The Biblical Story Follows the Plot Structure of Other Literature

Dr. Chris Stroble / Published on January 6, 2024


You have probably read one of Shakespeare's plays in one of your English classes: Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Othello. If you recall, Shakespeare's plays are divided into five Acts-I, II, III, IV, and V.  These five acts follow the plot structure found in novels, short stories, narrative nonfiction (memoirs), and movies.

This plot structure includes: 

  • Exposition - where we learn about the characters and the setting.
  • Conflict/Inciting Incident (what gets the action going). 
  • Rising Action - events that complicate the conflict; authors include elements of suspense.
  • Climax - the turning point. The point of no return to the way things were.
  • Falling Action - the aftermath.
  • Resolution/Denouement - the problem is solved.


The same is true of the biblical story. -It follows a plot structure. The Bible Project, which I love, outlines the Acts of this biblical story in their short 8-minute overview of the New Testament.  


First, as they point out, the biblical story is one complicated story of God's covenant partnership with Israel and all of humanity. This story is divided into two parts--the Old Testament and the New Testament-and follows the basic plot structure:

 

The Old Testament (provides core themes, plot conflicts, and design patterns) in three Acts: 

  • Act I   Genesis 1-11 is about God and humanity (think of characters, setting, inciting   

         incident/conflict).

  • Act II  Genesis 12- 2 Kings is about God and Israel and develops the pattern of Act I (think of complications and rising action). 
  • Act III  The Prophets & Poets (still rising action)


The Bible Project (again, which I love) notes that the Old Testament ends in anticipation of another "Act" in the New Testament, and the New Testament is the same story--continued in Jesus. The New Testament includes the climax (which I say is Jesus rising from the dead), falling action, and resolution.


So, the biblical story follows a plot structure. This plot structure-also found in Shakespeare's plays, novels, short stories, narrative nonfiction (memoirs), and movies includes the exposition (setting, characters, conflict/inciting incident), rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.


You probably know this plot structure, but it's important to know the biblical story, both for spiritual reasons and because there are so many allusions to the stories (people, places, and events) from the biblical story in all the literature you read. You want to know those stories.


To learn more, listen to The Bible Project's short, 8-minute video New Testament Overview.