5 major themes of the Bible
by Amy Ekeh
Within the many pages of the Bible, we find a dazzling variety of stories, perspectives, and ideas.
But there are some unifying themes that can give us a helpful framework for reading and understanding Scripture. Here are five of these central messages.
1. Creation is good. The Bible begins with the story of creation in Genesis 1–3. According to Genesis, God created the world freely and masterfully, bringing order to the “formless void” and declaring it all “good.” In fact, God calls human beings “very good.” These foundational stories from the first chapter of Genesis inform our reading of the entire Bible. The physical world is not a burden. God loves and is involved with what he has made.
These fundamental ideas about creation are echoed throughout Scripture. The incarnation of Jesus Christ, for example, is an affirmation of the goodness of creation: God has entered our physical world, joining himself to it and redeeming it. When Jesus is raised from the dead, it is not as an angel or a spirit. He has a body that still bears the wounds of his crucifixion. Even the Book of Revelation, with its great cosmic battle at the end of time, does not envision an end to all created things. Instead, the vision is one of a new creation where human beings and God dwell together.
2. Sin destroys relationships. Despite “very good” beginnings, sin enters the picture just a few chapters into the Bible (see Genesis 3). The first killing occurs in Genesis 4, and by Genesis 6 the world has become so evil that God says,“I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created” (Genesis 6:7). Sin has taken hold of the human race, and as we turn the pages of Scripture, we read all about the damage sin does to our relationships with one another and with God.
Of course, it is because of sin that we need a savior: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Mark 2:17). The Gospels tell the story of that Savior and the grace, redemption, and intimacy with God that he offers. The pages of the New Testament echo the refrain of the Easter liturgy: “O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!”
3. Jesus Christ reveals both God and humanity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the “Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures” (CCC, 125). This is because the four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — tell us about the birth, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Fully human and fully divine, Jesus reveals the Father (see John 1:18) and also reveals what it means to be truly human (see John 15:12-17). The central trait revealed in Christ is love — merciful, unconditional love — the kind of love we see displayed on the cross. It is this kind of love that we can expect from God, and it is this kind of love that God expects from us. Thus the Church holds that the Scriptures are complete, and there will be no further public revelation. There is no need for it: “The Son is his Father’s definitive Word” (CCC, 73).
“The Son is his Father’s definitive Word.”
4. God wants to be with us. From the first chapter to the last, the inspired words of the Bible strive to convince readers of this remarkable truth: God loves us, and he wants to be with us. God walks in the garden with Adam and Eve, forms a covenant with his people Israel, enters the world through a human womb, and promises to remain with us always. The Bible paints a captivating portrait of God as creator, lover, friend, and savior — the first and the last of our lives, the one whose home is ultimately not in a remote place but with us: “God’s dwelling is with the human race” (Revelation 21:3). If we can believe this one truth, we will have a powerful lens through which to read all of Scripture.
5. God is ever faithful. Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann has said that the central question of Scripture — and in- deed of our entire lives — is very simple: “Is God faithful?” We may not understand every word, every story, or every image in the Bible, but when we view Scripture as a whole, it tells the story of a God who is ever faithful, who will never leave us nor forsake us, who never forgets our names, who counts every hair on our heads, and who has engraved us on the palms of his hands. Best of all, we learn that God’s faithfulness does not depend upon our faithfulness. God is faithful because God is.