Looking for major themes in the Bible

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been looking at concepts that new Bible readers need as they begin to read Scripture. Let me say that I don’t dump all of this on someone at once; these are things that are learned over time. But we should get new readers to consider some of the practices that will help them interpret the Bible in a healthy way as they grow in their knowledge of Scripture.

Dr. Tom Olbricht introduced many of us in the Church of Christ to the idea of considering major biblical themes when reading the Bible. It’s not an overstatement to say that studying theology under Dr. Olbricht transformed my view of Scripture.

Simply put, reading the Bible in terms of major themes helps us see that the Word isn’t flat. There are things of “first importance” and other things of lesser importance. God’s call of Abraham in Genesis 12 is more important than the genealogy in Genesis 10. The genealogy has its place, but the promises made to Abraham become the basis of man’s relationship with God going forward.

So, in looking for major themes, we look for things like:

  • What is said to be most important. Jesus spoke of the greatest commands. He talked about the more important parts of the Law. Paul spoke of certain things being of first importance. Again, it’s not that the rest of the Bible is unimportant; it’s a matter of recognizing the most essential.
  • What is repeated. It makes sense that the things talked about most often, in various contexts, are things that really matter.
  • What is connected with salvation. There are some things that the Bible says determine whether or not we are saved. These things are of obvious importance.

Focusing on major themes helps prevent our “majoring in the minors.” By emphasizing what the Bible emphasizes, we can be confident that we are helping people learn to be more pleasing to God.

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