Top Ten Bible Passages

The CNS blog reports the favorite Bible story at the bishops’ synod: Emmaus. It’s an interesting window on the minds and spirituality of the prelates. What would interest me more would be a top ten list of bible passages. It would tell more about the list-picker, perhaps, than the Bible itself.

I’d have to give some thought to my personal top ten Bible passages, but if I were to pick the ten most important Bible passages for presenting the Christian faith to the world, I’d have to say:

1. Genesis 1: God made the world and made it very good.

2. Genesis 12 through 15 (selected passages): the Covenant with Abraham

3. Exodus 12-14: Passover and Exodus

4. Psalm 51: David and his sin before God

5. John 1: The Word Made Flesh

6. Matthew 5:1-12: Beatitudes

7. Luke 15: two sons reveal the merciful God

8. Luke 22ff: The Eucharist and the Passion

9. John 20:1-18: Resurrection

10. 1 Corinthians 12: gifts

Honorable mention: Ten Commandments, Paul on love, Emmaus, Luke 11: how to pray, 23rd Psalm.

What would be your top ten most important Scriptures for presenting the Christian faith to non-believers?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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14 Responses to Top Ten Bible Passages

  1. Liam says:

    One that I would mention that is not yet listed is 1 John 4. “God is love” remains the first and most profound explanation of Most Holy Trinity, and the passage illuminates the necessarily Trinitarian nature of God’s essence and economy, the keys to apprehend (if not comprehend) the nature and purpose of the Incarnation and Paschal; mysteries.

    Most question involving basic belief involve the following series of questions, the first of which is clearly indicated by Scripture as the paradigmatic first question:

    1. Who is Jesus of Nazareth? Real or myth? Man or God, both or neither?

    2. Who is God? If Jesus is God, how can that be?

    3. Who am I?

    4. How do we know the answers to these questions? How do we know we don’t know such answers?

    5. Who gets to say so? How do we know that?

    So, you will see, the initial theological and anthropological questions tend to be ontological, epistemological and ecclesiological.

    And, the journey of the believer is to get to answer the question we may be asked at the end of our earthly lives: “[Name], do you love Me?”

  2. Liam says:

    Some additional offerings to complement your list:

    Hebrews 11 (into 12:1-2) – is the bookend to the Abrahamic selection of yours

    Chapters 3 & 4 of Joshua are the bookend to the Exodus selection of yours (and should be part of the Easter vigil – Joshua is, if anything, the curiously neglected Easter counterpart)

    Proverbs 8:22-31: provides the anticipation for understanding the Trinity, et cet.

    Psalms 42-43: evoke the relationship of spiritual dryness and pain to faith and hope – touching on an issue common to seekers.

    Baruch 5: Compresses much of what is proclaimed at length by Isaiah into diamond-like brilliance

  3. JMJ

    Knowing that it would be hard to understand, I would still like to see John 6 used.

    Catholic Healing Prayer – John Michael

  4. Anne says:

    Understanding personal preferences..are not the most important passages proclaimed at the Easter Vigil?
    These readings give us an overview of salvation history and God’s interventions in human life. We begin with creation and end with hearing the angel telling Mary Magdalene and others that Jesus is no longer dead…”You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” These readings are meant to open up our minds and hearts and help us to understand Baptism and Eucharist and what it is to be a Christian.
    I love all these readings.

  5. Joseph says:

    I approached the question from the point of view: which texts would I select the same, and which differently than you.

    I do feel it important to include one of the texts on love.

    1. Genesis 1: God made the world and made it very good.

    2. Genesis 12 through 15 (selected passages): the Covenant with Abraham

    3. Exodus 12-14: Passover and Exodus

    4. John 1: The Word Made Flesh

    5. Matthew 5:1-12: Beatitudes

    6. Luke 15: two sons reveal the merciful God

    7. Luke 22ff: The Eucharist and the Passion

    8. John 20:1-18: Resurrection

    9. Rom 8: Life in the Spirit

    10. 1 John 4-5: God is love; the response of love

    Anne, the Easter Vigil does aim to have the most important passages in the history of salvation. However, first (1) the different Catholic rites (e.g.,: Roman, Byzantine, Armenian) do not have entirely the same readings for the vigil. So if one wants to pick the most important passages simply, without being attached to one’s particular rite, there will still remain a question, which of these passages? (Incidentally, there used to be twelve Old Testament readings in the Roman Rite, not just seven.) I think, though, that Creation, the Passover, and the Exodus are common readings to all the rites.

    (2) Secondly, the vigil readings lead up to the central event of the resurrection. But when it’s a question of presenting the faith to one doesn’t know it, they need to be fleshed out with more NT texts. At least that would be my take on it.

  6. Anne says:

    Good points Joseph.

  7. Jim McK says:

    The faith cannot be taught starting from the “ontological, epistemological and ecclesiological.” The initial theological and anthropological questions have to be based on experience:

    Who loves you?
    Who do you love?
    How important is love to you?

    Scripture as well has to be accessible:

    1 The Lord’s Prayer Mt 6: 9-13 (Lk is not the form everyone knows)

    2 John 3:16

    3 Mk 14: 3-9 the anointing of Christ

    4 The Passion and Resurrection.I prefer Mk, but any of the versions work.

    5 An infancy narrative, to explain Christmas.

    6 1 Cor 13, St Paul on love

    7 2 Pet 1:16-19 The Transfiguration

    8 Dt 6: 4-12 Shema

    9 Lk 1: 46-55 Magnificat, Mary’s faith.

    10 The psalms.

    Only after laying a foundation of faith would I approach the credal elaborations like the nature of God, of Jesus, the Trinity etc. I suppose that is why my wife says I am “opposite the world”.

  8. Liam says:

    Whereas I find that seekers can often find that approach more abstract than the other approach, which starts with people rather than declarations of faith by other people.

  9. Liam says:

    sorry,. that was garbled.

    The questions I like. The scripture passages are more about declarations of faith than about people themselves, and in that regard they can be (counterintuitively, I grant you) more abstract.

    What was abstract about what I proposed is simply my taxonomy of the questions. That taxonomy is not something I would present a seeker, but it’s useful for the one who is sharing to be aware of.

  10. Anne says:

    sorry,. that was garbled.

    It still is Liam…

  11. Jim McK says:

    Liam, your taxonomy reflects an approach to faith that is grounded in philosophy. There are some people who are very comfortable with that. Most people prefer something that is closer to their life, which is why list is filled with examples of people relating to God. Many of them are prayers, examples of relating to God so that faith in God can develop. And hopefully a relationship with a Church that prays.

    Learn the Our Father well, and you learn the essence of faith. Then there is a lifetime to learn what it means ontologically, epistomologically, personally and every other way.

    (BTW, that faith in prayer is the main reason that I, a non-liturgist, follow this list’s discussions. There are great insights to be found here from the people like you who are devoted to liturgy and prayer.)

  12. Liam says:

    Jim

    Of course, the taxonomy does. But, as I noted, I would not present the taxonomy to seekers.

    The questions I suggested are ones very much in the front of what I have heard from seekers and skeptics for decades now (starting in my own family). They typically would find an invitation to start instead with prayer to be an evasive if not condescending finesse of their questions.

    It may be that the seekers I have encountered have been much “harder cases” than yours. They often come saddled with a lot of preconceptions about what Christianity/Catholicism is about. I have usually found those preconceptions are best confronted by inviting them to consider Jesus as a person and working it out from there. So, it’s actually a *very* personal approach – even more so than experiential as such.

  13. Pingback: Paul’s Top Ten « Catholic Sensibility

  14. Michael Cibenko says:

    Have to include John 6 by which we can better understand the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

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