Are all parts of the Bible just as important as the rest? This is the Deep Questions Podcast, and I’m your host, Chase Thompson, a pastor, and writer in Salinas, California, and today we’re talking about what’s most important in the Bible.
And we’re back…sorry for the unplanned hiatus, but things should be back to normal, and you should look for at least an episode a week going forward, Lord willing.
Today we consider a question that, on the surface, has an obvious answer: Of course, all Scripture is important – more than important, really. In what is likely the last letter of Paul, written shortly before his death, the apostle is going to tell us something stirring and important about God’s Word in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The CSB says all Scripture is “inspired by God.” and the KJV says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God,” which is true – Scripture is indeed inspired by God, but when we go to the original Greek language, we can see this marvelous word – one of my favorite Greek words of all. “θεόπνευστος theópneustos” This is a word used only ONCE in all of Scripture, which the theologians call a “Hapax Legomenon.” Often these words can be difficult to translate because they only occur once in Scripture, and thus it can be difficult to understand their context, but this word is quite obvious in its meaning because it is a word made up of two words smashed together: Theos, or God and Pneustos, which comes from the word meaning wind or breath. Thus Paul tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed, as the NIV and ESV translations tell us. ALL Scripture has its origins not in humans, but in God – He has inspired it and breathed it out through His people. Paul further tells us that ALL Scripture is profitable – not in a financial sense, but rather in an overall sense, all Scripture is advantageous/helpful. It brings completeness to the people of God, and equips them to do God’s work. I confess and believe this about ALL Scripture. It is ALL God-breathed and ALL profitable. But, is it all equally profitable/advantageous/helpful? This is the crux of our question today, and I think it is an important question that not enough Christians and Christian leaders wrestle with.
The topic of this episode was sparked by a recent walk where I was listening to the first few chapters of 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament, and I had to repeatedly make myself refocus, because the first 9 chapters of 1st Chronicles are basically one name after another, after another, or one geographic location after another. It is difficult reading, but don’t take my word for it. Let me share a few verses with you:
1 Chronicles 1:1-7 Adam, Seth, Enosh, 2 Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, 3 Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, 4 Noah, Noah’s sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 5 Japheth’s sons: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 6 Gomer’s sons: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 7 Javan’s sons: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim.
how about 1 Chronicles 2:5-10 5 Perez’s sons: Hezron and Hamul. 6 Zerah’s sons: Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara—five in all. 7 Carmi’s son: Achar, who brought trouble on Israel when he was unfaithful by taking the things set apart for destruction. 8 Ethan’s son: Azariah. 9 Hezron’s sons, who were born to him: Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai. 10 Ram fathered Amminadab, and Amminadab fathered Nahshon, a leader of Judah’s descendants.
or 1 Chronicles 3:17-20 17 The sons of Jeconiah the captive: his sons Shealtiel, 18 Malchiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah. 19 Pedaiah’s sons: Zerubbabel and Shimei. Zerubbabel’s sons: Meshullam and Hananiah, with their sister Shelomith; 20 and five others—Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah, and Jushab-hesed.
or, let’s skip ahead – 1 Chronicles 6:63-70
63 The Merarites were assigned by lot twelve towns from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun according to their families. 64 So the Israelites gave these towns and their pasturelands to the Levites. 65 They assigned by lot the towns named above from the tribes of the descendants of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin. 66 Some of the families of the Kohathites were given towns from the tribe of Ephraim for their territory: 67 Shechem (a city of refuge) with its pasturelands in the hill country of Ephraim, Gezer and its pasturelands, 68 Jokmeam and its pasturelands, Beth-horon and its pasturelands, 69 Aijalon and its pasturelands, and Gath-rimmon and its pasturelands. 70 From half the tribe of Manasseh, Aner and its pasturelands, and Bileam and its pasturelands were given to the rest of the families of the Kohathites.
1 Chronicles 6 has EIGHTY verses, and they are all like that – either lists of descendents or lists of where people lived. It might legitametely be the hardest chapter in the Bible to read, and is also probably the most difficult chapter in the Bible to memorize.
And, so I don’t belabor the point and keep reading, just trust me that pretty much all of 1 Chronicles 1-9 is just like the selections I read above. Long lists with lots of names and places that are really quite unfamiliar, even to people who’ve read the Bible all their life. Passages like these aren’t just limited to 1 Chronicles 1-9 either. Nehemiah 7, 10, 11 and 12 are all pretty tough too – lots of names and places and lists, and we can find sections and chapters like this all over the Bible – including 1 Chronicles 26, and many other passages that contain almost nothing but names, and very little narratives, or promises of God, or descriptions of the nature of God, or commands, or teachings, or anything meaty. Also consider passages like Job 4-5 and Job 8, 11, 15, 20 and beyond where 100% of the content of the chapters there are speeches from Job’s friends Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz – whom God utterly rebukes at the end of the book of Job for being wrong in just about everything they said. What about all of the censuses taken in the book of Numbers, or the precise and detailed measurments of the temple found in the book of Exodus? Compare these chapters and some of the passages we read earlier to something like 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, 5 is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
25 “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34
When you compare Matthew 6 and 1 Corinthians 13 with the lists from 1 Chronicles 1-9, or other such passages in the Bible like the speeches of Job’s friends one can see quite a contrast. I therefore venture to say that, demonstrably, some Bible passages are more important than others. Does that statement cause a shiver to run up your spine? It does mine – it kind of makes me nervous, honestly, but I nevertheless believe that it is true. I would rather have my kids (or people that attend the church I pastor) read the first 9 chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, etc – than I would have them read the first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles. Am I just giving you my opinion here? Perhaps to a degree, but I will point out one very significant situation where Jesus was asked a question that is very similar to our question today – only, rather than the question being phrased, “Are some parts of the Bible more important than others?” the question was rather, “What are the most important commands in the Bible?” We read about this episode in Matthew 22:
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.38 This is the greatest and most important command.39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:34-39
So here we have an example where Jesus surveys ALL of the Old Testament commands, and pulls TWO to the forefront – designating them greater than the others. I note that these commands come from entirely different books of the Bible too – The command to wholeheartedly love God comes from Deuteronomy 6, and the command to love our neighbors is given in Leviticus 19.
That said, let me be quite clear: There are NO unimportant parts of Scripture. The lists in 1 Chronicles 1-9 have immense historical importance, and some spiritual importance as well. The speeches of Job’s friends – which God condemns as being wrong – are NOT truth then, but they are examples of wrong-thinking that we can learn from. They are, as Job notes, “miserable comforters,” and therefore negative examples for us NOT to emulate – cautionary tales, so to speak. The many name lists in the Bible, and the geographic locations where people settled, the weights and measures, and all of that sort of thing are not superfluous, but demonstrate the genuine historic nature of the Bible. Real names. Real locations. Real measurements. Not fables, or myths or legends. Not only that, but some concealed spiritual treasures are hidden just below the surface of those seemingly boring lists and geneaologies, as our friends from One for Israel point out regarding the list found in 1 Chronicles 26:
1 Chronicles 26 is a chapter of names, which many might overlook, but it has a treasure inside:
“Obed-edom had sons: Shemaiah the firstborn, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sacar the fourth, Nethanel the fifth, Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, and Peullethai the eighth, (for God had blessed him). To his son Shemaiah were born sons who were leaders of their clans, for they were men of great ability. The sons of Shemaiah: Othni, Rephael, Obed and Elzabad. His brothers Elihu and Semachiah were also valiant men. All these were descendants of Obed-edom. They and their sons and their kinsmen were capable men with the strength to do the work—62 of Obed-edom.” (1 Chronicles 26:4-8)
Dull list of names, right? Unless you know who Obed-edom is. In 2 Samuel 6, we have the story of David trying to move the ark of the covenant from Kiryat Jearim to Jerusalem, and they had the brilliant idea of putting it on wheels instead of carrying it on the shoulders of priests as God required. The cart wobbled at one point, Uzziel reached out to steady it, and died on the spot. David felt this was extremely harsh and essentially sulked about it for a few months before getting over the incident and trying again – this time taking care to carry it the way that God had prescribed back in Exodus. But where was the ark for the duration of those few months? David decided to put it in the house of Obed-edom.
“David was not willing to take the ark of the Lord into the city of David, but took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.” (2 Samuel 6:10-11)
So basically, Obed-edom hosted the ark of the Lord for three months, and we are told that God “blessed him”. But many generations later, if we are paying attention and remember the names, we can see that this blessing of God was profound, and lasted for generations! The list in 1 Chronicles 26 tells us that he had eight sons because God had blessed him, that they were men of great ability, and that their descendants were also valiant men, capable and strong in the service of the Lord. Moreover, Obed-edom was a Gittite, from Gath. Most scholars agree that this means he was Philistine! In 1 Samuel, the Philistines steal the ark and come to bitterly regret it, so they send it back with five golden offerings, one for each Philistine king, one of whom was king of Gath, but when we look at the list in Chronicles, we see that Obed-edom the Gittite and his descendents have been elevated to serve as Levites in the house of the Lord. What an honour, and what great blessing came upon that man and his family. It testifies to the power of God’s blessing on whole families and across generations.
When God blesses a family, it has a powerful and lasting effect that you might not know about if you always skipped those lists.
So, yes – some Scripture, in some instances, is more important than others, as even Jesus pointed out. However, ALL Scripture is God-breathed and ALL Scripture is advantageous! I imagine that some people will have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to this question. Perhaps the same people that say things like, “all sin is the same in God’s eyes,” a saying which is demonstrably from the Bible not at all true. (future episode coming). Some will say – ALL parts of God’s Word are equally important, and if I haven’t convinved you yet, then do this one exercise. Go read 1 Chronicles 6 a couple of times in a row. You’ll encounter verses like:
77 The rest of the Merarites received: From the tribe of Zebulun they received Rimmono and its pasturelands and Tabor and its pasturelands. 78 From the tribe of Reuben across the Jordan at Jericho, to the east of the Jordan, they received Bezer in the desert and its pasturelands, Jahzah and its pasturelands, 79 Kedemoth and its pasturelands, and Mephaath and its pasturelands. 80 From the tribe of Gad they received Ramoth in Gilead and its pasturelands, Mahanaim and its pasturelands, 81 Heshbon and its pasturelands, and Jazer and its pasturelands. 1 Chronicles 6:77-80
That is God’s Word and it is wonderful and advantageous and inerrant. But, is it as useful reading that chapter twice as it would be to read 1 Corinthians 15 – the resurrection chapter – twice? Or Acts 2? Or Matthew 5? Or John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer? Or Psalm 23? Which of those chapters would you want a new Christian to read? Which would you want your kids to read? Which would you want yourself to read in your quiet time in the morning? I think the answer is undeniably any of those other chapters before 1 Chronicles 9.
Now, why cover this question? Because it is an excellent setup and foundation for our NEXT question in episode #5 of the Deep Questions podcast, which will likely be out as you hear this. In that episode, we will discuss and consider which method of studying and reading the Bible is the best – should Christians read the Bible cover to cover, or is there a better approach?