Cultivate Blog

Selection Criteria for TSOH Events

Categories: Good Soil Questions

How many unique events or stories are there in the Bible?

That's really impossible to answer for sure, since it's often difficult to determine where one event or story begins and another one starts. But any way you look at it, there are hundreds of events or stories in the Bible. So how does a person determine which Bible stories or events should be selected to best summarize God's Big Story if the limit is 40 stories or events?

There are probably about 30 of the 40 stories/events that are "no brainers," in the selection process. For example, how could you tell the "story of hope" without including the Old Testament stories of the creation of the universe and mankind, the fall of mankind, God's promise to send a deliverer, the call of Abraham and God's promises to him, etc. From the New Testament it seems obvious that you would want to include stories such as these: the remarkable birth of Jesus Christ, the "lamb of God" proclamation by John the Baptist, select stories from Jesus' miracle working ministry, the rejection and betrayal that Jesus experienced, His crucifixion and resurrection, etc.

But finalizing the list of 20 Old Testament events and 20 New Testament events is not so easy. To some degree this process is subjective and, sometimes, mildly controversial. We are often asked why we did not include certain Bible events in the "TSOH 40" or why we chose to include some events that other people may not think are that significant.

Some common questions that we receive, related to event selection:

  • Why did you not include the tower of Babel?
  • Why did you not include the Babylonian exile?
  • Why did you include the rapture and other similar prophetic events?
  • For that matter, why did you include any events after the resurrection of Jesus?

We certainly don't claim to have the "perfect list of 40 key Bible events." But based upon the criteria we chose to guide us in the process, we now feel confident that these 40 events do a good job summarizing the Big Story of the Bible, God's overarching redemptive story. Here are a couple of our key selection criteria that will help you to understand our answers to the above questions:

Our purpose is to present God's story of redemption, not to present a general survey of the Bible.

Yes, there's a difference. In order to highlight the story of redemption, we selected events that we thought would best do that. If the purpose was to give a general overview of the Bible, we would certainly have chosen some other events instead of some that we did select. For example, in a survey of the Bible we would have selected the tower of Babel or Babylonian exile event instead of the bronze serpent event. Those more historic events would have been essential to a Bible survey. But even though the tower of Babel and Babylonian exile events do convey very significant redemption story implications, the less-historic bronze serpent event is more significant in presenting and clarifying redemption and faith issues. And since the bronze serpent story comes up in the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in the New Testament, that story provides a strong connector event to tie the death of Jesus to the Old Testament.

We believe that the end-focus of the Bible's story of hope is not that Jesus Christ conquered physical death through His resurrection, as important and foundational as that is to God-given hope.

We believe that the ultimate hope provided through Jesus Christ's redeeming work is the end-hope recorded in Revelation 21-22. And, yes, the death and resurrection of Jesus made that possible. And in between the resurrection of Jesus and that ultimate end-hope--a restored paradise--there are some other key hope points in history that need to be highlighted in "the story of hope." For more on this topic, read the other Cultivate blog, End-Focus for The Story of Hope.

One way to overcome this tight 40-event ceiling is to extend the number of events in the presentation of the story of redemption beyond 40 events. And that's exactly what we are doing in the 100-event chronological Bible teaching resource, The Journey of Faith: Exploring the Bible, One Story at a Time. But even there we have asked ourselves, "How do we limit the presentation of this great story to only 100 events?!"

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