Stories within the Bible’s Story

The most difficult dimension of politics is gaining access to what is really going on — and I’m not being a cynic here. Only by a stroke of luck — the right person informing us — or by some hard work — we ask enough people and enough questions — do we find out what is really going on. Politics, then, is the name of so much of the games people play, whether it is Washington DC or Wheaton or Wall Street. So the inquisitive person wants to know what’s the story behind the story.

What’s missing here? What do you appreciate/agree with? Do these stories conflict with one another?

What we are getting at then is the back story or perhaps the metanarrative that provides perspective, context and orientation to the whole.

Gregory Moberly, in his fascinating new book, The Return of the Chaos Monsters — And Other Backstories of the Bible sketches the backstories of the Bible, and if you would like an indirect introduction to the Bible itself, especially the Old Testament, this 144 page book could serve an admirable service to us all. He contends there are seven stories at work in the Bible, seven backstories at work that are woven together in such a way to provide a larger Story for the backstories.

At one time I wondered if the way to read the Bible was to read it through the “stories” of various leading orientations: the legal story, the purity story, the power/royal story, the prophet’s story, and the sage’s story. This book goes after such an approach with finesse. Here are the major stories at work in the Bible:

1. Backstory of creation: God has subdued chaos, just barely.
2. Backstory of Torah: God has given humans an instruction manual for life on planet Earth so they can partner with God in the management of chaos.
3. Backstory of Former Prophets: God has enacted the tough love of moral cause and effect in order to reward fidelity to the instruction manual and to support management of the chaos.
4. Backstory of Latter Prophets: God enlists prophets to mediate this dynamic partnership upon which the health of creation depends.
5. Backstory of the Psalms: Through praise humans release energy that augments God’s management of chaos; through lament humans report on the quality of God’s management of chaos.
6. Backstory of Wisdom: Here and here, humans catch glimpses of the divine design for chaos management; living according to these insights is another expression of the partnership.
7. Backstory of Apocalyptic: There are times when chaos gains the upper hand and humans in partnership with God can only hope that God is able, as in the beginning, to subdue chaos.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • phil_style

    I would suggest one major omission has been made.

    The back-story of the victim.

  • Jeff Y

    What I like about this excellent looking approach is that it does something students of scripture should do more of: it steps back and asks the questions, “What is going on here? What is God, and/or the authors, seeking to do with these stories, teachings, etc.? How is God seeking to teach us?”

    I suppose the incarnation & crucifixion of Jesus is subsumed under Apocalyptic? Or in some way the central thread of all seven? It would seem to me that this would have had a back story of its own (the return of the King – or coming of the King to confront the chaos head on? In an entirely subversive and ironic manner). Wonder how he fits this central of all stories within these seven?

  • http://thebookofdavis.blogspot.com/ Michael Davis

    That book looks fascinating. Thanks for sharing.


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