Bible Top Ten

Let’s start with the bottom ten.

The Ship of Fools recently published “Chapter & Worse“, the ten worst verses of the Bible. Check it out for bemusement or to confirm any prejudices you already have about what a nasty piece of work the Bible is. For me it’s difficult to reconcile the enormous influence the Christian movement had on the abolition of slavery with St Peter’s exhortation to slaves to submit to their masters! See 1 Peter 2v18, the last of the listed ten worst verses.

The Bible is a library, of course; it contains a varied selection of books. Some books are more challenging than others, particularly in the consideration of some individual verses as outlined by the Ship of Fools.

All Scripture is God-breathed
(2 Timothy 3v16)

So what does that mean for us? There’s an interesting feature here about that particular verse. It explores a number of other sources that are drawn upon within the Biblical canon. It is a difficult area, but it is without doubt that there is a wealth of wisdom and knowledge contained within it. Even if you question some of it, it remains a remarkable historical document and much of the writing is legendary.




I wonder what books I would include if I needed to draw up a shorter canon? I can’t imagine how that need would arise, but it would be an interesting exercise to envisage what a top ten of the Bible might look like. I’m not talking here about a pure top ten; not ten standalone works of inspired God-breathed literary genius. I’m thinking ideally of a top ten that might best encapsulate what the Bible stands for and what it means. It’s not easy, but here’s my attempt:

Genesis – The story of creation and the beginning of all things. It’s difficult to justify the entirety of Genesis as literary truth, but theologically it’s crucial.

Exodus – The beginning of Judaism and the Law. Much of it boring and repetitive, but surely a necessary part of the wider story.

Samuel (both parts) – Another important part of the Jewish story, the lives of Saul, David and Solomon in particular. Early ideas of the authority of God invested in the state.

Isaiah – A prophecy which brings meaning to the Gospel truth.

Daniel – A wonderful story of trust and faith. More prophecy, much of it still to come.

Luke – The most comprehensive single work on the life of Jesus.

John – A different perspective of Jesus, concentrating more on who He was than what He did.

Acts – the birth of the church. Miracles abound. The Big Bang of Christianity.

Romans – Much to my frustration, the only part of St Paul’s work I have space to include, but surely his best(?) A great exposition of what it means to be Christian and what that walk is all about.

James – Very practical advice written by the brother of Jesus Himself. How to manage temptation and live out our faith in a way that truly helps others. The manual on Jesus’ call to love others as ourselves.

Well, these are my thoughts. Controversial, no doubt. They’re not the ten foremost Christian texts, but perhaps together they provide context for each other. They’re the ones I’d recommend to someone who’d read none of it or who knew none of it.

I stand ready to be corrected!



2 thoughts on “Bible Top Ten

  1. Interesting stuff. I like the way that “The Ship of Fools” mentions women submitting to men, but nothing about men submitting to women… Doesn’t Paul go on for a few chapters about people submitting to each other? Plus, a lot of that stuff is recording what people did, not much of it was God-sanctioned!

    At the risk of the Evangelicals burning me at the steak (yum) for leaving out bits of the bible, here’s my 10 to keep:

    1) Genesis – Theological doctrines of Creation and the Fall shown, and also explains how the Israelites ended up in Egypt.

    2) Exodus – The Israelites leave Egypt. Torah is established.

    3) Judges – God shows what kind of people he uses – the really messed up and inadequate ones.

    4) 2 Samuel – The establishment of the Israelite monarchy. King David is enthroned, and God promises to always have a king.

    5) Daniel – The concept of the Messiah king being divine is shown, as well as prophecies concerning the period up to 1st century AD.

    6) Jonah – Shows what Israelite religious nationalism was like and what God thinks about it.

    7) Luke – The story of Jesus, written for outsiders.

    8) John – The story of Jesus, written for intellectuals (the Greeks back then).

    9) Romans – What do Christians believe? All that matters, and its implications, is in here.

    10) Hebrews – Jesus is portrayed as fulfilling Torah.

    One I was always a bit unsure about (and will no doubt be lectured on enormously by Athanasius when I’m in hell) was Jude. I’d also include Macabees from the Apocrypha since it (a) shows the fulfilment of some of the prophecies in Daniel, and (b) it shows the kind of king the Jews expected Jesus to be when he rode into Jerusalem (and hence why the arranged him to be arrested shortly after).

  2. Good choices. Judges gets me thinking. And you’ve made a better case for Daniel than I have. But I’d keep Isaiah sooner than Daniel. I hope we’re not burned for all of this. I know there is a verse in Revelations (22v19) where we are instructed not to take anything away from the book, but I always imagined that referred specifically to Revelations and not to the whole canon, which in any case wasn’t established for several centuries. Otherwise woe betide the publishers of the NT & Psalms for leaving out so much crucial material from the OT. My ‘shorter canon’ would not be the NT & Psalms, but probably the top ten I’ve listed. Or maybe a top twelve; that’s a much better Christian number in any case.

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