I recently published a revised edition of volume 1 of my Interpretive Guide to the Bible, in which I added a short introduction that deals with “big picture” questions. One of these is the subject of the Bible, which answers the question, “What is the Bible about?”
A popular response to this question by an older generation of Bible expositors was “Jesus Christ.” In fact, this seems to be affirmed in Article 1 of the doctrinal statement of Dallas Theological Seminary, which includes the following sentence: We believe that all the Scriptures center about the Lord Jesus Christ in His person and work in His first and second coming, and hence that no portion, even of the Old Testament, is properly read, or understood, until it leads to Him. Some Bible teachers have gone so far as to say that the main point of every book of the Bible, and even of every chapter of the Bible, is to reveal Christ. This then forces them to allegorize the text in order to find how Christ is revealed in, for example, the life of Joseph or the Song of Songs.
It is better to develop the subject of the Bible from a study of the biblical text itself, rather than developing the subject through a seemingly arbitrary theological assertion, and then trying to find a way to read the Bible to fit one’s theology. It is also best to view the Bible as a whole when developing a statement of its subject, since the main subject of a book may not be the main subject of every paragraph or every section of the book. A biography of Abraham Lincoln, for example, could include a chapter on Lincoln’s wife or a chapter on social conditions in the antebellum South. Such chapters, in which Abraham Lincoln would not be the main subject, would not destroy the subject-unity of the book; they would simply function to give background information that is necessary to more fully understand and elucidate the overall subject of the book, to which the book would always return.
As a career Bible scholar who has read through the Bible more than a dozen times, I have no hesitation when identifying the subject of the Bible. Clearly the subject of the Bible is God. The Bible is a book about God, about who He is and what He does. Since the Bible was written to man, in order to reveal God to man, it has much to say about God’s dealings with men and His plan for the human race. Since God exists in trinity, the Bible reveals God as triune, and contains a considerable description of each member of the holy Trinity. It especially has much to say about God the Son (Jesus), since He bridges the gap between God and man by becoming incarnate, and He is the perfect revelation of the Father. Persons and nations who occupy a central place in God’s historical dealings with men also receive much attention in the Bible—positively, the nation of Israel, the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, and other men of God; negatively, Satan, the antichrist, great world empires, and other notable opponents of God’s people. Theological (rather than historical) issues are a greater focus in the New Testament than in the Old. In the New Testament the church arises as a non-national people of God, the Holy Spirit is sent to indwell every believer in Jesus, and the theological mysteries of salvation and last things are more fully revealed.
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