You’ve probably learned by now that the Bible tells a story. It’s not just a collection of many stories – it is itself a story, from beginning to end. And until we understand that story we really don’t get what the Bible is all about.
Hi, I’m Fred Zaspel, executive editor here at Books At a Glance, and today we’re talking to Dr. Chris Bruno, author of The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses. It’s a wonderful little book designed to help us track that Bible Story – all in 16 brief chapters. And summarized in 16 verses of Scripture – well, sort of. We’ll talk about that too.
Chris, welcome, and thanks for talking to us today!
Thank you, Fred. It’s a pleasure to speak with you and to join you today. I’m really looking forward to the conversation.
What is the Bible story? Is there a 60-second version?
Well, I think the simplest way to say it, which is certainly not original to me, is the Bible tells the story of creation, a God who created all things, and the fall of human beings into sin, and the world under the curse as a result of that. So creation, fall, and then God’s promise and plan of redemption; that God would send a Savior to right all that had gone wrong in the fall. And then the final consummation, or another way to talk about that is the new creation. So creation, fall, redemption and new creation is an easy way, if people aren’t familiar with the way to think about the Bible as one single story; those four words, those four concepts can really help fit everything together. So it tells one story of one God who made all things, and one Savior who is redeeming the entire creation.
So, as we’re reading through along the way the important thing to remember is where we are in the big picture, right?
Okay, can you really tell that story in just 16 verses selected from the Bible? Tell us what you are attempting in your book.
Well, the short answer is: maybe. It depends on how you look at it. I am certainly not trying to be comprehensive and tell every part of the story of the Bible. That’s why God gave us a Bible that has 66 books; that is full of details and tells a story of a God who made all things and everything we have just mentioned. What I am trying to do in the book is really highlight key turning points, or I use the analogy of the forest and the trees.
Looking at 16 important trees in the forest that is the story of the Bible; tracing some of the covenants; tracing some of the fulfillment of God’s promises; tracing those turning points along the way that are kind of like hooks that we can hang the rest of the story on. So I am certainly not being comprehensive and maybe the title, The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses, might direct people away from what I’m trying to do if they are thinking about it wrongly.
But by saying it’s the whole story, what I’m trying to say is – here are 16 verses that give us a scope of the whole story. Sixteen places where, if we know these, that as you’re reading through the rest of the Bible you will be able to, like you said earlier, “remember where you are at in the story.” So it is just another tool to take us one step further in putting our whole Bibles together and understand the single-story that God has told in the Scripture.
So what you’re doing is highlighting the major stepping points and themes that track the story. Highlight those steps for us.
Sure, without taking away from the book, I won’t walk through all 16 of them, but when I am basically doing is beginning in the beginning (shockingly) in Genesis 1 and looking at the creation of the world and the creation of human beings in God’s image, and taking a moment to reflect on that first point. Creation: what has God made us for? And then moving forward from there through Genesis 3, the tragedy of the fall and the rebellion of Adam and Eve against the God who had made them.
Moving forward from there, not just Genesis 3:6 & 7 where Adam and Eve fell into sin, but then Genesis 3:15 where God promised to send a Redeemer – the offspring of the woman who would one day crush the head of the serpent – is the way it is put there. And really most of the rest of the story of the Bible is the unfolding of that promise, that God would send a Redeemer to put right what had gone wrong in the fall. So what I do is trace the fulfillment of that promise. First, through Abraham in Genesis 12 and the promises that God had given to Abraham that his offspring would rule over the nations, would bless the nations, would be the one through whom the Genesis 3 promises are fulfilled.
Then moving forward in Abraham’s family, thinking about the patriarchs and specifically the Lion of Judah. And David, then, who comes from the Lion of Judah, who is promised an eternal throne. And so, tracing out some of that, so we walk through these particular passages in Genesis that I mentioned – Genesis 1, Genesis 3, Genesis 12, Genesis 49, and really get a handle on God’s promises in Genesis.
Then move to II Samuel 7 with David and think about how God’s promises to David and to Abraham are going to be fulfilled in the prophetic books. And so the prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, I should say, talk a lot about the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and to David in the new covenant. Eleven of the 16 verses are in the Old Testament. I really want to spend a lot of time helping Christians who maybe don’t spend as much time in the Old Testament. Seeing that we can’t really understand the New Testament without understanding the story of the Old Testament. The big picture that moves us from Genesis 1, the creation, all the way to the end of the Old Testament, and things like Isaiah 65 & 66 and the promise of a new creation to come. It’s all foundational for understanding the New Testament.
And then in the second part I trace the fulfillment of God’s promises in the New Testament. First through Jesus who comes on the scene in Mark 1 and says the time is fulfilled, the kingdom is at hand, repent and believe the good news. And Jesus lives a perfect life ministering among the Jews and is condemned to death and then in John 19:30 (the next text that I go to from Mark 1) Jesus says it is finished. That is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises are finished or fulfilled through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Then I wrap up the book by going to Romans and Revelation; by looking at the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection as the fulfillment of God’s promises; and then the glorious picture of the new heavens and the new earth in Revelation 21 when God will make all things new. So I highlight all those steps along the way quickly giving an overview of the Bible. And all of this is with the goal of reminding people that this is one story that hangs together that has one author to the story and one glorious plan of redemption for God’s people.
Have people asked you why you didn’t include this or that step, or this or that episode, in the story?
Yes, they certainly have, and I understand. I chose 16 verses that I thought did a good job of wrapping up the key points of the story but there are places along the way – the Mosaic covenant – I have a chapter on the Passover lamb, but I don’t have a specific chapter on the 10 Commandments. But I do want to address all of the covenants along the way.
I addressed Ezekiel 37 but I don’t have a chapter on Jeremiah 31, which is where the new covenant is explained maybe most clearly in the Old Testament. But I do explain this in the book that the new covenant is in view in most, if not all, of the prophetic books of the Old Testament. So although there may be particular verses that others may have included, I think when I start talking with people, the key concepts such as the Mosaic covenant, new covenant, and others, are there. They are just maybe not as explicit as that particular person would have liked it to be.
Tell us how this book came about, and give us some suggestions as to how it might be put to good use.
This book was actually born out of my teaching ministry. In Hawaii, I was teaching a class on the covenants of the Bible and I wanted to give the students an overview of the story of Scripture. So I sat down and worked through several passages on my own and then came to the class with the students and spent two hours walking through what essentially became an outline of the book. A lot of the students were helped by it. It helped them to have just 16 or so verses that they could walk through in an hour or two and see the story of the Bible.
So the book was born out of a teaching ministry, and I repeated a similar session a couple of different times and found people helped by it. I think there are a lot of great biblical theological resources out there. That is, books that help us see the unity of the story of the Bible, but there are a lot of kids’ books. If you are not familiar with those – The Jesus Storybook Bible, the Big Picture Story Bible, there are a couple of others – that are great resources for parents.
And then there are books that are a little more advanced that help you see the scope of the story of the Bible – Graeme Goldsworthy has a book called According to Plan, Vaughan Roberts has a book called God’s Big Picture. Those books are helpful, but I saw a little bit of a gap there where people might be too embarrassed to sit in Starbucks with The Jesus Storybook Bible, but those other books by Vaughan Roberts and Graeme Goldsworthy were still too advanced for them. So I was trying to fill that gap and give people an on-ramp to biblical theology; so in the teaching and in the book that came with my teaching I hope I’ve been able to help fill that gap.
You have another, related book on the way from Crossway too, right?
I do. My next book with Crossway will be published in February of 2017 and is another, hopefully, on-ramp to biblical theology. There are two general ways to approach this method of biblical theology; that is tracing the story and the themes of the Bible. One is a straight chronological or canonical approach, which is what I did in the first book, The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses. Another way to approach biblical theology, though, is to trace individual themes or concepts or words through the Bible.
This next book is called The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words; and what I’m doing is tracing 16 key themes through the story of the Bible. For example, God – how is God revealed throughout the story of the Bible? Covenants – how are God’s covenants unfolded throughout the story of the Bible? Kingdom – how is God’s kingdom progressively revealed as the story of the Bible unfolds? The Messiah, King Jesus – how is the revelation of Jesus progressively given to us?
So I am tracing these themes throughout the story of the Bible. My hope is that it will be a supplement and an addition to what I have done with the first book so that we have two books that we will be able to put into the hands of people who are new to biblical theology; new to seeing the Bible as one unified story; that they can read through those and be equipped for a lifetime of study of the Bible in a better and more thorough way.
We’re talking to Chris Bruno, author of The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses. It’s a wonderful little book designed to help us track the Bible Story. For sure – get a box of these and use them well in your church, Sunday School, and small groups and watch the Bible open up.
Chris, thanks for the good work – it’s a great service to the church – and thanks for talking to us today.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you, Fred.