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BibleProject Podcast
BibleProject Podcast
The Paradigm • Episode 5
Who Is the Bible About?
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 fulfillment in Jesus, making it a story that’s personal but not private, 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.

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Paradigm E1  –  1hr 5m
How Do You Read the Bible?
1hr 5m
Paradigm E2  –  53m
Who Wrote the Bible?
53m
Paradigm E3  –  59m
The Bible had Editors?
59m
Paradigm E4  –  53m
How the New Testament Came To Be
53m
Paradigm E5  –  56m
Who Is the Bible About?
56m
Paradigm E6  –  56m
Literature for a Lifetime
56m
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