Is the Bible a Legal Drama or a Love Story?


Some see the Bible as a disconnected set of stories, poems, history, letters, and more. I do believe, however, that it should be seen as a big story with lots of chapters.

But what type of story is it. An obvious possibility is that it is a legal drama. And there are strong reasons to view it that way…

A legal drama would typically have a Law, a Judge, the Defendant, the Prosecutor, the Defense. And in the Bible these roles are made pretty clear:

Law: Mosaic Law or New Covenant (This can be looked at in terms of covenants or dispensations)

Judge: God

Defendant: Mankind (individually or corporately)

Prosecutor: Satan (the “Accuser”)

The Defense: Jesus Christ (Mediator)

If one looks at the Bible this way, perhaps the book of the Bible that best fits this form is the Book of Job. God acts as Judge. Satan is the Accuser, the Defendant is a man, the Law is vaguely described but seems to be godly righteousness. The only thing missing in Job is a clear Defense. Job really spends much of the book trying to defend himself.

There are problems with this. For one, there is more than one Law. Focusing on different covenants or different dispensations does not help. It kind of comes off as more than one law drama. Also, although Jesus is described as a mediator, more commonly Jesus’s role is different. It seems like Jesus as defense is more of a metaphor to make a point rather than a model. Also, these roles within the story sort of suggest that Jesus and Satan are equal and opposite, while God (the Father) is more interested in the Law (His Law) than He is in mankind. God the Father is ultimately more Just and Loving.

The Love Story is more vague. There is the two people and the relationship. In this the two “people” would be God and Mankind. The relationship would be found in the pursuer and the pursued. As such, the book of the Bible that fits the overall story the best is probably Hosea, with God as the faithful lover, Israel as the unfaithful loved one, and a marriage, adultery, and restoration providing the story.

The love story sounds vague, but I feel it works better in a number of ways.

  1. It puts Satan in his proper place. Satan is not the “anti-God.” He is not equal and opposite. He is more tempter than accuser.
  2. In this model, God is not schizophrenic— a Holy Judge and a Son seeking to undermine justice. It works better in terms of a Trinitarian understanding of God. The Christian understanding of God is not Tritheism— three different gods working with and against each other. One God may express Himself in multiple persons/players, but are united in purpose.
  3. It doesn’t require stressing out so much over different laws/covenants/dispensations. Each section of salvific history is a different strategy or chapter in the dance that is the relationship between God and man.
  4. It has a stronger anthropological aspect to it than the other. For the legal drama, the expectations of God are found in terms of the Law (whether Mosaic Law or Law of Grace), but the expectations of Man are ignored… only the failure to meet the expectations of God. However, as a love story, God not only has expectations for Man, but Man has expectations for God. That is a reality and it is best to acknowledge that— much as the Bible does not ignore Man’s dissatisfaction with God at times.
  5. It avoids some of the (I am sorry to say) “silliness” in terms of talking about God being “infinitely just” and “infinitely loving” so the blood atonement was the “only way” that God could work out how to fix things and pay the price. Rather, the sacrifice of Christ is primarily an act expressing the depth of love that God and for mankind. With this understanding, God is more loving than He is just.

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