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Who Is the Bible About?

Episode 5
56m
October 11, 2021
Is the story of the Bible about humans or God? Because the Bible is about the Messiah—the God who became human—it’s about both God and humans. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss how the story of the Bible and all of its main themes come to their fulfiillment in Jesus, making it a redemption story for all of us.
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QUOTE

What Moses assumes is that he’s going to have to die. He says, “Listen, I know these people have done a really terrible thing, and that’s worthy of an act of justice. So take me out instead of them. Blot out my name for their sin.” And God forgives the people, but he doesn’t require Moses’ life. Moses’ intercession is successful. If the Bible was a theology dictionary, and if that story was about [the question] “Does God change his mind?”, you would expect the story to resolve the puzzle. But all the story does is raise this crisis of humans failing and being worthy of God’s justice. But someone steps in and intercedes, and God shows mercy. … This is something that needs to happen, and that is precisely the role that Jesus is presented as filling.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Bible is messianic literature. In other words, the story of the Bible and all of its main themes come to their fulfillment in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit.
  • Throughout the Bible, God chooses human partners who fail again and again. The storyline itself generates an expectation of a coming royal human leader, who will bear God’s image without corruption and lead his people into renewed covenant partnership with Yahweh.
  • Not every passage in the Hebrew Bible will be about the entire biblical story, but every passage will play off the themes introduced in Genesis 1-2 and point readers toward the need for the Messiah.

The Bible Is Messianic Literature

In part one (00:00 - 16:45), Tim, Jon, and Carissa dive back into our ongoing conversation dissecting our mission statement, which we adopted because it’s the paradigm the Bible puts forth about itself: the Bible is one unified story that leads to Jesus.

This paradigm is made up of seven attributes, two of which we’ve covered already. In this episode, we turn our attention to the third pillar of the biblical paradigm: the Bible is messianic literature. This element is connected to the pillar we discussed in the last two episodes, that the Bible is unified literature. The story that unifies the diverse collection of literature within the Bible is the story of Jesus. In other words, the story of the Bible and all of its main themes come to their fulfillment in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit.

For those who have ever wondered why anyone should care about a collection of ancient Hebrew literature, the Bible’s messianic storyline is a big part of the answer. To be a Christian is to be a follower of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus, and Jesus saw himself as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. This should alter our reading of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. These stories are not, first and foremost, about us the readers—they are about the Messiah. The Bible has something to say to each and every one of us because it is about the Messiah who came to rescue and redeem humanity.

Every time we increase our understanding of the Bible, we increase our understanding of who Jesus is and what it means to follow him.

Chosen but Corrupted

In part two (16:45 - 31:00), the team looks at a case study of this principle and discusses how the story of God’s chosen people is ultimately about the Messiah.

From the opening of the Bible, God chooses humans to partner with him on a mission to rule the earth and bear his image. But when Adam and Eve corrupt that mission, the story takes a turn toward a theme we encounter again and again: God chooses one person to be a blessing to others and lead them back toward covenant partnership with himself. Noah is an early example of this, but he starts another pattern that replays again and again: God’s chosen partners fail and repeat the sin of Eden. Even Israel’s royal priests and legendary kings prove to be corrupt.

All of these human failings are designed to generate an expectation of a coming royal human leader, who will bear God’s image without corruption and lead his people into renewed covenant partnership with Yahweh. This leader is the Messiah.

The Messiah in Every Story

In part three (31:00 - 46:30), Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss methods for identifying how any given narrative or book of the Hebrew Bible is about the Messiah.

The first step in that discovery process is to identify where the garden of Eden themes are in a passage. Not every passage will be about the entire biblical story, but every passage will play off the themes introduced in Genesis 1-2 and developed throughout the Hebrew Bible.

For example, the famous golden calf story from Exodus 32 is full of imagery from Genesis 1-2. God has just delivered his people from Egypt and is leading them to the promised land (described to be like Eden). Right after telling the Israelites not to construct any idol images (because the people themselves are the images of God), the people do just that and construct a golden calf. So Moses intercedes on behalf of the people, and God relents. In this story, Moses is not only fulfilling the role for which God created humanity—to bear his image and be his representatives––he is acting like the Messiah, putting himself in the place of the sinful Israelites. Moses even expects to die! But God listens to him and spares the Israelites.

If the Bible is merely like a theology dictionary (see Episode 1), then all this story does is raise theological questions about whether or not God changes his mind. Instead, this story reinforces a crisis we have already seen: humans fail and are worthy of God’s justice. But instead of humans receiving that justice, a righteous intercessor, who is willing to lay down his life, steps in and saves humanity.

In Exodus 32, Moses acts as the “servant” of the Lord, a portrait picked up and developed further by the prophet Isaiah. However, Isaiah’s servant is never named. Instead, the servant is held up as a person humanity desperately needs. It is this role that Jesus fulfills in the Gospel accounts.

This changes the focus as we read any story in the Bible. For instance, when we read the story of David defeating Goliath (1 Samuel 17), instead of asking who or what our personal “giants” are, we should be asking what David’s actions reveal about who the Messiah is.

A Story for All of Us

In part four (46:30 - End), the team wraps up by exploring the inseparable nature of the Bible’s focus on the Messiah and on humanity.

The Messiah is God who became human to show us our true identity and purpose. Following Jesus the Messiah means uniting with him and imitating him by sacrificing ourselves and reclaiming the image of God for all of humanity. This makes the story of the Bible personal but not private––it’s a story for all of us.

Referenced Resources

  • The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1, J. Richard Middleton
  • David Andrew Teeter, Hebrew Bible scholar
  • Interested in more? Check out Tim’s library here.

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by TENTS
  • “On a Walk” by Fantompower

Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel, and Zach McKinley. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

Powered and distributed by Simplecast.

Scripture References
Exodus 32:9-10
2 Samuel 7:12-13
Luke 24:44
Matthew 5:17
Luke 24:45-47
Leviticus 4:3
Exodus 39:25-26
Exodus 32:14
Isaiah 57:12
Matthew 3:10
1 Samuel 17:4-6
Genesis 44:33

14 Episodes

Episode 1
How Do You Read the Bible?
Have you ever read the Bible and felt like you're not "getting it"? In this episode, Tim and Jon take a look at the (often unhelpful) paradigms through which we interact with Scripture. They explore how seeing the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus not only gives the Bible space to do what it was created to do, but frees us to be transformed by the story it’s telling.
1hr 5m • September 13, 2021
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Episode 2
Who Wrote the Bible?
How does God work in the world and communicate with humanity? In this episode, Tim and Jon explore God’s relationship with his creation and the relationship between the Bible’s divine and human origins. They also discuss how God uses human words to communicate his divine word.
53m • September 20, 2021
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Episode 3
The Bible Had Editors?
How can a collection of ancient manuscripts written by numerous people over thousands of years tell one unified story? In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa dive into how the Bible was written and how such a diverse collection of authors, literary styles, and themes can form one divinely inspired, unified story.
59m • September 27, 2021
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Episode 4
How the New Testament Came To Be
At first glance, the New Testament can seem wildly different from the Old Testament—but is it? Jesus saw himself as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures and the climax of the story that began thousands of years before his birth. In this episode, join Tim, Jon, and Carissa as they explore the unity of the New Testament and the intricate yet consistent storyline of the Bible.
53m • October 4, 2021
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Episode 5
Who Is the Bible About?
Is the story of the Bible about humans or God? Because the Bible is about the Messiah—the God who became human—it’s about both God and humans. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss how the story of the Bible and all of its main themes come to their fulfiillment in Jesus, making it a redemption story for all of us.
56m • October 11, 2021
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Episode 6
Literature for a Lifetime
What’s the ideal way to [study the Bible](https://bibleproject.com/)? Is it 20 minutes of reading every morning or larger blocks of time throughout the week? In this episode, join Tim, Jon, and Carissa as they discuss what it means for the Bible to be ancient Jewish meditation literature. The biblical authors intended for it to be understood over the course of a lifetime of rereading, not in one sitting.
56m • October 18, 2021
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Episode 7
Inspiration, Quiet Time, and Slaying Your Giants
How were the books of the Bible selected? What should we do if we have a hard time reading the Bible? How does the Bible apply to daily life? In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa respond to your questions from the Paradigm series so far. Thanks to our audience for all your incredible questions!
1hr 19m • November 1, 2021
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Episode 8
Wisdom for Life’s Complexity
How can we know we are making the “right” choice in situations the Bible doesn’t address? In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa talk about the Bible as wisdom literature designed to reveal God’s wisdom to humanity—even for complex circumstances it doesn’t explicitly address.
1hr 2m • November 8, 2021
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Episode 9
The Bible Wasn’t Written in English
What makes the biblical languages so important? Because the Bible was written in another time and culture, we need to honor its ancient historical context and original languages as we read and study it. In this week’s podcast episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa explore why an awareness of the Bible’s culture—and our own—can help us be better interpreters of the Bible.
59m • November 15, 2021
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Episode 10
What the Bible’s Authors Took for Granted
Have you ever figured out halfway through a conversation that you and another person were on totally different pages? Reading the Bible can feel like this at times. We’re all products of our cultures, families, and environments, and it affects how we understand others. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa prepare us for a cross-cultural conversation with the Bible by discussing the cultural values of the biblical authors.
1hr 11m • November 22, 2021
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Episode 11
The Last Pillar: Communal Literature
Are there ways to read the Bible other than a private quiet time? For most of Church history, followers of Jesus read the Bible out loud in groups and passed along its message verbally. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa talk about what it means for the Bible to be communal literature and how knowing that might just change the way we experience it today.
1hr 3m • November 29, 2021
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Episode 12
How (Not) To Read the Bible
What do we do with the passages in the Bible that are really difficult? Violence, slavery, the treatment of women—what the Bible has to say about these topics has, at times, been misinterpreted and misused. Join Tim, Jon, Carissa, and special guest Dan Kimball as they discuss his book, *How (Not) to Read the Bible*, and explore how any topic in the Bible looks different when we see it as part of a unified story.
57m • December 6, 2021
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Episode 13
Is the Bible Trustworthy?
How do we teach the Bible to our children? How can a book written by humans be divinely authoritative? Is the Bible historically accurate? In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa wrap up the Paradigm series by responding to your questions!
1hr 9m • December 13, 2021
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Episode 14
Applying the Paradigm
How do we apply the biblical paradigm to our own Bible reading? It starts with reading the Bible in movements—the thematic patterns in which the biblical authors organized their ideas long before chapters and verse numbers were printed. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa introduce us to biblical movements and walk through how to identify and trace biblical themes on our own.
58m • December 20, 2021
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