You may have noticed a recent trend in filmmaking. A number of movies and TV shows over the past few years have formed “an interconnected narrative web of stories.” In particular, these are films that feature the Marvel superheroes. To refer to this web of stories, someone coined the phrase “The Marvel Universe”.
What this means is that “viewers are now viewing and analyzing these films … reading context in one installment to provide insight into another” (Leadership Journal). For
example, a character in an episode in the TV show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” would refer to the alien attack on New York City, as depicted in the movie “The Avengers.” Knowing the movie event provides helpful background to understanding what’s going on in the TV episode. The observant viewer will pick up these “cross references” in the different films, get a glimpse of the overall “big story,” and better enjoy each presentation.
The short article in Leadership Journal also hints that such “intertextual” storytelling is actually a characteristic we find in scripture. For example, so much of the New Testament may be better appreciated and understood in light of an adequate knowledge of the Old Testament. No doubt, knowing Genesis 1 helps us to discern what John 1 is declaring. Some of the imagery in Revelation may be traced back to Ezekiel. And when the apostle Paul writes, he draws from the story of Abraham in order to have the right perspective about Christ and the Christian life.
All this highlights the importance of intentionally seeking to grasp the “big story” running through the Bible. The Bible is not just a collection of doctrinal or religious topics, or of moral-ethical rules. One must understand that the stories of scripture are not isolated occurrences but are all part of the unfolding story of God—of the almighty and loving God who is consistently on mission to restore all things to what he had originally designed for them. Scripture introduces us to the real universe where God is actively at work to fulfill his purpose.
There may be a “Marvel Universe” being formed in the film industry, but even before that, there already existed what I would call a “Scripture Universe.” And followers of Christ would do well to enter into this “Scripture Universe”—through the reading of the whole of scripture, becoming acquainted with the principal story-line and its recurring themes, and especially getting to know the main character of the story, the triune God. Only then may we better grasp the truths of each biblical passage.
—Keith Y. Jainga