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The Drama of Scripture, 2nd Edition

Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story

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This popular textbook surveys the grand narrative of the Bible, demonstrating how the biblical story forms the foundation of a Christian worldview. The second edition has been thoroughly updated and revised.

This book is accompanied by free online resources. Click the red eSources banner above for more information.


Preface to Second Edition
Preface to First Edition
Prologue: The Bible as a Grand Story
Act 1: God Establishes His Kingdom: Creation
Act 2: Rebellion in the Kingdom:
Act 3: The King Chooses Israel:
Redemption Initiated
Interlude: A Kingdom Story Waiting for an Ending: The Intertestamental Period
Act 4: The Coming of the King:
Redemption Accomplished
Act 5: Spreading the News of the King: The Mission of the Church
Act 6: The Return of the King:
Redemption Completed


Praise for the First Edition

"Much recent scholarship has emphasized the narrative quality of Scripture. This book takes that insight and brings it to life, enabling even the beginner to grasp the sense of Scripture as a single great story--a drama in which we are all invited to play a part. I am delighted to see solid scholarship made easily accessible in this splendid fashion."

N. T. Wright, research professor of New Testament and early Christianity, University of St. Andrews; former bishop of Durham

"This is a vivid introduction to reading the Bible as a coherent story of God's purposes for the world. It will not only help the new reader but also enable the experienced reader to distinguish the central themes of Scripture from mere sidelights."

Gordon J. Wenham, author of Story as Torah and Psalms as Torah

"Bartholomew and Goheen do a masterful job of presenting the Bible as an organic whole. They powerfully demonstrate how the themes of covenant and the kingdom of God provide a coherence for Scripture that helps the reader make sense of its varied parts. I enthusiastically recommend this book as a university-level textbook, but all who want to enrich their understanding of the account of God's redemptive plan will benefit from reading it."

Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

"The Drama of Scripture is just what we would expect, and need, from the partnership of an accomplished biblical scholar and a noted missiologist. This is an entrée into the grand sweep of God's story told with a keen eye for Christian formation and the mission of God's people. Though Bartholomew and Goheen are obviously in conversation with relevant scholarship, their narrative is uncluttered and disarmingly transparent in its invitation for us not only to grasp but also to be grasped by the big story of God's project."

Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament interpretation and associate dean, Center for Advanced Theological Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Nothing could be more necessary for the teaching of Scripture and the understanding of Christian theology than a command of biblical grand narrative. In this introductory text, Bartholomew and Goheen make it possible for students to situate fragmentary knowledge of the Bible within a coherent view of the canonical Scriptures--that larger story that both forms and, when central to living memory, unites the church."

David L. Jeffrey, distinguished professor of literature and humanities, Baylor University

"The Drama of Scripture is a model of biblical scholarship, integrating sound critical methods with a disposition of faith that is open to the revelation of the living God through his Word. This engaging book opens up for students the panoramic vision of the Bible that has been obscured by centuries of confessional battles and has been fragmented by Enlightenment rationalism. It succeeds in rendering the biblical world truly habitable, thus bridging the gap between the Bible and Christian experience."

Mary E. Healy, associate professor of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Heart Major Seminary

"The rediscovery of the significance of story is one of the most important recent insights in biblical interpretation. This masterly book is a fine introduction for the aspiring student, combining evangelical commitment to the normative authority of Scripture with a deep understanding of modern scholarship. Bartholomew and Goheen have provided a fine service to the Christian community by opening up the story of the Bible in a way that can be lived in today's world."

Trevor Cooling, University of Gloucestershire

"This brief yet penetrating and riveting overview of the Bible's dramatic message of creation, fall, and redemption--from Genesis to Revelation--will become a must not merely for students beginning theological studies but for all who wish to see the biblical forest rather than merely its trees."

Max Turner, professor of New Testament studies, London School of Theology

"In The Drama of Scripture, Bartholomew and Goheen provide a Christian reading of the biblical story from Genesis to Revelation. They do so in a way designed to remind contemporary Christians that they too inhabit that same story and are meant to live inside it, continuing the works and words of Jesus in today's world. The result is a challenge to reappropriate the Scriptures as a basis not only for church and theology but also for life itself."

Raymond Van Leeuwen, professor of biblical studies, Eastern University

"This book is an intelligent, engaging overview of the narrative of Scripture in six acts. Bartholomew and Goheen have produced a clear and theologically sensitive account of the Bible that is perfect for college students or adult Bible study groups."

Christopher Seitz, senior research professor of biblical interpretation, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto

"Here is a book whose time has come. Bartholomew and Goheen have produced a brief, accessible presentation of the entire biblical story that highlights both the unity of Scripture and its profound cultural relevance today. For readers who think of the Bible as a succession of unrelated devotional fragments geared primarily toward individual morality and spirituality, this book will come as a salutary shock, a reminder that the Christ-centered canonical Scriptures constitute a coherent Word of God that challenges the underlying religious direction of Western civilization. Based on deep and wide scholarship, but engagingly written for a broad audience, The Drama of Scripture promises to be an indispensable tool for the many Christians who have been awakened to God's call for serious cultural engagement, in the name of Christ, with a post-Christian world in thrall to the idols of both modernism and postmodernism."

Albert M. Wolters, author of Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview

The Authors

  1. Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew

    Craig G. Bartholomew (PhD, University of Bristol) is director of the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge, England. He was formerly senior research fellow at the University of Gloucestershire and the H. Evan Runner Professor of...

    Continue reading about Craig G. Bartholomew

  2. Michael W. Goheen

    Michael W. Goheen

    Michael W. Goheen (PhD, University of Utrecht) is professor of missional theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. He is also professor of missional theology and director of theological education at the Missional Training Center, Phoenix. Goheen is...

    Continue reading about Michael W. Goheen


Praise for the First Edition

"Bartholomew and Goheen have produced a volume that will help inexperienced readers of the Bible get a view of the big picture before moving into more atomistic treatments of the Bible. It will serve well in introductory level Bible courses and may serve equally well in basic courses in hermeneutics. Its easy, nontechnical language will make it a popular text with such students."

Jeffrey S. Lamp,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Every once in a while a book comes along that immediately meets a real need. This is one of those books. Building on the work of scholars such as Lesslie Newbigin, Alisdair MacIntyre, and N. T. Wright, the authors have produced a coherent and readable overview of the biblical story, which is filled with just enough detail to corroborate claims and tantalize the reader without losing sight of the big picture of Scripture. . . . Books like this one often give useful information and leave it at that. However, this book calls for application. Stressing that the peculiar logic of the biblical story is that it is a story in search of an ending, the writers show the importance of individual believers making a difference in the present based on what has happened in the biblical story in the past. . . . [This book] will serve college students, pastors and scholars well in their efforts to understand and live the Christian story."

Stephen G. Dempster,

Canadian Evangelical Review

"The book succeeds in making a case for a cohesive narrative in scripture, most successfully in relating the NT to OT in themes of covenant and promise, and when exploring briefly the idea of the contemporary Christian church continuing to be a player in the drama."

Gary Burnett,

Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Who wouldn't appreciate an excellent overview of the Bible? There are many good guides to seeing the big picture and this--written from a perspective which insists on whole-life discipleship and a transforming worldview based on a Kingdom vision of a restored creation--is one of the very, very best. . . . This is a great, great book for those newish to Bible study or for those who still hunger to know God's Word in a more coherent manner."

Byron Borger,

"[This book] will certainly appeal to anyone approaching the entire biblical story for the first time."

Dianne Bergant, CSA,

Bible Today

"Bartholomew and Goheen offer an evocative and helpful introduction to biblical theology. Consciously countering the centrifugal tendencies of modern critical scholarship and the postmodern dismissal of metanarratives, they persuasively portray the diverse writings of the Christian Scriptures as one coherent story that, understood on its own terms, functions precisely as a metanarrative. . . . They recount this story with perceptive generalizations and a keen eye to revealing details. . . . The work emerges from an evangelical context but is open and intentionally interdisciplinary. . . . The Drama of Scripture derives from a class originally offered to college undergraduates, but it would also be appropriate for entering seminary students and lay adult-education classes. . . . [The authors] highlight key theological themes that they then trace through the biblical narrative. They nevertheless show sensitivity to the particular character of the biblical literature and display a deft touch in explaining selected passages in ways that should be very helpful to new students of the Bible."

Robert Sherman,

Pro Ecclesia

"As an introductory text to the subject, the book is intended for first-year university students as well as Bible study groups. . . . The reader indeed comes away with a more developed sense of the Bible's overall coherence; in that regard, this is a very helpful book. Illustrated maps and models are occasionally employed, helping give concreteness to the narrative. A web address is also provided for access to supplementary material. In all, Bartholomew and Goheen make a much-needed contribution to the literature, providing a text that is readable and informative, capable of reaching a wide audience."

Joseph Koskie,

Scottish Journal of Theology

"Any serious Bible reader will find this an accessible book-one providing structure to an all too often fragmentary knowledge of the biblical text. The book, developed as a text for a first-year university course, is a pleasure to read. Apart from its obvious value as an academic text, it is useful in a small-group setting or adult Bible class. The book is accompanied by excellent resources for a class setting."

David Daniels,

Faith Today

"A worthy introduction or teaching tool. . . . The book has several strengths. It is a highly readable work. The authors' clear and simple writing style allows the reader to be caught up in the movement of the story itself. The book also contains twenty six figures, the majority of which are well-placed maps, which add to the sense of story and make the characters' movements and actions more conceivable. Other figures provide visual reference for some of the theological concepts that arise in the course of the story. Finally, the authors maintain a good balance between the biblical story itself and the historical background behind the story. . . . The book has several possible uses. It would be an excellent companion text in an introductory course on the Old or New Testament. In the pastoral setting, it would provide an accessible overview of the Bible for the new, adult believer. And for those Christians who are themselves looking to step back and gain a fresh perspective on the Bible, Bartholomew and Goheen's work might well prove worth a read."

Jonathan E. Kane,

Ashland Theological Journal

"The authors masterfully explain how the themes of covenant and the Kingdom of God provide a coherence for Scripture that helps make sense of its varied parts. . . . I commend the authors for offering a much-needed bird's eye view of Scripture, including the intertestamental period. They show us how a good understanding of God's redemptive plan for the ages enriches the faith of believers and aids them in developing a Christian world and life view."

Johan D. Tangelder,

Christian Renewal

"This very user-friendly guide to the Bible as a unified drama spanning both testaments presents a useful overview of many of the key themes in the biblical story. . . . The authors draw important implications from the biblical drama for the life of contemporary believers and their charge to spread the good news in today's world. Over twenty-five maps and/or graphic illustrations enhance the book that also includes extensive notes and a helpful index. This overview of the Bible is suitable for advanced high school or college students."

Barbara E. Bowe, RSCJ,

Catholic Library World

"[The Drama of Scripture] successfully demonstrates how Scripture conveys a coherent story. One challenge for this kind of book is to balance retelling the biblical narrative with highlighting the theological connections which unify it, and Bartholomew and Goheen carry this off well. Another strength is their emphasis on finding our own place within the biblical narrative and discerning how it should shape and define us. Finally, the inclusion of the Second Temple period is welcome, since it reminds us that the expectation and understanding of redemption continued to develop during that time. . . . [This book] occupies a unique place in the literature: nothing else focuses so clearly on Scripture as a story while competently interacting with secondary literature. . . . It would make a very good required text for a biblical theology course or as a more theological component of a traditional Introduction to OT or NT. Likewise, it could be used for adult education in the local church. . . . Bartholomew and Goheen have done an admirable job of showing how Scripture tells a unified story of God at work to establish his kingdom, and their book deserves wide use."

Charles A. Anderson,

Trinity Journal

"The strength of this book lies in the simplicity of style that enables it to squeeze the broadness of the biblical material as well as some of the best fruit of theological scholarship all within its surprisingly thin covers. . . . In combining some of the best evangelical scholarship to outline in broad-brush strokes the flow and narrative quality of the text, Bartholomew and Goheen have provided a book that enables us to grasp--and indeed invites us to play our part in--the unfolding biblical drama of God's salvation."

Mathew Newton,


"[Bartholomew and Goheen] combine their strengths to produce this text for biblical theology for first-year university students. The Drama of Scripture clearly, concisely, and with magnetic interest summarizes the wide scope of the Bible. . . . Bartholomew and Goheen write for all Christians. . . . A multi-use volume, The Drama of Scripture will find a place in classroom, individual study, and family and group study. Mentors and students will value it as a handy reference book with a large subject index. The footnotes are full of interesting tidbits of information."

Donna Eggett,

Christian Book Previews

"Readers familiar with the work of Geerhardus Vos, Gordon Wenham, Herman Ridderbos, N. T. Wright, and Hendrikus Berkhof will recognize the framework (old age/new age) within which the biblical story is retold. Indeed, as a popularization and synthesis of the writings of these scholars, The Drama of Scripture will be a useful work for students of Scripture and a helpful resource for pastors and teachers looking for assistance in developing a compelling presentation of the biblical story."

Nelson D. Kloosterman,

Mid-America Journal of Theology

"The book reads very well and will prove to be a useful resource in a small group setting or an adult Bible class. An added benefit is a web site ( providing many excellent resources for those planning to use this text in a class setting."

David Daniels,

Evangelical Baptist

"Although the authors survey most of the biblical books in a modest 250 pages, they still find space to deal with misconceptions about the text and even introduce new textual and theological insights. . . . The Drama of Scripture presents a sound perspective and a coherent story. It combines an introductory style to biblical theology with commentary, theological insights, and invitations to engagement. Its style is simple, with good Scripture and Subject indices. The endnotes provide additional interesting and helpful information. It would serve well not only as a textbook for college-level students, but also for laypeople and theologians who are interested in refreshing their perspectives on God's history and plans for humanity. . . . I recommend The Drama of Scripture as an excellent addition to the missiologist's or theologian's library."

Cristian Dumitrescu,

Andrews University Seminary Studies

"This is an excellent effort, and the reviewer would recommend it for use in Christian colleges or adult education programs. . . . This volume is an excellent gateway into a fruitful discussion of biblical theology with a creative approach to bringing 'God's Story' into one's own story."

Brenton D. G. Dickieson,

Stone-Campbell Journal

"The story of the Bible is a story waiting for an ending, in part because we have a role to play before all is concluded in the new creation. Such a holistic view of God's saving purposes in Christ disallows a reduction of the Christian mandate to evangelism and cross-cultural mission. While affirming these as non-negotiable and essential, the authors show that the mandate includes the renewal of politics, education, ecology, business, family, and community. This is a timely reminder that we must resist the privatization and internalization of the Christian faith."

Greg Goswell,

New Life