The structure of the Bible bears a specific resemblance to a blockbuster Hollywood film.
Blockbusters start by presenting us with a problem to be solved. They introduce a hero or heroes, and at the end of the film we discover if or how the problem is solved.
The Bible varies from conventional Hollywood film structure in that its ultimate protagonist, Jesus, doesn’t appear until after the midpoint. Still, a great hero is worth waiting for.
Film structure in the Bible
In screenwriting, the problem introduced at the beginning of a film is called the ‘inciting incident’. It’s the shark devouring a few swimmers in Jaws. In the original Star Wars, it’s the need to get the plans for the Death Star to the Alliance so it can be destroyed.
Blockbusters twist and turn over the course of a typically three-act structure. Regardless of where the story arc veers off, at the climax it brings us back to the film’s core problem—the problem defined by the inciting incident.
In Story, screenwriting guru Robert McKee writes: “The Inciting Incident, the first major event of the telling, is the primary cause for all that follows, putting into motion the other four elements—Progressive Complications, Crisis, Climax, Resolution.”
A well-crafted film always ends by resolving its inciting incident. Jaws must end with the final clash between the sheriff and the shark. Star Wars must end with the final conflict between the Alliance and the Death Star.
Any other ending would be poor storytelling and unsatisfactory for the viewer. Great films get us invested in great inciting incidents and lead to great resolutions.
The Bible is no different. Millennia before Hollywood, the Bible used the same structure as a great blockbuster film.
What’s the inciting incident of the Bible? It’s in chapter 2 of Genesis: The Fall.
But wait, I hear you say. The Fall isn’t mentioned in the final book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation.
Actually, it is. It’s right there in chapter 22: “God will bless all who have washed their robes. They will each have the right to eat fruit from the tree that gives life, and they can enter the gates of the city.” (Revelation 22:14, Contemporary English Version)
Ah, the Tree of Life. We know about that. It’s in Genesis 2: “Two other trees were in the middle of the garden. One of the trees gave life—the other gave the power to know the difference between right and wrong.” (Genesis 2:9)
The narrative arc of the Bible spans from humanity losing access to the fruit of the Tree of Life in Genesis 2 to regaining that access, in perpetuity, in Revelation 22.
The question becomes: what exactly is the Tree of Life?
Life in its fullest
The verse in Genesis—“One of the trees gave life”—is concise in the extreme. So concise it’s hard to unpack. John 10:10, one of my favourite verses, offers more. “I have come so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.”
This gives us two clues. The first is that Jesus is critical to the Bible’s—and our—journey from inciting incident to climax.
The second is there’s a difference between life, and life “in its fullest.” It’s as if the life we’re living now is a second-rate, knockdown, diminished version of what it’s supposed to be.
Which it is.
So how is our current existence diminished? Genesis 2:9 gives us a clue.
That raises the next question: what is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?
This is the territory ROCI21.love explores in detail. Not through theology, but by examining the evidence of history, geography, anthropology, and psychology to recast the Hollywood film structure of the Bible in a whole new light.
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