A Bible overview in eight (or nine) stories

In the recent past we were using a set of fifteen stories. We were challenged to cut this set to eight. Why?


  • It was much more manageable for new storytellers to learn. That is, people much more easily believed they could learn eight than fifteen. So the storytelling became more reproduceable.
  • Eight stories can be shared in one sitting if necessary (I’ve done this often on planes and buses).
  • Doing one a week, the set can be covered in two months.

So we asked ourselves, if we could only choose eight stories which ones would they be?  We chose these ones, and our reasons are outlined below.

Old Testament

  1. Genesis 3:1-15
  2. Genesis 16:2-10
  3. Exodus 9:13-28
  4. Exodus 12:29-33

New Testament

  1. Mark 2:1-12
  2. John 11:32-44
  3. Luke 23: 32-47
  4. Luke 24:36-52


Each story requires an introduction. This should include:

  • Context – real time, real place, real people. For example – “Abraham was a man who lived 4000 years ago in a place called Babylon. Today, it is the modern country of Iraq.”
  • Explain any specialized vocabulary like ‘Pharisees,’ ‘Sabbath,’ ‘Synagogue’
  • Link it with the previous stories. One way I do this is to say, “Adam had children and their children had children and many generations passed. One day, 4000 years ago, there was a man called Abraham …”
  • Sometimes use a question to attract people to listen to the story. For example, “Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?”

Watch this video about preparing introductions. It will also demonstrate how to show the difference between your introduction and the actual story.

New Testament

We started our decision making with the New Testament stories because we knew that the last two were essential.

  • Crucifixion (Luke 23:32-47)
  • Resurrection (Luke 24:36-51)

Then we had to choose two others from six choices (Christmas + five miracle stories).

We eventually chose:

  • Mark 2:1-12 (authority to cure and forgive sin)
  • John 11: 32-44 (Lazarus raised from the dead: authority over death, who is this man?)

Recently, we’ve sometimes added back in the Christmas story. There were three main sections of this story and we ended up choosing Luke 2:6-18.

Old Testament

We found it much harder to choose four stories from the Old Testament. In the end we’ve gone with:

  • Rebellion (Genesis 3:1-15), we can summarize the ‘Creation’ story as our introduction
  • Abraham and Hagar (Genesis 16:2-10, with intro of blessings from Genesis 12:1-7). It perhaps isn’t easy to see why we chose this story but this is a story that almost everyone seems to relate to as it is like ‘a soap opera’ and we’ve seen people really start paying attention after this one. This story is also important because Abraham and Sarah were trying to get blessings their own way and not wait for God’s timing.

It also allows us to easily say, “This story has many parts. Here’s a booklet to allow you to read more of Abraham’s story.” (Or you could put a book mark in Genesis 12-24 in the Bible or photocopy that section).

There are two reasons we did not choose the ‘sacrifice of Isaac’ story (Genesis 22:1-19). Firstly, if we only do this story then there is a long introduction needed. This story presented alone also makes Abraham appear a super hero of trusting God when in fact he had three major failures (Genesis 12 +16 + also doubting that Sarah would have a child and laughing at the thought- Genesis 17:17). We have also had quite a few locals so shocked at this story (what a horrible God to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son) that they stop listening altogether.

  • Plague of Hail (Exodus 9:13-28).  This is also a ‘two ways to live’ story as people could avoid the plague and actually some Egyptians did. It is a less confronting story than the Noah story.

The section from verse 13-16 is hard to learn because it is repetitive but the repetitions are all slightly different. This video shows how we’ve started training those very important verses.

If your people are struggling too much to learn verses 13-16 you could simply summarize them and include them as part of your introduction. That is, the story would be learned from verse 16 or 17 to verse 28.

  • Passover (Exodus 12:29-33), always remembered clearly because of the Chinese tradition of the red blessings over door frame. The Bible also considers this the Old Testament ‘salvation’ story and there are multiple links to Jesus’ death as the Passover Lamb.

We’ll try this and see how we go. Please look at these stories in the video set ‘Bible Overview Set’. Some of them have been shortened again since we filmed those stories.

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This post is also available in (our master template), Italian and traditional and simplified Chinese.

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