When Maria (Julie Andrews) began to teach the von Trapp children the musical alphabet in The Sound of Music, she decided to “start at the very beginning.” Remember why? Because it’s “a very good place to start.” It’s often difficult to start anywhere else. I am not a huge fan of reading fiction, but one of my favorites is the four-book Gilead series from Marilynne Robinson. The first book sets the tone and frames the story (in a unique and captivating way, I might add). The next three books highlight certain characters inside that larger story arc, adding depth and color to the chronological narrative set in motion by the first. I can’t imagine jumping into that series by reading Lila before reading Gilead. It just wouldn’t make any sense.
When reading the Bible as narrative, can the same be said? The obvious answer is “no.” Every word from God is complete and authoritative on its own. Many places in Scripture you can see the entire narrative encapsulated in a single phrase or verse, such as Genesis 3:15, John 3:16, or Romans 8:29-30. Nancy Pearcey explains, in her 2012 book Total Truth, that the Bible is a longform gospel narrative told through the quadripartite worldview paradigm of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Whether you agree with her paradigm or not, it is obvious that from page one, verse one, the biblical narrative is headed somewhere. It is telling the story of God, humanity, and the relationship between the two.