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Biblical Themes

The Bible has many themes which reappear throughout the Bible. What are some of these themes and what do they have to tell us about God and ourselves?

Rationale

The Bible has 66 books, 2 Testaments and a wide range of genres, yet there is a single overarching story line. The result is certain themes which appear throughout the Bible and in many genres. Thus God speaks to us a range of ways so that we might grasp better what he is trying to tell us. An examination of these themes throughout the Bible is a very useful way of gaining a deeper appreciation of God's revelation to us. However, three key points need to be kept in mind:
First, God’s revelation is centrally about God’s plan, God’s agenda. The Bible is not about what we feel is important, but what is important from God’s perspective, or if you like, what is important. When we come to the Bible with our own agenda’s and try to make the Bible answer our questions, instead of asking what is the question God is giving the answer to, then we risk distorting the Bible and making it say what we want it to say.
Second, the application of the above, is that all passages must first be read in their own immediate context. Verses cannot be isolated from passages and so on
Third, further, the true context of all the verses of the Bible is the overarching storyline of the Bible itself. The parts are only understood in the light of the whole.
 
Note: This is not restrict quoting verses of the Bible. Jesus did this and Paul does it all the time in his letters. It simply means that we need to understand the verses we are quoting so as to use them correctly and be able, if need be, to explain that understanding.

Key Concepts

  • Possible themes: heaven, the Messiah, holiness, the Covenants, sacrifice and atonement, the Law, the Promised Land, prophecy, exile, day of the Lord (Yahweh), Kingdom of God, Son of God, the Cross, the Holy Spirit, world mission, resurrection, new humanity, the Church, the Gospel and Justice, return of Christ, new creation, mercy, grace, hope, redemption, sin, justice, love, peace, forgiveness, faith, judgement, promise, healing, suffering, joy, repentance, community, love, trials and so on
  • The choice of theme has to permeate through the depth and breadth of the Bible (appearing in OT and NT)
  • Explore how the theme is lived out through key stories/characters
  • Link the themes to the overarching Biblical narrative of creation, sin, redemption and our response
  • How this theme is exemplified though the life of Jesus.

Scripture References

See Resources below to search for verses on themes and also for Dictionary entries (Note: Teachers require certain basic Bible study tools. One of these is a good Bible dictionary. There are digital versions available, see the Digital Toolkit in the Curriculum for direction, as well a hardcopy. The New Bible Dictionary is a good investment, and the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery is an excellent resource)
Mercy Bible verses - list of verses from Biblestudytools.com
Grace Bible verses - list of verses from Biblestudytools.com 
Love Bible verses - list of verses from Biblestudytools.com
Hope Bible verses - list of verses from Biblestudytools.com
Peace Bible verses - list of verses from Biblestudytools.com
Justice Bible verses - list of verses from Biblestudytools.com
Redemption Bible verses - list of verses from Biblestudytools.com

Resources

The Bible Project - animated whiteboard videos on Biblical themes - they have completed five of about 20 they are doing at this stage (scroll down for link to Themes section)
 
For example: Bible Project video on the Holiness of God
 
Searches for many of these themes will yield relevant articles, for example:
What is the Bible? - brief statement on what the Bible is about. (Note, it tends to be a little man-centered. It is all these things but Jesus is the centre of the Bible, not us, Colossians 1:15-20)
Topical searches:

Bible

 

Ideas/Strategies for Lessons

Brainstorm, what is the Bible about? What do we mean by themes? What the themes of the Bible? How do they relate to the themes of life today? How do they relate to what the student’s are most interested in? Use digital software or other for brainstorming and then discuss. Use video from the Bible project on for example Holiness to orient student’s thinking to who the Bible is about and what that has to do with them
Student can produce their own short video on a Bible theme and present it to the class. They can create new stories/documentaries to capture, or create a photo journal with original photos taken by the students (outside of class), to demonstrate the theme (and or antonyms) after discussing the meaning of the themes
Games, e.g. Play play-dough (Conjecture) Pictionary with different themes.

Invite people to share personal testimonies of how this theme has impacted on their lives.

Create puppet shows of created stories where this theme is demonstrated in someone’s live.

Create acrostic poems to explain the meaning of the theme.
Explore synonyms and antonyms of the theme, creating a word map that analyses similarities and differences in meaning. (Semantic Mapping using Popplet or similar software/website) or perhaps a Wordle
Explore these themes through movie clips, WingClips or well know movies  
Students work in teams, exploring the same/different themes in depth and create a presentation to share with the rest of the class.  Structure the activity so that they have to present a few different perspectives on the theme, e.g. acrostic poem, photo journal, Biblical references from the OT and NT to the theme, find people from real life who has experienced/ exhibited this theme, drama performance or animation explaining the meaning of the theme, etc.
Relate themes to current news stories or issues