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The Top Ten Verses From The Christian Bible

Given sufficient time to study just ten passages from the Bible, these are the passages I would select. Among these are some of the most memorable and most popular, but mere popularity is not the main reason for selecting these. Here, then, is my "best of the Bible" list, and why I selected each passage. Below is the list in chronolicical order. (For those interested in learning more, please continue reading below.)
    The Creation Story, Genesis, Chapter 1
    The Ten Commandments, Exodus, Chapter 20
    The Lord is My Shepherd, Psalm 23
    The Suffering Servant passage, Isaiah, Chapter 53
    In the beginning was the Word, John, Chapter 1
    The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew, Chapter 5
    The Passion Narrative, Luke, Chapter 23
    Paul's Letter to the Romans, Chapter 8
    The Greatest of These is Love, 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13
    A New Heaven and a New Earth, Revelation, Chapter 21

First, I wanted to capture the entire sweep and scope of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles (Old Testament and New Testament), and arrange my selections to run from beginning to end.

Therefore, beginning, as they say, at the beginning, in number one position is, the very first chapter of the Bible:

The Creation Story, Genesis, Chapter 1

I might have included Chapter 2 as well. This second Creaton Story is perhaps equally important, so I've created a link to it, for those interested in reading the one alongside the other.

Given recent debate about the public display of this next passage, as well as its crucial place at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and, indeed, the ethics and values of western culture itself, my second choice has to be:

The Ten Commandments, Exodus, Chapter 20

Like the Creation Story, there are actually two versions of the Ten Commandments, and I've included a link to version two as well.

In third position is the most memorable and most popular passage in the entire Bible. How do I know this?

I was once part of a committee that had to replace the Bible that was sitting on the altar in the Chapel of the hospital in my home town in Ohio. The Chapel was open to the public 24/7, so that people could come in at any time of the day or night, seeking the solice of prayer and scripture. The result: almost every year the Bible had to be replaced because just one page was worn thin to the point of disintegration. On that page was:

The Lord is My Shepherd, Psalm 23

Selecting the fourth and final passage from the Hebrew Bible was difficult. Having selected two passages from the first five books of the Bible, know as the books of Moses or the Pentateuch, and having selected another passage from the Psalms, I did not want to leave the Hewbrew Bible without a passage from the prophets, for these books link the two testaments together and anticipate the Christian revelation, even as they reflect all that has come before.

Because it conveys the unity and consistency of the Bible perhaps more powerfully than any other, my selection in the number four position is:

The Suffering Servant passage, Isaiah, Chapter 53

Here the prophet envisions the coming of a "wounded healer" who liberates by taking the sorrow of the world unto himself.

And that brings us to the Christian Bible. The Gospel of John is not the first book in the Christain Bible, but its opening chapter echoes the Creation Story, taking the reader back the the very beginning of time:

In the beginning was the Word, The Gospel of St. John, Chapter 1

This passage conveys the highest and in many ways most profound statement of Christ's divinity of any chapter in the entire Bible. In one, powerful and sweeping text, we move from the creation of the world to its consummation, from beginning to the end, echoing God's saving actitity throughout history, while anticipating Christ's return at the end of time as the "Son of Man."

From the sublime reaches of St. John, we move quickly back down to earth, to the here and now. Among the most familiar, and most moving of all the words of Jesus are those collected in St. Matthew's Gospel in what has come to be known as the Sermon on the Mount. Here is the first of three chapters containing the essential teaching of Jesus, in position six:

The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew, Chapter 5

A "man of sorrow, aquainted with grief" were the words of Isaiah, and in the story of Christ's crucifixtion, those words find fulfillment. The Passion Narrative encompases three chapters in St. Luke's gospel. Here is just one; in position seven:

The Passion Narrative: Christ Appears Before Pilot, is crucified and buried. Luke, Chapter 23

The story of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection might not have been told so widely, nor have become the master narrative of the new Christian faith, had it not expanded into a full blown message of salvation by the apostle Paul. One of the most widely studied and deeply beloved passages in all of Paul's letters is the single chapter that occupies position eight. This passage is not just a profound statement of the Christian message, it soars with such eloquence that it has become the most frequently read passage in Christian funeral services all around the world.

All Who are Led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God:
St Paul's Letter to the Romans, Chapter 8

No list of memorable passages in the Bible, would be complete without Paul's equally eloquent poem of praise to the power of love. If Romans 8 is present in most Christian funerals, as an expression of Christain hope in life eternal, this passage is the one most frequently read in Christian weddings. In position 9:

The Greatest of These is Love
First Corinthians, Chapter 13

God is the "beginning and the end," affirms the Bible, the Alpha and the Omega. So in position ten we arrive at the last book of the Bible, and the most vivid description in all of sacred scripture of our destiny as a faithful people. At the end of time, those who are caught up in eternity shall see the coming of a "new heaven and a new earth," where all our worldly suffering has passed away. In position ten:

A New Heaven and a New Earth, Revelation, Chapter 21

Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and author of Faith, Science and the Future, published in 1994 by CrossCurrents Press. He is also the author of God and Science (John Knox / Westminster, 1986) which he is now rewriting to incorporate more recent developments in the conversation taking place between scientists and theologians. He has also written widely for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Commonweal, The Christian Century and others.

For further information about Charles P. Henderson.