Don’t Episode I The Bible

Carson T. Clark posted on the Gospel not being Jesus’ death. I’ll quote him in full, since it is a short post:

Many Christians believe the Gospel is about Jesus dying on the cross for the atonement of sins. I disagree. To my mind that’s like saying Star Wars is about Anakin Skywalker’s final act of redemption in which he threw the Emperor down the ventilation shaft, sacrificing himself to save his son. Is that the culmination of the story arc? Absolutely. Is that what the whole thing is about? No way. The Gospel is about the full redemptive narrative from creation to consummation, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. That’s vitally important, so I’ll say it again: The Gospel is about the full redemptive narrative from creation to consummation, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. Only then does the Old Testament have significance, including the covenants, exodus, Law, judges, kingdoms, prophets, exile, restoration. That’s the only way the rest of the Bible–poetry and wisdom literature, laments and epistles, etc.–makes the least bit of sense and is applicable to our lives. It’s in that context that the rest of the Word’s activity and life matters: creation, incarnation, life, ministry, resurrection, Kingdom, second coming, submitting to the Father, sending the Holy Spirit. We need to stop treating the christian faith generally, and the Gospel specifically, as though it can be boiled down to Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross. It can’t. To do so is to, if I may turn an unfortunate noun into a disturbing verb, Episode I the Bible. By which I mean, don’t turn the rest of Scripture into superfluous crap.

I love the idea of “verbing” “Episode I.” And I agree with his overall point – and it can be applied to the Bible. If you think the entire Bible is “about Jesus,” then your knowledge of it must be so superficial that, if you were plopped down in the middle of Amos or Zechariah without signposts, you wouldn’t be able to tell the landscape of one from that of the other. And if you can’t do that, you don’t know these texts, and thus don’t know the Bible as a whole. Sure, your eyes may have passed over the words on the page, perhaps more than once even. But plenty of us drive the same route over and over again without really coming to know the area – until we stop and take a much closer look.

I would want to qualify what Clark wrote in one important way, however. I think that George Lucas may well have envisaged the entire Star Wars story as, in an important way, being about Anakin Skywalker, about a hero’s fall and redemption. The Bible is very different, because contrary to what conservative religious people often suggest, the Bible is not the work of a single author. And so its “sequels” and “prequels” are, not surprisingly, more different than the work of a single human creative mind.

Perhaps when Disney makes its Star Wars movies, we’ll have a better analogy that we can make between the Bible and Star Wars.

By the way, for those who may be relatively new here, there is much more on the intersection of Star Wars, the Bible, and religion in general elsewhere on this blog. If these subjects interests you, I hope you’ll explore!

How Liberal Scholars are Made
History in the Bible
Inhofe Disproves Poverty and Hunger
Biblical Studies Carnival February 2015
  • Jeff Carter
    • arcseconds

      I wonder whether Calvin really does remember that :-)

  • Joshua Smith

    “The Gospel is about the full redemptive narrative from creation to consummation, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22. Only then does the Old Testament have significance, including the covenants, exodus, Law, judges, kingdoms, prophets, exile, restoration. That’s the only way the rest of the Bible–poetry and wisdom literature, laments and epistles, etc.–makes the least bit of sense and is applicable to our lives.”

    Isn’t that pretty dismissive of our Jewish brothers and sisters? They seem to get along quite easily without the Gospel…

    • James F. McGrath

      I see how it could be taken that way, but I understood him to be saying quite the opposite, i.e. that Christians who turn the entire Bible into something which is in fact only really about its latest parts, so that one can skip all that Jewish stuff, to be distorting the Christian faith. Obviously Clark is a Christian for whom the Jesus stuff is important too, but that in itself need not be viewed as inherently anti-Jewish.

      Has Clark addressed this somewhere else, that might clarify his standpoint?

  • TheWord

    Yes, the crucifixion of Jesus is very important in that it leads the lost to God’s love. All of scripture tells us of the world with and without God. Isaiah tells us of Jesus and whats to come.

    • James F. McGrath

      That is a rather dubious, and in view of this post I would add “Episode I-ing,” reading of Isaiah. Would you care to discuss specifics?

      • TheWord

        Scripture is written by man. He reveals the actions of others in the time that is but God reveals Himself and Jesus through the words given to man. We know Jesus was at the beginning as said in John 1:1. God reveals Himself in three persons. In the Old Testament the Lord is usually Jesus because the prophets have seen Him.

        • Donaving

          ‘Round these parts you call that the “Fourth Gospel”, Pilgrim.

          • TheWord

            John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1 are identical; In the Beginning—

        • James F. McGrath

          Am I right to guess that English isn’t your first language? Your point is very difficult to follow. But at any rate, can you understand that simply quoting what human beings have written doesn’t prove anything, and that you are making assumptions about what they saw and heard?

          • TheWord

            You assume, you know what you’re talking about!!! Isaiah 55 is the clincher on our thoughts and God’s.

            • James F. McGrath

              What makes that particular ancient Israelite text “the clincher on our thoughts and God’s”? Surely what it articulates is something that puts even the writings of ancient Israelites in their appropriate place?

              • TheWord

                Who are the writers of the Old Testament? Prophets who have had an encounter with God. Let’s look at what you believe. Where did your belief system come from? Someone other than yourself? Let’s look at Augustine who wrote ‘The City of God’. It was started in A.D. 413 and told the story of Christians and the fall of Rome. Should we, today, just make up a story as to what happened to Rome 1,600 years ago?

                • James F. McGrath

                  What leads you to conclude that all the writers of the Jewish Scriptures were prophets? What sort of encounter with God did they have? And what is your source of this information outside of the very texts in question?

                  • TheWord

                    The prophets were able to convey to the people what God expected of them. Each writer was in a different time of growth or suffering. The encounter with God was the Holy Spirit which each of us today can reveal. Moses was the most profound prophet. Bringing his people out of Egypt around 1,400 B.C, while writing the first 5 books of Genesis. If we go to the generations given in Genesis 5 ,11 and Mt 1:17 we are able to calculate the time from Adam to today.
                    If we use the creation of Adam as zero our time today since then is 5,827 years. The time of the flood was 1,656, so all those years came before Moses but he knew the generations and who they were through an encounter with the Holy Spirit. There are many cylinders and tablets that convey time outside the Bible.

                    • James F. McGrath

                      I don’t think you are understanding what I am asking. But let’s carry on. Given that Matthew’s genealogy is symbolic (he has two groups of 14 and one of 13, despite what he says, and he has to leave out names from his source in Chronicles to get the second one to be 14), what makes you insist nevertheless that one can use Biblical genealogies to calculate historical passage if time in the way you do?

                    • TheWord

                      The Bible is very literal. Jesus will return soon! God created the world in six days and on the seventh He rested. Jesus will return on/about the sixth day. We are at 5,823 now with a day equaling a thousand year.

                    • James F. McGrath

                      What does “very literal” mean? Apparently it wasn’t literal about Jesus returning soon, about some of his generation not tasting death before they saw it happen. And how can you spout this sixth day nonsense without showing the least sign that you are aware that people have been making such claims for a very long time, always with the same outcome?

                    • TheWord

                      Glorify God in all you do and say, believe Him at a deeper level than just reading.
                      I will leave you with Isaiah 66.

                    • James F. McGrath

                      I do that, but it still doesn’t explain why you seem incapable of communicating clearly or having a conversation.

                    • TheWord
                    • James F. McGrath

                      Thanks for sharing that. It does help to explain a lot. Sorry to hear about your brain injury.

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