last updated May 3, 2019
How can anyone tell the whole story of the Bible in just 16 verses?
It’s impossible, of course.
The whole story of the Bible actually takes the whole Bible.
Sixteen cherry-picked verses–no matter how carefully chosen–just can’t communicate the richness, beauty, and depth of the biblical message.
Yet to convey the overarching narrative and message, perhaps it’s possible to identify certain key texts as Chris Bruno does in The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses (Crossway, 2015). Here’s his list:
Part 1: The Time Is Coming
1. Creation (Genesis 1:31)
2. Human Beings (Genesis 1:26-27)
3. The Fall (Genesis 3:6-7)
4. Redemption Promised (Genesis 3:15)
5. Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3)
6. Judah the King (Genesis 49:10)
7. The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:23)
8. King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13)
9. The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:6)
10. Resurrection Promised (Ezekiel 37:3-5)
11. New Creation (Isaiah 65:17)
As you can see, his selection follows the shape of the Bible as Old and New Testaments, and reflects a solid evangelical reading of Scripture that moves toward the cross and atonement. He offers this “as a tool that people can use to see the whole story of Scripture with 16 key stopping points.” At the same time, he readily acknowledges in this interview that “there are many different ways you could tell the story, many different verses that could be chosen.”
His comments made me wonder,
What might an Anabaptist reading of Scripture in 16 verses look like? In what ways might the 16 key stopping points be the same or different?
So I decided to try Chris Bruno’s exercise for myself, and came up with my own list:
1. God, the Creator of all things (Genesis 1)
2. Humanity struggling with sin (Genesis 3)
3. Chosen to be a blessing (Genesis 12:1-3)
4. Called to love God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
5. Saved by a Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:1-6)
6. Called to love kindness, do justice, walk humbly (Micah 6:8)
7. The Word made flesh (John 1:1-14)
8. Jesus begins his mission (Luke 4:16-21)
9. Called to carry the cross and follow (Matthew 16:24-26)
10. Jesus’ suffering and death (Mark 15:25-41)
11. Christ is risen! (John 20:1-18)
12. Called to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20)
13. Christ before all things (Colossians 1:15-20)
Like Chris Bruno, I’ve chosen texts from both Old and New Testaments, although with relatively more verses from the New. Instead of mainly individual verses, I’ve chosen longer passages to give more of the context, and I’ve arranged the texts in three groups to highlight Scripture as God’s story–God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
I wanted to include Jesus’ words on the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:34-40), then decided perhaps that wasn’t necessary since I had already listed the texts from Deuteronomy and Micah, and besides what would I drop? In my initial list I had Jesus’ sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), but listing three chapters as one text felt too much like cheating. The Colossians text might seem a surprising choice, but for me this is a critical reminder that Jesus is both the Jesus of the gospels and so much more.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What do you think of this exercise to choose 16 verses that communicate the message of Scripture? How would your list be the same or different from mine, or from Chris Bruno’s?
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