What is the Bible About? Missing the Obvious Answer (Reading Romans 11)

The most elementary key to interpreting a story is to recognize what the story is about. No one would ever say that the story of Snow White is about the plight of woodland dwarfs or that Cinderella is a masterpiece about the artistic skill of mice. I am the father of two daughters, I know my princess stories. Though dwarfs and talking animals are essential to any Disney movie they are not the subjects of the story.

Failing to recognize the main character of Biblical literature is a common problem in reading Scripture. The normal approach to Genesis is to see it as a succession of stories about characters such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The book is read as if it is a collection of chronological sagas rather than a cohesive whole. Yet since it is one book I would ask the question, what is Genesis about? Are the Psalms just Psalms? Is there any sort of rhyme, rhythm or reason to the Psalms, a single thread that would bind them together as they are presented in the Canon? Is the Book of Ruth just a story about Ruth? When it comes to prophets are we to see only Elijah, Isaiah, and a collection of odd fellows with even worse names?

What is the Bible about? The Bible is about God. The Psalms are about God. Genesis is about God. Ruth is about God. Job is the plight of a man trying to rectify his circumstances with the character of God. The stories of the prophets are biographies of God.

If we do not bring this elementary acknowledgment to Romans 11 we will no doubt create a horrible mess of misunderstanding and flawed interpretation. The evidence that this is true is the fear and trepidation with which most approach this chapter. Even greater evidence that we have failed to see the subject of Romans 11 is that most teachers and preachers simply avoid the chapter all together. Why is it that the contemporary response to Romans 11 is dread while Paul’s response to the same manuscript is praise? The difference is that Paul understands the subject. Paul ends the chapter with praise to God because he understands the subject of the chapter is indeed God.

Romans 11 is not about Israel in the same way that Snow White is not about dwarfs. Romans 11 is not about the Gentiles in the same way that Cinderella is not about mice with sewing skills. Romans 11 is about God just as the entire Bible is about God. In Romans 11 we see the grace of God in preserving a remnant in Israel (vv. 1-10), the grace of God in saving the Gentiles by grafting them into the promise (vv. 11-24), and the grace of God in the final restoration of Israel (vv. 25-32). If you will approach this chapter and simply acknowledge its true subject you cannot help but praise God as you see His grace spring to life in salvation history.

When it comes to reading the Bible we fail to see what the story is about? We miss the most obvious answer. The Bible is about God. Read it with the proper lens.

As an addendum, understanding the Bible is about God, go back and read the Genesis story. Read the life of Jacob as if it is a story about God. Read the life of Samuel as if it is a story about God. Read Ruth as if it is a story about God. For extra credit, read Esther not as a story about Esther, but as a story about God. Seeing God as the subject of Scripture will truly enrich your reading. Enjoy!


B.J. Price said…
This is very well said. I know exactly what you mean and have experienced the "lifting of the veil" in my own Bible reading and understanding. It is awesome when God opens your eyes to see that the Bible really is "HIS STORY".

I think the chapter and verse numbers unfortunately facilitate this common misunderstanding to scripture. Far to often we miss valuable insight from the context because we start at a particular chapter and verse rather than seeing it in the whole of the book and in the whole of the cannon of scripture.

I recently heard Eugene Peterson talk about this very thing when explaining why he kept the verse numbers out of the first few editions of The Message.

Thanks for the reminder.

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