On social media, I am often invited to take part in “top ten challenges”. These involve having to choose ten examples of a subject (e.g., ten films that left an impression on me (at time of writing: The Terminator; Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey; Naked Gun: from the Files of Police Squad; Hellboy; Withnail & I; Monthy Python & the Holy Grail; Army of Darkness; Jason and the Argonauts; Star Wars; The Princess Bride)), posting one of these on a daily basis, and then nominating a friend to have a go themselves.
So, without further ado, my Top Ten Bible Bits – if you find yourself nominated, I’d love to hear your top ten.
1. John 3:16
Advertised on a thousand sports placards when I was growing up, this verse tells us a vital truth about God, his view of the world (hang on, aren’t we meant to struggle against the world?) and, more importantly of us – that we don’t need to perish: the offer of eternal life starting now is a wonderful thing.
I nominate: anybody who wishes that Newcastle would score a few more goals now and then.
2. Daniel 14:1-22
Found in the Apocrypha, if at all, in most non-Catholic Bibles, this little story is a very early example of a locked-room mystery with some almost-rationalist supernatural-debunking “my lord, whose footprints are these?!” It’s told with verve and humour. I’ve included it here because finding it surprised me, it’s good fun, and it adds weight to the “Bible as a library containing many different genres” position.
I nominate: anybody with a soft spot for golden age detection.
3. Genesis 1-3
God made a good world and we screwed it up, with disastrous consequences. In later years, phrases like “in our image”, “become like us”, added to the mystery – a royal we, one god among many, trinitarian thinking? Even later, the buck-passing, excuse making seemed very contemporary indeed.
I nominate: anybody who could do with the reminder, “…and it was very good.”
Possibly my favourite book of the Bible. It packs an awful lot into four short chapters, and the title character is a proper misery-guts from start to finish. I love the reminder it provides that God is far more interested in mercy than judgement (those Ninevites, really deserved some high level fire and brimstone judging). I also take comfort in Jonah being utterly unfit for purpose and still getting used to sow the seeds of the Kingdom.
I nominate: anybody who feels God is calling them to unpleasantness.
5. John 3:17
Clarification of the point made in the previous verse, and a very welcome reassurance to a boy who feared the coming judgement. This verse set me on the long road to realising that the gospel was one primarily of love, not judgement (some concepts took a little longer than they should to take root) and is the first example I can remember of thinking that sometimes we separate verses that really should be kept together.
I nominate: anybody worried about what God *really* thinks of them.
This article originally appeared in the December edition of Newcastle Diocese’s Link Newspaper. Part Two will follow in February.