In a class called "Teaching the Bible to Youth and Adults" at Campbell University Divinity School, my students were asked to think about the Bible as a metanarrative for understanding our place in the world. (One of our textbooks is "The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story" by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen.)
An important thing to remember, of course, is that no matter how many words we use to express the biblical message, it is incomplete, Cartledge writes.
Bartholomew and Goheen argue that themes of divine creation, human corruption and God's ongoing work of redemption permeate the Bible.
After showing a humorous video on "The Bible in a Minute," and as a way of getting our heads around the idea of the Bible as a metanarrative, I asked the class to try summarizing the overarching message of the Bible in half a page.
After that, I asked them to give it another try, this time in 10 words or fewer. Here's what they came up with:
"God had a plan, made man: man rebelled, God redeemed."
"God is. God created. The created fell. God redeemed."
"Creation. Sin. Exile. Chaos. Saviour. Teaching. Crucifixion. Saved."
"God created a good world that messed up and is redeemed by Jesus."
"God is good, humanity is not perfect, Christ redeems. Love God, love others."
"God loves everyone. People sin. Jesus forgives. We get heaven."
"God created that we may live, and sacrificed that we may live eternally."
"Everything is good. Everything goes bad. God's new plan: Jesus."
"God created. Humans sinned. New plan. Jesus saves. Eternal life."
"Creation, fall, birth of Christ, crucifixion, resurrection, transformation, days ahead."
"God built it. We broke it. Jesus fixed it."
An important thing to remember, of course, is that no matter how many words we use to express the biblical message, it is incomplete.
While the Bible contains the opening chapters of the story of God and humankind, it is not the end: we're still living out that story, day by day.
Tony Cartledge is associate professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School and contributing editor to Baptists Today, where he blogs.