Lutheran Forum,
a theological quarterly,
has offered insightful, confessional commentary and scholarship to the lutheran churches in America for more than fifty years.

The Bible in 66 Verses

The Bible in 66 Verses


by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson

I first posted this list five years ago on our old site, and it proved to be by far the most popular post ever. In case you who missed it the first time or are glad to have your memory jogged, here it is again.

The rule I imposed on myself was that each book of the Bible had to be represented by one single, whole verse (no convenient deletions, like we do with the psalms in worship) but no more than that one verse (inspiring lines spanning two or more verses were out).

Beyond that, the strategy in picking each verse varied a bit from book to book. Sometimes I chose the verse that best seemed to represent the message of the whole book. For Ecclesiastes this was a no-brainer: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Other times the verse I chose was really the only one I could find that seemed even remotely appropriate to stand alone, as in the case of Leviticus (“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy’”) and Esther (“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”).

With the historical books of the Old Testament, the best approach seemed to be to pick a representative line of the major figures that dominate the stories, so Samuel, David and Nathan, and Elisha all make an appearance. In still other books, it was the most famous line that cried out for inclusion: the very first verse of Genesis, the Shema of Deuteronomy, and Joshua’s stand that “as for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” Some of my Old Testament choices were deliberately christological: Ezekiel looking down on the valley of dry bones, the son of man in Daniel, and “he was wounded for our transgressions” in Isaiah (though I admit it was hard to pass over the vision in ch. 6).

The gospels ended up being the hardest to choose from. Mark’s reference to the “ransom for many” seemed emblematic of the whole Gospel, but it was harder to settle on Jesus’ unsettling declaration in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The father’s joyful report at the end of Luke 15 captured the vision of that Evangelist, but I didn’t go with John 3:16 for the fourth gospel—instead I was drawn to “I am the resurrection and the life.” Acts, Romans, Philippians, and Hebrews were all easy choices, but I needed a better reacquaintance with the shorter books to make selections from the pastoral and johannine epistles. In both testaments, law and gospel are represented alike.

This particular sampling of “The Bible in 66 Verses” could be a nice way to ease study groups into the overarching narrative of the whole Bible or dip their toes into the less familiar books. But don’t feel obligated to keep to my selection here. By all means alter and correct where you see fit. Or, don’t look at mine, and do your own first, and compare the results after. It’s a pleasurable and illuminating way to have a fresh encounter with the Holy Scriptures.

Sarah Hinlicky Wilson is the Editor of Lutheran Forum.
Subscribe now to enjoy great content like this delivered quarterly to your door! 

The Bible in 66 Verses

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (1:1)

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (20:2)

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’” (19:2)

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!” (11:29)

“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (6:4)

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (24:15)

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (17:6)

Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (1:16)

I Samuel
And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” (8:7)

II Samuel
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” (12:13)

I Kings
“Listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive.” (8:30)

II Kings
But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” (5:8)

I Chronicles
“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all.” (29:11)

II Chronicles
The king went up to the house of the Lord, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. (34:30)

They kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. (6:22)

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (8:10)

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14)

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” (38:4)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (23:1)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (1:7)

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. (1:2)

Song of Solomon
My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies. (2:16)

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (53:5)

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (31:33)

The Lord has become like an enemy; He has swallowed up Israel; He has swallowed up all its palaces; He has laid in ruins its strongholds, and He has multiplied in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation. (2:5)

And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” (37:3)

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. (7:13)

I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. (2:19)

And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (2:28)

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (5:24)

For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head. (1:15)

I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice. (2:2)

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (6:8)

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace! Keep your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows, for never again shall the worthless pass through you; he is utterly cut off. (1:15)

Behold, his soul is puffed up, it is not upright within him; but the righteous shall live by his faith. (2:4)

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do His just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord. (2:3)

The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts. (2:9)

They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. (7:12)

Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord Whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. (3:1)

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (5:48)

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (10:45)

“It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” (15:32)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (11:25)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (1:8)

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (3:28)

I Corinthians
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1:25)

II Corinthians
For our sake He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (5:21)

Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (4:6)

One Lord, one faith, one baptism. (4:5)

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (2:8)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (1:15)

I Thessalonians
Rejoice always. (5:16)

II Thessalonians
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power. (1:11)

I Timothy
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (6:12)

II Timothy
By the Holy Spirit Who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (1:14)

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (3:5)

I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. (12)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (12:1)

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (1:27)

I Peter
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (2:9)

II Peter
He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (1:4)

I John
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (4:8)

II John
And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. (5)

III John
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (4)

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (3)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (21:1)

Going Postal in Judges 19

Going Postal in Judges 19

Two Alternatives to Rebaptism in Brazilian Lutheranism

Two Alternatives to Rebaptism in Brazilian Lutheranism