An Illustration I Hope to Use Often to Elucidate Redemptive-Historical/Biblical-Theological Reading of Scripture

In the summer of 2006 I went on a mission team with a choir of 25 other young people (one of whom I decided to keep). We went to numerous cities in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, and Lithuania. I often drove one of the four vehicles in our caravan, but I was never the navigator. I just followed the leader.

So at the end of the summer I could remember lots of individual places, but I had no idea of their relationship to one another within their respective countries—especially in Germany, where we spent most of our time. Hamburg and Nuremberg and Munich and Sinsheim and Albisheim were all little islands in my mind. I didn’t have any idea how they related to one another or to North, South, East, and West.

But now I’m The Dad. I am responsible to know how Greenville and Asheville and Black Mountain connect. So when I go on a trip I like to take advantage of a special technology that people I know call a “map.” Even the many stops in a big trip connect very nicely when you have an overview.

I have found over the last several years that having a map of the Bible–not of the places, but of the story—has been my best help so far for traveling through God’s Word. When I didn’t have that map I tended to see very little connection among the stories. Moses and Noah and Gideon were islands complete into themselves instead of points along a cohesive journey of redemption.

You can know a great deal about Hamburg from a school project and yet still miss its essence—because the majority of its significance and value comes from its place in the web of relationships we call Germany. Likewise, you might know many details about Moses and Noah and Gideon. But I feel safe in saying that you will misunderstand their stories if you force them to secede from the web of relationships we call the Story of Scripture.

If you want to know more—if you feel you need a map for your own Bible reading—I recommend God’s Big Picture: The Storyline of Scripture.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.


  1. Jeff Schmitz on June 29, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Mark, I stalked you down via linked in. I look forward to reading more here!

    This post reflects completely the issues I had growing up. I am so thankful for the work my Mom and others did to help me memorize Scripture – it stays with me today! – but I was left with a largely unrelated compendium of bible facts. College (seminary, really) was the first time I understood that all of Scripture could be related under the same framework. I’m sure others had tried, but seminary was the first time I really got it.

    I’ve spent my ministry time trying to make sure that people could also see the big picture in each letter in scripture. Books like Romans and Hebrews are so consistent at getting to one main point, and even driving at sub-themes over several chapters.

    We need to have a well-rounded view of scripture, from the words and letters to the phrases and sentences up to chapters, books and even all the books together.

    Jeff S.

    • Mark L Ward Jr on June 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      It’s sobering to think how long it took me to “get” certain important ideas.

      It’s sobering to think how, ten or twenty years in the future, I may say the same thing about my 2012 self.

      All the same, I do hope and believe that my kids will get these ideas about the story of Scripture sooner than I did. I know we’re already starting with them via good children’s books. I also often wonder what insights their generation will have that ours just doesn’t see.

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