The Bible as One Story

“The principal character, or actor, or protagonist of the Bible is God. Not even the most seemingly insignificant action in the Bible can be understood apart from the emerging characterization of the deity. With this great protagonist and his designs, all other characters and events interact, as history becomes the great arena for God’s characteristic and characterizing actions.”— Roland M. Frye, The Reader’s Bible

Up to now, we have looked at the Bible as an omnibus of diverse genres, not unlike an anthology of English literature.  However varied and expansive the Bible may be, it is far more unified than other anthologies of its size and scope.  Ultimately, the Bible is one book, and it has always been viewed as such since it first appeared in its final form.

What holds the Bible together is its narrative unity.  Despite the many stories it contains, it ultimately tells one overarching story.  The Bible fulfills Aristotle’s requirements for a complete story — it has a beginning, middle and end.   It begins with the story of creation.  It ends with the apocalypse, a vision of the end of history.  Between these cosmic events stretches the history of the human race and God’s involvement in that history.

This overall story has its own driving plot conflict:  the conflict between good and evil.  It is played out between a host of characters:  God and Satan, God and sinful creatures, good and evil people, good and evil within individuals.  Every story, poem, and proverb in the Bible contributes an individual “chapter” to this massive plot.

Every story has a protagonist, and the overarching story of the Bible is no exception.  God is the main character in the Bible.  His presence unifies the story.  The narrative progression of the Bible’s story is the revelation of God’s purposes throughout history.  Those purposes revolve around such “big ideas” as divine providence, judgment, and redemption.