering his brother, he's also banished in the

very next story to the east.

Then the culmination of all the rebellion stories in the book of Genesis is in the story

of Babylon, where all the people had one speech and they moved to the east. What

happens in the east? The east is where you go when you've been estranged from

God. The East is where you go as a consequence of your stupid decisions.

Then with Babylon, where you end up is going to the east, where all humanity exalts

itself up to the place of God. Then you just track with it.

As you go through the biblical narrative, biblical authors now that they've

established the drumbeat of East, they'll just throw it in there now and then. It's like

a little seasoning - a little Easter season in the story or something. And so they'll just

throw in.

Like the rebellion of Absalom comes in the story of David. And where does David

flee from his own palace? He flees to the east. When all Israel rebels and has to go

into exile, where do they go? They go to the east to Babylon. They replay the

Genesis 3 to 11 thing.

Jon: So that's not a detail because the author is like, "I should just put in where you

happen to [inaudible 00:20:07]."

Tim: It's not like an archival note. It's actually a really important part of the theological

message of these stories is where things take place.

Jon: Michael W. Smith song is making a lot more sense. "Go West Young Man." Suddenly,

it's clicking. I get it now. I do these Christian references; Tim never gets it because he

didn't grow up in Christian culture.

Tim: I know about Michael W. Smith. I don't know that song. But also periods of time are

a form of setting that work exactly the same way. We'll talk about that in the video.

Jon: So it's not just geographic location, it's also a situation like to the east, but then it's

also time, like 40 days?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: The 40 as a time period becomes an important setting.

Tim: We're certain people get tested, and usually fail.

Jon: Except for Jesus.

Tim: Yeah, except for Jesus.

Jon: Yeah, he overcame. All of these elements of the plot are actually going to set us up

nicely for this conversation because we want to talk about is patterns of comparison

in biblical narrative - which sounds really boring. Tim has actually for the last six

months, just every day, he's like, "I can't wait to talk about this. I can't wait to talk

about this." Your mind's been exploding with things.

So it's a highly anticipated conversation for us. Hopefully, it will be really valuable for

you guys. But basically, from what I understand is that all these things: the plot, the

settings, the characters, they all become elements in which the biblical authors use

to build on each other, create patterns.

And you use the word a lot "hyperlink." That the author will hyperlink back to other

stories and ideas and just expect you the reader to see what's going on. He's not

going to tell you, "Hey, just like Moses did this, sometimes, I guess Paul would say

that." But oftentimes it will be just a very small hyperlink back to the story. So this is

what we're talking about, hyperlinks and patterns.

Tim: We still don't know the word we're going to use in the video. We're going to have to

work that out. You guys, I feel like this has just blown my mind over the last year or

so. I have a group of friends that we went through grad school. They're all Hebrew

Bible nerd professors all around the world. But we have been coordinating our

research efforts and reading around the set of topics.

So there are four other friends and it's like we've never read the Bible before. It feels

so fresh to me right now. There are two analogies. There are actually two analogies.

One is one that starts the notes, but the other one is...I've used it before already

actually with you. It's Yoda.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Yoda. It's the scene Dagobah in the "Empire Strikes Back" where Luke comes looking

for Master Yoda, but what he finds as a silly green creature. Of course, that is the

master. But the master is so wise that he won't impose his reputation on Luke. What

he's going to do is let Luke come to realize that he's in the presence of the master.

So truly it becomes a story about reality is for Luke what he expects to see. And what

he expects to see it is a silly green creature. Of course, this isn't the master, so he

never sees the master until he has this breakthrough moment and he realizes as all

along he's been in the presence. You're with me? It's a classic. That's how I feel

about the Bible.

I think it's essentially the way our relationships to these scriptural texts grows over

time, is realizing that we're in the presence of such brilliant minds, empowered by

God's Spirit to write and compose this literature in ways that I just never even

imagined was possible. But once you expect to see certain things, all of a sudden,

narratives that you thought you understood, you had no clue. That is happening to

me every day now.

Jon: When you say no clue, you do this like...

Tim: I'm being...

[crosstalk 00:25:00]

Jon: Well, it goes deeper.

Tim: It goes deeper. That's right.

Jon: It's like, "Oh, I got it, but now I get it so much more."

Tim: I wasn't level one, but now I realize there's actually four other levels.

Jon: It's not like, "Oh, I was teaching this wrong completely"?

Tim: No, that's true. That's a good point. That's a good point. You're right. Section.

Jon: Or maybe not.

Tim: I think I've used cave spelunking - actually, it's a bad metaphor of you thought you

had reached the deepest chamber, and then you realize there's a crack and then,

"Oh, my gosh, it keeps going." And there's more depth here than you first realized.

This particular skill set, there's actually not a lot written on it. This is not something

that you can find in any guidebooks on how to read the Bible. Where you do find it

is scholars who are familiar with the history of Jewish interpretation of the Bible.

Of course, that makes sense. These were crafted by ancient Israelite minds steeped

in this tradition and way of writing these texts. So it makes perfect sense that the

Jewish they've been reading the Bible 1000 years longer than Christians have, and

for one reason or another, the Christian tradition has lost touch with this dynamic

going on in biblical narrative. There you go. That's why we're excited to make a

video of it. We're hyping it up now. I think we should just dive in.

Jon: Let's jump in.

Tim: Notes appear on the screen. Are you guys ready for action?

Audience: Yeah.

Tim: Jon: Deal. All right. Let's start with a Jewish scholar named Robert Alter who wrote

one of the most helpful really profound introductions to Biblical narrative. It's called

"The Art of Biblical Narrative." He has a chapter where he lays out what we're going

to talk about, but it's like tip of the iceberg.

He begins it with this really great introduction and then there's analogy. He says, "A

coherent reading of any work of art, whatever the medium, requires some detailed

awareness of the grid of conventions upon which and against which this particular

work operates. Usually, these are elaborate sets of tacit agreements between the

artist and the audience that create the enabling context in which complex

communication of art occurs." He likes to write long sentences.

"Though through our awareness of convention, we can recognize significant or

simply pleasing patterns of repetition, symmetry, or contrast, we can detect subtle

clues and cues as to the meaning of the work. We can spot what is innovative, and

what is traditional at each part of the artistic creation. One of the chief difficulties

modern readers have in perceiving the artistry in biblical narrative is precisely that

we have lost most of the keys to the conventions out of which these texts were


That's a dense, nerdy way of putting it. Then, he has a great illustration that makes it

crystal clear. If you don't get his point, how would you put into normal words?

Jon: I think where this hits home for me the most is in telling jokes. Everyone kind of

understands that there is a structure to a joke, except for my mom. She doesn't

really get that. But you have a setup and then you have the punch line.

Oftentimes, especially in very simple jokes, the setup is one beat, second beat, and

then something unexpected. Hahaha. Is that similar to like, it's creating...It's like we

know as the audience, "Okay, I'm being set up for joke. I know what's coming," and

then the punchline lands.

Tim: I think of our kids; trying to teach our kids humor. It's so hard to teach a four-yearold

how to tell a joke. I realize you'd have learned the conventions. There are

unspoken rules to a joke. My four-year-old just tells these jokes that aren't funny but

because he tells them by the 1, 2, 3 pattern he thinks that's what makes it funny.

Jon: Right. But, he's learning the pattern.

Tim: Yeah. So he'll be like, "A [net 00:29:42] crossed the street and then a book fell down,

and the Jell-O fell out of the bowl." And he'll laugh or something because he thinks

that what makes it funny.

Jon: And you're like, "Well, good try."

Tim: That's a good analogy, though on a smaller level.

Jon: But he's got to give example of Western film?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Let's do it.

Tim: Let's do it. Let's pretend it's 1,200 years into the future and post-apocalyptic scene

and archaeologists discover in the ruins of Hollywood this old film vault and they

find all these cans of old Western films. Then they're given to some future university

professor of film history. Then he spends all summer watching them all.

I go to Robert Alter's quote here. He says, "Our future film critic notices that in 11 of

the 12 films, the sheriff hero has the same anomalous neurological trait of hyper

reflexivity. No matter what the situation in which his adversaries confront him, he's

always able to pull his gun out of its holster and fire before they can, even if they're

already poised with their own weapon." All right?

Jon: Yeah, impressive.

Tim: Again, just think. If you don't have any context for that, pretend you're an alien, and

you keep seeing this pattern in these human film. Would you make sense of that?

You'd be like, "Oh, this was a superior race among the humans...

Jon: ...and they're just really quick with their hand."

Tim: Yeah. But then in the 12th film, let's say there's a sheriff with an injured arm and so

instead of a pistol, he uses a rifle that he carries slung over his back. If you had only

seen the 12th film, that's the only one you ever saw and you were whatever, this

future film critic, you'd be like, "Oh, he has a rifle or he's different than the other...I

don't know. Whatever."

But if you've watched all 11, then you've been prepared. You know that all of a

sudden this 12 there's an innovation, it's a variation on the theme...

Jon: And it seems important.

Tim: And it's important. It becomes a contrastive spin on the motif. This is his conclusion.

He says, "Contemporary viewers of westerns recognize the convention without even

having to name it as such. Much of our pleasure in watching westerns derives from

our awareness that the hero, however sinister the danger is looming ahead, leads a

charmed life that will always, in the end, prove himself more successful than his

enemies. For us, the repetitive pattern across all these cinematic works it's not an

enigma to be explained." "Why does he have a rival over your shoulder? That's

weird. Just you get it?

Jon: Let's go with it.

Tim: Why does this guy always drive faster than that guy in these different movies? In

other words, we don't even think about it. It's so subconscious because we're

familiar with this particular convention.

That what he says here. With our easy knowledge of the patterns, we naturally see

the point of the 12th sheriff.

Jon: What's the point of the 12th sheriff?

Tim: Well, it would be like, he's the underdog. He's going to win anyway, but he doesn't

have the advantage that the normal sheriff has. He has a disadvantage, but he leads

such a charmed life he's going to overcome in the end.

So it becomes an underdog version of the story. But you already know he's going to

win, he's just going to win even despite this disadvantage. Within just a few subtle

moves, here in this 12th sheriff, it's actually the absence of the pattern that clues you

into the pattern.

Jon: Which then shows you the level of sophistication that the author intends for you to

have, which they could just leave out something that they know you would expect

and that is now bringing more meaning to the story.

Tim: That's right.

Jon: And that happens in the Bible?

Tim: It do to like the nth degree. I mean, I'm just going to show you. We're just going to

go through tons of example. But it's insane. What it means is that these narratives

are actually designed to do what Psalm 1 tells you to do. With the Bible is just to

constantly reread the thing, and to read it quietly aloud to yourself, to meditate,

because there will be things that you'll never notice until like the 85th time.

Something going on with Abraham story connecting with some weird thing in the

David story connecting to some weird hyper-reflexivity thing in Jeremiah. Then you

sit back and you realize, Oh, these are...Oh." And you see that they're all talking to

each other.

Jon: It's like a perpetual murder mystery night with your friends trying to figure it out.

Tim: What I'm saying is that these are intentionally repeated motifs that have been woven

into the fabric of the narrative by these authors. Many people actually noticed

patterns in the Bible. Maybe you've noticed them before - and we'll talk about a

bunch - but you've never thought to make anything of them.

But 9 times out of 10, they do fit into something the author is intentionally laid a trail

of breadcrumbs for you to go down, which is just like you're supposed to track with

every 11th sheriff with the Quick Draw, so that you understand the punch line of the

12th sheriff. There you go.

That's the basic point to be made. Repetition begins to build expectation, and then

variation can give you the punch line.

Jon: Is the rest of this just examples?

Tim: Yes.

Jon: Okay. So we're going to read a lot of the Bible?

Tim: We're just going to look at a bunch of biblical stories. Because you can talk about it

in theory, the brilliance...You can talk about the Mona Lisa. But talking about the

Mona Lisa will never replace just actually staring at the Mona Lisa. It's like that.

Jon: Cool, great. Let's stop for a second, and see if anyone wants to jump in with a

question. There's a mic here, mic there. If you want to jump in at this point before we

start reading scripture, go ahead and raise your hand, we'll grab you. I'll ask a

question just to warm us up.

It seems like you could see this as a very elite way of reading the Bible. I think

everyone in this room is like a leader or a teacher in some capacity. It seems like

enough work just to get the basics across. And from the pulpit especially, to be able

to have someone track.

Now you're saying, well, let's go deeper and deeper and deeper. Are we just going

to confuse everybody? What would you say to someone who's a leader how this

should affect the way that they're thinking about not just them reading the Bible,

but then how they help other people read the Bible?

Tim: I'm trying to think of a good way to...It's kind of like really any form of music. Just

take some of the classic forums, classical music, or like a symphony. Almost anybody,

you don't even have to know anything about classical music to appreciate

Beethoven or Bach. But that doesn't mean that the uninitiated listener actually is

understanding and tracking with a full capacity of this particular symphony of

everything that's going on there.

That's why these narratives are so brilliant because even on their first reading, or first

few readings, you get the basic ideas of what's going on. And this is how art works.

Art is like this condensation of meaning, this density of meaning.

Jon: I like the image.

Tim: And that's how art communicates. It does—

Jon: Is that your image, condensation of meaning?

Tim: I don't know. I just wasn't doing this and it was the word that came to mind.

Jon: Is the word that came to mind?

Tim: The condensation.

Jon: That's cool. Condensation of meaning.

Tim: Or think of the most dense...This is a phrase a friend of mine uses. The dense

German bread. They're like, you cut into, it looks like a normal loaf of bread, like a

croissant. French croissant," and then you realize, "Oh, there's nothing in here. It's

just there."

But then there's the German bread, not the French bread, the German bread and

then it's like, "Oh, my gosh, this is hard to cut. It's so thick." That's what it's like.

I think how this works practically is fine both...if you're a regular teacher of the

Scriptures, it's just yourself having this conversion of your imagination to how

amazing these narratives are, and how they work and how profound the things that

they're communicating are. Then once you yourself are ignited to that, then you'll

find ways to invite people in. It's more about just the narratives never stop giving.

No matter what level you're at, you're always...

I wouldn't use the word elite. I would just say it's like the ultimate deep cave. You

can go on a tour to the first three chambers or you can go to the [80th] chamber.

Just like the matrix. The blue pill or the red pill.

Jon: Well, speaking of movies, there is that sense where there's certain movies that

they're so well-crafted you watch them over and over and over and you keep getting

something from it.

Tim: That's right. That's a good example. Coen Brothers movies are like that, I find.

Jon: And so if someone hadn't seen the movie wouldn't be like, "Okay, well, forget it.

You'll never get it." You'd be like, "You haven't seen the movie? Let's watch the

movie." But while you're watching it, you're thinking of things that they probably

aren't thinking about.

Tim: That's right.

Jon: Cool.

Tim: Just to close that loop, I think it can come across from one perspective as elitist. I

think what I want is we invite people into this paradigm of reading the Bible is

actually to see it the opposite way. It's an invitation to discovery, to a lifetime of

discovery, that will likely never be exhausted because I'm not sure when human

brain contract with everything that's happening here.

Jon: Which means you have to do it in community.

Tim: Correct.

Jon: And so you get to read the Bible with people your whole life.

Tim: There you go. That's at least how it's designed to be read.

Jon: Cool. Anyone who Sheriff to jump in?

Man: You had mentioned the role of setting in a narrative and I'm wondering if this might

be a legitimate example or not. In the book of Jonah, the prophet flees from God's

command to go to Nineveh leaving the city of Joppa going to Tarsus. Then in the

book of Acts, Peter receives his vision of the clean and unclean that launches the

mission to the Gentiles from the city of Joppa. Can we take it that it was intentional

that Joppa is mentioned and we're supposed to be thinking about Nineveh and


Tim: Yeah. That's an excellent example. Actually, the video about setting is really just a

whole set of examples of this technique right here. So yeah, it's so random. Like, why

does Luke in Acts, why does he bring up Joppa as this really key moment? And why

is it that Simon son of Jonah renamed by Jesus's Petrus, Peter? But his Jewish name

is Simon Bar-Jonah? There you go.

Simon, son of Jonah goes to Joppa from which the mission to the Gentiles explodes.

Come now. You what I'm saying? Do you get it? Here's what's brilliant about that is

because we're crossing. That's Luke. That means Luke is tracking with what's going

on with Joppa and Jonah, and he's intentionally introduced details into the story

to...That's a perfect example. Thank you. That's a great example. And it crosses the

testaments. This isn't just the Old Testament narrative. The Gospels and Acts are

written right as a continuation of this tradition. That's a great example.

Man: Hi. I know in some of the earlier podcast, you guys talked about kind of all stories as

is being representations of the facts that happened. You discussed a little bit about

how people think of truth or historical accuracy and things, but I'm curious in terms

of how do you or other scholars think about in the history of the writing and the

editing of the Scriptures, basically, maybe in the Jewish scriptures. To what extent do

people think that things are written in this way and then they were added on? Or do

some people think that these details we're back at it?

Like, say, for the east example that you mentioned where is it something where

post-exilic time then it becomes something that is a detail that's added to tie it

forward to where at the time they would have been putting together all the

Scripture together? I'm curious about the history and how people tend to see how

that would have unfolded.

Tim: Oh, man, that's an extremely complex conversation, mostly because we just have so

little hard data about the timing of the final composition of the books of the Bible. In

other words, we can date a whole bunch of stuff in terms of the events, but the

composition of the books themselves, it gives every evidence of having been a really

prolonged process with lots of Spirit-guided prophetic authors that were part of the


The best example is the conclusion of the Pentateuch, which the last chapter of the

Deuteronomy is about the death of Moses. Then the last sentences of Deuteronomy

are "And no one to this day knows where he was buried." Then the last sentence of

the Torah is, "You know a prophet like Moses just has never arisen among our


So the time perspective, even if the composition of the Torah, is explicitly at a far

distance from the events of Moses himself. Which doesn't mean the Moses didn't

play a role in writing the materials in. It actually says that quite a lot in multiple parts.

So the best analogy that I've found, at least one I've used the most is that these

books are like family quilts where we have quilt pieces or earlier even sections that

were already a bunch of quilt pieces combined, and they've been received and

passed on, carefully studied and preserved. And at some point in the post-exilic

period, the whole quilt of the Hebrew Scriptures gets put together.

A lot of times, that meant just providing stitching around pre-existing works, but

other times it involved some rearranging of older works and this kind of thing. And

the best example, you can see, this is in the book of Chronicles. The Chronicles is

itself a representation of the representation of Samuel and kings. This is what Bible

nerd scholars calls it. Author of Chronicles, they call them the chronicler. But you can

see exactly where he's doing biblical theology.

He's representing the story of David in light of the Torah and the prophets. So he's

constantly adding in little details or repeated phrases as hyperlinks to link the whole

Hebrew Bible together. There's an author, we can actually watch the chronicler at

work making the book in comparison with the sources. So anyway, I'm sorry.

[crosstalk 00:46:05]

Jon: I think this gets people a little queasy because then you start asking yourself, well,

can any of these stories be trusted? Are these authors just picking and choosing

details to make the point or did this actually happen? And that becomes specifically

really important when we talk about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I mean,

if it didn't happen, what are we doing? Can you speak to that queasiness?

Tim: We've talked about this before. The biblical authors are both concerned to pass

down to us their traditions and the memories of things that happened, but they're

not just archivists. They also want to make very clear to the readers the meaning and

significance of what these events have for God's purposes in history.

These events they both represent events and they present them in a way that shows

you how to fit into God's purposes for all of history. And the primary way they do

that is through narrative patterning.

One of the biggest ways this happens for sure is in characters’ names, like the

symbolic names that people have. Whether or not the husbands that Ruth and

Orpah married their names in...Mahlon and Chilion. Those Hebrew words mean

"done for" and "sicko." [SP] And because they come on to the stage for one

sentence only to die, the author brings them on to kill them off to create the tragedy

of the whole story.

Would you ever name your kid, sicko or done for? So I do think these authors

writing literature and they think about history and how to represent that history in a

different way than modern people do. We just have this hang up. And it's from a

good motive that the events, the core events really represent things that happened. I

think they care about that too. Otherwise, they wouldn't be telling us these stories.

But they also want us to understand the meaning of these stories. I don't think these

authors were as nervous as we were about airbrushing the portraits. I don't think we

need to be embarrassed of that either.

I want to make sure my expectations of these narratives are the ones that lead me to

see the master, not the ones that keep me in the presence of the silly green creature.

Jon: You gave me a really great example on that as on a previous podcast episode, I'm

sure of if I asked you how you met your wife, you and Jessica. You've told the story

so many times that the story it's got its own shape, and rhythm and movements.

And if you're telling it together, you have your own parts.

And if I actually had a video camera, and I saw exactly what happened, and I'm trying

to match that to what you guys are saying, I'm going to see some discrepancies. Like

you might have made a setting, maybe it wasn't exactly in that setting but that

actually really helps this story.

Tim: We will condense what was actually three conversations into one conversation or

that kind of thing.

Jon: But for you, the integrity of your relationship with Jessica is actually mostly or is

actually better explained in that way you're telling it.

Tim: That's right. It's a faithful representation, but it's not video camera footage.

Jon: And it's hard to feel comfortable with honestly. Even we've talked through that many

times, and it's kind of like, "Okay. It's weird." All right. One more question. Let's get


Man: As we're talking about leading people through the Bible, through this literary artful

approach, how do we help begin to navigate people through their own paradigm,

which especially for the younger generation it's increasingly being literal and linear,

where literature is not that way? They go to STEM programs where it's all about

linear thinking, and the linear approach, but we have this artful approach to

literature. How can we help them navigate, just break down some of those walls to

help them at least get to the point to begin to view it as literature and not just


Tim: Wow. So interesting. It might just be a difference of culture and where people are

from or where they live. Portland is a town that's obsessed with aesthetics, and

beauty, and design to the fault of it actually being an idol that ruins people. In my

mind, this is perfect.

This is perfect. There's no better way to bring people into the biblical story than to

show its high literary aesthetic because that's compelling. But you're right, there's a

whole other layer of our American culture that's like, "Why wouldn't you just say it

the way it is? Why do you get to use a metaphor? Or why do you have to write


In a local church setting, I think it is about trying to find creative ways to imitate the

literary diversity and beauty. Which the medium of the sermon can invite people into

that, but it's certainly not the only or most effective way to do that. So whether that's

having public readings of Scripture or biblical poetry or interpretation of Scripture

through other mediums to help get people using a different part of their brain to

process things that are real and true. Because that's what the Bible is doing. It's

using such a diverse set of tools to engage the whole human not just our brains. I

don't know if I answered your question. But it's a good one.

Jon: Yeah, that's a great question. Something to keep thinking about. Let's do one

example and then what we're going to do is we're going to then take a break to use

the restroom or whatever, and we'll come back, we'll do a couple more. Let's jump


Tim: Actually, we can do more than we one.

Jon: We can do more than we one?

Tim: Yeah, totally.

Jon: All right. Do it.

Tim: Here's the first tool. It's the most simple one to track in the biblical authors' toolset

and it's the most basic thing to human communication, which is repetition. Like, if it

matters, I'm going to keep saying it. The principle holds in biblical literature, but

especially in narrative that if you want the clues to what an author is emphasizing in

themes, just look for the repeated word image.

Jon: It is pretty basic. My kids get it.

Tim: It's super intuitive. You don't even need to say it. The way Hebrew works, Hebrew is

able to actually repeat words in more creative ways than most languages.

Jon: Why?

Tim: The language structure has three letter. All Hebrew words are built off of three

letters. What that means is that verbs, and nouns, and adjectives, you will almost

always see those three letters in them no matter what form the word is. So it's very

easy to spot repetition because it can be a verb, it can be a noun, it can—

Jon: The same three letters can be a verb, or a noun or...?

Tim: Correct. Like in English, you would say, "I go to the store. I went to the store. I am

going to the store." Well, I guess you have "go" and "going." That's an example. "Go"

and "going." But in Hebrew, it's much more adherent to that pattern. It means they

have this tool in their own language to create word plays and repetition in ways that

it's hard to do in other languages.

An example. There was a German scholar I was going to quote, but let's just do an

example. This will be intuitive to most people. I think it's the word "good," which, in

Hebrews the word "tob," right through the very first pages of the Bible. It strikes

most readers on page 1 of the Bible because you have that sevenfold repetition.

Jon: Yeah, it's really redundant. Good, it's good, it's good.

Tim: That's right. Each of each of the days, actually, not each of the days, day 2 doesn't

have any "goodness." So it's double "good" on the next day. But it gets repeated six

times. Then the seventh one, there's payoff if you've been noticing. Because this

phrase, "God saw that it was good" and "God saw that it was good." And then the

last one, "God saw that it was very good."

Jon: The last one, the sheriff was carrying a rifle over his shoulder.

Tim: Yeah, totally. That's right. And even you don't have to know anything about Hebrew,

ancient, anything. You just read page 1 of the Bible, the word good, keeps popping

up. Then the last one, "very good." Right? you're with me? There's aesthetic pleasure

that comes from tracking with that and it's the culminating point that God loves this

world. It's very, very good.

Then you figure like, "Oh, good. That's important. That's an important word. "Tob."

You go to page 2 and then you see that God provides all of these trees for humans

that are good. And good for what in particular? They're good for eating. That's the

first time where "good" appears after the sevenfold good in page 1.

Jon: For food.

Tim: Good for food. Like, "Oh, that's what trees are good for. They're good for food." But

then there's one particular tree, it's the tree of knowing good and not good.

Jon: Hold on a second. It doesn't say "not good."

Tim: It says "evil."

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Well, what it says is "rah." The Hebrew word is "rah."

Jon: Tob and rah.

Tim: Tob and rah, yeah. What is good and what is not good. I find that using the word

evil...evil in English has all this philosophical baggage but metaphysical evil that

Hebrew "rah" doesn't quite have. The point is—

Jon: That sounds interesting.

Tim: It is interesting.

Jon: Tell us more.

Tim: The point is, God who up to page 2 who's responsible as the giver and seer and

acknowledger of what is good. And it's very clear. Page 1, God. Then what He does is

He gives that good now in a very tangible form to the humans. But also in front of

the humans is a way of knowing what is good, and what is evil, or not good. That's a

bit of a twist. It's like, "Oh, everything's been good, but now there's something that's

good and the opposite of good. What's that about?"

And knowing humans can know what is good or not good. Then you have to go

have a cup of tea, or you're supposed to go have a cup of tea. Well, if the humans

right now what's prohibited to them is knowing what is good and what is not good,

then, who does know what is good? Just think through the logic of the narrative.

Who knows what is good? It very obvious. That's intuitive, you follow it through.

That's off limits.

God is the provider of good and He's the knower. There's something about humans

knowing and discerning good and not good that's going to go really bad if humans

do that because the day you eat of it you'll die.

You also get some stuff about the gold of that land. That was good. It's good. So it's

not just what you eat, it's aesthetic beauty. Gold, value. The first thing that is not

good explicitly, is something that God identifies within His world, and it's of a human


Notice it's a repetition. He said, "It's not good." So God is both a provider of what is

good and He's the knower of what is good, and what is not good, because He can

discern what's not. So all these go together here. God's the one with knowledge of

good and evil, and the male and the female, and so on.

The next time the phrase appears is when the snake comes to the woman and says,

"You know about that tree. If you were to be the ones knowing what is good, and

what is not good, you would be like God." Which introduces an irony into the

narrative, because, of course, they are the image of God. But that's how we dupe


All of a sudden, knowing what is good and what is not good, it becomes into the

human’s mind like, "Oh, maybe that's something that God's holding out on me."

Which creates the irony in the story because all that God's been providing is good.

That's what He wants for the humans. But now the humans have this choice in front

of them.

The key line comes when the woman saw that the tree was good. Now, just that

phrase right there, who's the only other character up to this point who has seen and

truly identified "good"?

Jon: God?

Tim: This is very obvious. You have now the human who's putting themselves in the

position of God to see what is good. It's a contrast. Using the same phrase, it's the

human acting in the role that God has put themselves in. When God sees good,

what results? More good. When the humans see something and be like, oh, that's

the good thing, what happens? It's the opposite.

That's a good example of it's an identical phrase "God saw that it was good" "the

woman saw that it was good," but they're contrasting. They are both in the motive

and in the result of what happens. There you go. So let's just pause right there.

Just on pages 1 to 3, you see, all of a sudden, oh, this is really important. This

keyword, it's not the only word, there are tons of other things we do, but this is a

really easy one to identify.

Jon: Like, the author could have chosen different words, different ways of saying it.

Obviously, it was crafted this way.

Tim: Yes. Just "tob," clearly it's keeps getting repeated.

Jon: We're talking about jokes before and it does remind me of a good comedian

chooses every single word very carefully and it's super important. The same thing

with a good author. Especially for writing poetry, I guess any work, but poetry's like

every single word, you're doing it for the exact reason.

Tim: Yeah. Actually, poetry is a good example. Typically, you expect that of poetry,

because, you know they're using fewer words to pack in more meaning. But in the

Western tradition of say, fiction writing or novel, or even writing biographies, the

point is not being concise. It's actually often the opposite.

Here with biblical narrative, it's already very spare, but you begin to realize every

word is crafted in the same kind of intentionality.

Jon: Because I could say, "I think you're getting a little too crazy in how you're..."

Tim: Reading too much in?

Jon: You're reading too much into this. You're trying to make it do too much because

you think this is a special text. But you're saying like, "No, everything's intentional."

Tim: It's a cumulative case. This is just the first example. This is about one keyword that

you find linked throughout a whole bunch of stories. Here's an example from Luke

where it's a key phrase—

Jon: You didn't do the last bit of Genesis 4. Does it matter? It doesn't matter?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: We're cruising?

Tim: Yeah, we're cruising. Here's in Luke 3 and 4. This is where Jesus first comes on to the

narrative scene in the Gospel of Luke. The first is the story of his baptism. For the

reader, actually, Jesus has been introduced the birth narratives, but as an adult, this

is his entry onto the scene. It's the classic baptism scene of the sky opens, the

heavenly voice speaks, you are my son, the Spirit, all that.

So you walk away from that narrative. Who's Jesus? He's the beloved Son of the

Father. There it is. He's the son of God. The next literary thing is the genealogy that

Luke provides. He builds it in such a way that actually begins with Jesus, and then

works backward, all the way back through the Hebrew Scriptures. It's the reversed

genealogy all the way back through the Hebrew Scriptures, going back to the first

human character who's called the Son of God.

Jon: Luke calls him that?

Tim: Luke call Adam the Son of God.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: All of a sudden, you're like, "Oh, two stories right next to each other, both culminate

in this phrase "the Son of God"" Jesus goes into the wilderness and the first thing

that the Satan is testing Jesus with is trying to undermine, and get Jesus to doubt his

identity as - it gets repeated - "If you really are God's Son, then do this."

After that, Jesus goes to the town of Nazareth, and he's giving his sermon, his intro

sermon. And the first thing Luke tells us that people ask is, "Whose son is this again?

Wait a minute. Isn't this the kid who grew up in town here?" Now it's people

doubting Jesus. After that is the story where Jesus cast out a demon and the first

thing that the evil spirit say is, "You are the Son of God."

Look what he's done here. He's put five episodes right next to each other.

Jon: All on a row?

Tim: Yeah. They all culminate in this moment of Jesus's identity being the son of God. But

notice in each of the stories it's a different type of claim being made. In the first, it's

the father. In the second, it's Luke appealing to Jesus's son ship as in continuity with

the story of the Scriptures. In the third one, it's about Jesus's identity as the son

being tested. In the fourth one, it's his identity being doubted. Then in the fifth one,

it's his identity being acknowledged but from a really surprising source, namely,

spiritual evil.

So you can see it's creative. This is creative way of forcing the reader to look at Jesus

identity from all these angles. It's Luke's way of trying to persuade you as to the

identity of Jesus, but he does it by showing how the identity of Jesus is complex and

contested, and it's something that you have to discover just like all these different

characters, and people do. It's brilliant. Because he could just write like the way Mark

does at the beginning. "This is the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

Jon: "And we're moving forward. We got thing to do."

Tim: "Let's move on." But instead, he does this. And so it kind of goes back to the

question of like, why didn't the biblical author just say it like it is? And it's just, well, I

don't know. It's a different culture. This is how God chose to reveal Himself is

through this literary tradition in Israelite culture that has a much more effective way,

I think, of communicating.

Jon: This sticks with you a lot more.

Tim: Totally, yes. The first time I noticed this, this was years ago that I noticed this, and

then it never left my memory.

Jon: Yeah, this will preach.

Tim: Yeah, totally. You want to do one more example and then maybe a potty break?

Jon: It looks like a long one.

Tim: This is the longest one, but it's cool.

Jon: All right. It's good.

Tim: This has to do with how the word site or seeing plays a crucial role in the story of the

selection of Saul and then of Saul's failure in the book of 1 Samuel. This is where it

begins to branch off into keywords is one crucial piece - repeated words. But also

when you see keywords repeating, you're supposed to start noticing all kinds of

other things happening in the story that begins to match up as you go through.

Themes - repeated ideas.

The first time that people ask for a king, and that's kind of screwed up and that's a

40 Episodes

Episode 40
The Obvious and Extravagant Claim of the Gospel
All four gospels are pointing toward the same simple yet profound claim. As we read the Gospels, how should we understand discrepancies and variations to see the point of it all?
52m • Sep 30, 2019
Episode 39
Why Are There Four Accounts of the Gospel?
Each of the four gospels begin differently—and for a reason. Learn more about the unique opening chapters of each gospel and discover new ways to read these accounts and understand their claims.
1hr 8m • Sep 23, 2019
Episode 38
The Gospel Is More Than You Think
Where does the word "gospel" come from, and are we using it right? Learn the history of this word and dive into how the biblical authors talked about the Gospel.
55m • Sep 16, 2019
Episode 37
What Does the Word "Gospel" Mean?
Explore the history of the word, "gospel," how modern Western Christians often use the word different than the biblical authors. What is the gospel? The answer is far more exciting and complex than we've been led to believe.
1hr 11m • Sep 9, 2019
Episode 36
Wisdom Q+R
Enjoy our Q+R episode on the wisdom literature in the Bible.
1hr 12m • Jul 29, 2019
Episode 35
Solomon the Cynic and the Job You Never Knew
Welcome to our final episode discussing wisdom literature in the Bible. In this episode, Tim and Jon cover two books, Ecclesiastes and Job.
1hr 5m • Jul 15, 2019
Episode 34
Song of Songs: Semi-Erotic Love Poetry
Welcome to episode 5 in our series on How to Read Biblical Wisdom Literature! In this episode, Tim and Jon discuss Song of Songs.
1hr 4m • Jul 8, 2019
Episode 33
Proverbs: Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly
Welcome to episode four in our series on how to read the wisdom literature of the Bible. Today, Tim and Jon dive into the book of Proverbs.
45m • Jul 1, 2019
Episode 32
Solomon: The Wisest of the Fools
Welcome to our third episode discussing the theme of Wisdom in the Bible.
1hr • Jun 24, 2019
Episode 31
The Quest for Wisdom
Welcome to our new series on how to read the wisdom books in biblical literature!
46m • Jun 10, 2019
Episode 30
Law Q+R
Listen to our audience's questions about how to read biblical law.
56m • Jun 3, 2019
Episode 29
Jesus Fulfills the Law
Welcome to another episode exploring how to read biblical law. This is the final part of this discussion before our Q+R episode for this series.
48m • May 27, 2019
Episode 28
God's Wisdom in the Law
Welcome to our fourth episode on how to read biblical law!
51m • May 20, 2019
Episode 27
The Law as a Revolution
Welcome to our third episode on how to read biblical law!
1hr 2m • May 13, 2019
Episode 26
The Law as a Covenantal Partnership
Welcome to our second episode on how to read biblical law!
1hr 13m • May 6, 2019
Episode 25
The Purpose of the Law
Listen in as we begin our disccusion on the laws in the Bible.
1hr 13m • Apr 29, 2019
Episode 24
Prophets as Provokers
Welcome to episode two in our series on How to Read the Prophets.
56m • Apr 22, 2019
Episode 23
What Prophecy Is for
Welcome to episode one in our miniseries on how to read the Prophets.
58m • Apr 15, 2019
Episode 22
Poetry Q+R
Here is our question and response episode where we answer our listeners' questions about poetry and metaphor in the Bible.
48m • Jul 2, 2018
Episode 21
Chaotic Waters
In the last episode of our Metaphor series, Jon and Tim discuss how water is often displayed as rambunctious and dangerous in the Bible.
1hr 11m • Jun 25, 2018
Episode 20
The Mountain Garden and the Human Ideal
This is our second episode in our series on metaphors in the Bible.
46m • Jun 18, 2018
Episode 19
Metaphor and Our Imagination
This is our first episode in our three-part series on the use of metaphor in the Bible.
59m • Jun 12, 2018
Episode 18
God Speaks in Poetry
This is the 2nd episode in our Art of Biblical Poetry podcast where we explore how God speaks in poetic language.
44m • Jun 4, 2018
Episode 17
The Thunder of God
This is episode 1 in our series on Biblical Poetry!
1hr 18m • May 28, 2018
Episode 16
Chaotic Waters and Baptism
Tim and Jon continue to recap key stories in Genesis and the Old Testament. The key themes in these stories are the chaotic waters and salvation through them.
1hr 2m • Apr 23, 2018
Episode 15
Crossing the Chaotic Waters
Tim and Jon discuss literary design patterns in the Bible.
51m • Apr 16, 2018
Episode 14
Live from Milpitas! Part 2
This is part 2 in our live conversation from Milpitas California! Tim and Jon continue their discussion on design patterns in the Bible.
1hr 18m • Apr 9, 2018
Episode 13
Live from Milpitas! Part 1
Tim and Jon discuss literature design patterns in the Bible to a live audience and answer questions from the audience.
1hr 16m • Apr 2, 2018
Episode 12
Setting in Biblical Narrative
Tim and Jon discuss the importance of understanding “Setting” in Bible stories.
35m • Mar 25, 2018
Episode 11
Character in Biblical Narrative
In this episode Tim and Jon discuss character design in the Bible.
49m • Jan 15, 2018
Episode 10
Plot in Biblical Narrative
Tim and Jon discuss how understanding the unique ways plot and narrative are used by the Hebrew authors to write Bible stories can impact how we read the Bible.
51m • Oct 2, 2017
Episode 9
The Bible as Jewish Meditation Literature: Jewish Scripture Meditation vs. Modern Meditation
In this episode, Tim and Jon continue their conversation about Cain and Abel and why it is a good example of Jewish meditation literature.
40m • Aug 11, 2017
Episode 8
Why Isn't There More Detail in Bible Stories?
Maybe, like us, you've asked yourself this questions or found yourself confused while reading the Bible. We don't know why a character did what they did, or what they looked like, or even what the moral of the story is. How do we make sense of this?
44m • Aug 4, 2017
Episode 7
Poetry, Narrative, and Prose Discourse
Jon and Tim discuss the different literary styles used in the Bible.
45m • Jun 23, 2017
Episode 6
Literary Genres and the Stories We Tell Ourselves
Tim and Jon discuss the three literary styles used in the Bible: narrative, poetry, and prose discourse.
1hr 1m • Jun 19, 2017
Episode 5
Is Reading the Bible Together Just a Form of Groupthink?
A jam-packed episode where Tim and Jon discuss the ancient Hebrew practice of reading the Bible aloud, the sociology of both creating environments and being created by environments in Christianity, and the different kind of power between stories and facts.
48m • Jun 9, 2017
Episode 4
Ancient vs. Modern Ways of Reading Scripture
Tim and Jon discuss the differences in ancient and modern ways of reading scripture, including why the Hebrew people would read scripture together as a group. The guys also talk about how challenging it can be to read the Bible by yourself.
59m • Jun 2, 2017
Episode 3
What Is the Story of the Bible?
In this episode Tim and Jon discuss the big narrative arcs of the Bible. What is the Bible really talking about?
59m • May 26, 2017
Episode 2
What's in Your Bible?
In this episode, Tim and Jon give an overview of the entire Bible with a focus on the Hebrew Scriptures.
1hr 10m • Feb 14, 2017
Episode 1
The Bible as Divine Literary Art
Why are the books of the Bible ordered the way they are? Is there a value in reading the Bible in any other order?
1hr 3m • Feb 8, 2017
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