Growing up, I was fascinated by a popular hardcover collection of biblical stories titled My Book of Bible Stories. It was published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a publishing organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The beautiful pictures and exciting stories about biblical figures and events – the garden of Eden, the flood, the entry into Canaan – were a constant delight. It taught me to see the Bible as a collection of fascinating tales.
As I reflect on this today, I realize that the Bible cannot be understood merely as a collection of stories with moral lessons. It is one grand story unfolding through the history of a nation. It is a narrative of God’s creation, man’s ongoing rebellion, and God’s compassionate redemption. Indeed, we can find several stories within it. The story of Adam and Eve, the call of Abraham, the faithfulness of Noah, the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, the fall of Jericho, the interesting encounter between David and Goliath, and so on. We could even point to the unique account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, these are really sub-plots within this single story and they lose their ultimate meaning when detached from this central theme. We should read every story, every passage, with this narrative in mind.
In this light, the story of Adam and Eve relates the sad incident of humanity’s fall into sin. This was the event which made redemption necessary in the first place. The call of Abraham was the launch of God’s community on earth after the fall. The conquest of Jericho as the Israelites entered the promised land was God fulfilling his promise to Abraham centuries earlier. Far from the encounter between David and Goliath being an exhortation to personal courage in the face of difficulties, it portrayed God’s devotion to preserving his covenant people and defending them against their enemies. And the life and ministry of Jesus is not merely a display of what a perfect selfless and loving life looks like, but it is the account of God coming into our world and taking on human nature in order to fulfill the plan of redemption which had commenced right from Eden. In other words, the ministry of Jesus, which is at the heart of the biblical story, narrates how the redeemer of God’s covenant people came into the world to save his people and establish God’s kingdom on earth, the task which Adam and Eve had failed to do.
So we understand this book rightly when we don’t see it as a mere collection of inspiring moral stories but as an account of the Redemption story.