Seeking for the Heart of the Bible
What is the heart of the Bible? What is it that gives meaning and balance to the entire Bible and helps to give life, balance and direction in our following of Jesus?
Really, it’s better to ask WHO is the heart of the Bible . . . obviously it’s Jesus. He is the ALPHA, the beginning, eternal Word through whom all things came to be. He is in the endless present moments of life as companion and giver of life and purpose. He is the OMEGA, at the end of all, worshipped now with the Father. Jesus is the heart making sense of the whole scripture, foretold in the Old Testament and proclaimed in the New.
Most of us have a Bible-heart, whether a favourite book of the Bible or a group of verses or a theme.
When a Bible heart is identified and embraced, whether verses or themes, then the ‘heart’ becomes a yardstick, an interpretive medium, a lens through which the entire scripture is viewed, judged and measured.
People’s Bible hearts can be somewhat subjective, chosen and promoted for a variety of reasons. There is however some Bible-heart objectivity when it comes to the writers of scripture.
For the Jewish community before Jesus' time, the Bible heart may be seen as the unfolding revelation of God, God’s greatness and uniqueness. This is reflected in the rewriting of the Bible in response to successive experiences of God such as the exodus, the exile and restoration. Thus the heart of the Bible for the Jewish people may also be seen in their understandings of God and God’s dealing with the world and God’s people . . . God as creator, deliverer, covenant maker, law giver
It’s easier to identify heart themes in the Old Testament rather than particular heart verses, although there are some repetitive formulae that served as heart verses for the Jewish faith communityeg Deut 6:4Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. This also appears to have been a heart-verse of scripture for Jesus who was formed within that faith community.
Heart verses also emerged for the early church community as a result of their experience of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Heart verses for the early church were those OT scriptures that spoke of Jesus.
The Gospel writers had heart themes that guided their writing. For Mark it was the passion. For Matthew it was the Gospel in the service of the church. For Luke it was the picture of God as compassionate seeker of the lost and for John, it was Jesus revealed as the way, the truth and life.
Today in the reading from John’s Gospel we see the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus where Jesus tells him that he must be born again, and we have the most famous of Bible verses, John 3.16. I once heard Rev Gary Parker thunder this from the pulpit at St George’s Hamilton Sotuh in Newcastle and keen observers of both the summer and winter Olympics will see spectators holding placards on which is written simply, John 3.16.
God in Christ is asking us to think about who Jesus is and then to make a choice to name him and follow him as Lord. We can’t dodge this question by referring to what others say, write or believe. He asks us!
What is you scriptural heart? Do you have a group of scriptures that nourish you, spread into your relationships, and help you to interpret and make sense of the whole scripture and your life in Christ.