The Dovetail Nature of Scripture

Recently, I worked with a talented friend in his well-equipped workshop in making some storm windows for my study. His gifts and abilities were fun to watch as he went from coming up with the ideas and drawings to their execution. He transformed pieces of pinewood and glass into snugly fitting windows that will keep my study warm while letting me see clearly the woods outside.

Not being very skilled myself, I mostly just held the wood in place or helped sand a bit when needed. I did learn the new word “kerf” in the process, which is the wood lost in the cutting of the wood. As we carefully measured each piece, we had to account for the amount of wood the saw blade takes away in a cut. We had fun joking that I was the “kerf catcher.”

This experience brought to mind the craftsmanship of the Bible. The Spirit has worked beautifully in bringing the Scriptures to us in written form, dovetailing together the Old and New Testaments like a master craftsman does with furniture. Like a window, God has given to us in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation the way to see his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

One of the saddest outcomes of modern dispensational theology is the way it pits Scripture against itself. John Gerstner captured this tendency in his book on the subject with the 2 Timothy 2:15-ironic title Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth. Dispensational theology splinters God’s Word into confusion and disharmony, seemingly being more fascinated with the kerf than the product of the woodworking in failing to see how God’s Word is fashioned to fit together. Unfortunately for those laboring under this system of belief, the clear picture of Christ the Bible gives us becomes distorted.

A way of bringing the focus back is to help people see how internally connected the Bible really is. The image seen below that captures this connectivity was actually an Honorable Mention Winner in the National Geographic 2008 Photo Contest. The creators made a computer-generated image of where the Bible has references to other places within it. According to the website:

The Bible’s 1,189 chapters are plotted along the horizontal axis at the bottom of the image, with each bar’s length determined by the number of verses.

The arcs above the graph show the 63,779 cross-references between each chapter.

“It almost looks like one monolithic volume,” said Carnegie Mellon’s Chris Harrison, who–along with Christoph Romhild of North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hamburg, Germany–won an honorable mention for illustrations in the 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

PHOTOS: Best Science Images of 2008

When we forget that the eternal, sovereign God is the author of the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16) and has had the single plan of having the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world be the salvation of the elect from all nations, we miss seeing his handiwork in how he has crafted the Bible as a self-confirming witness to Jesus (John 5:39).

Indeed, many scholars recognize that more than 10% of the New Testament is simply direct quotations of or clear allusions to the Old Testament. That statistic is remarkable, and bears witness to an important principle in interpreting the Bible. If you do not know your Old Testament, you will not understand the New Testament very well. Like the kerf on the shop floor before the air hose, you will be susceptible to being blown about by winds of doctrine rather than standing on the sure Word of God.

The very best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself. If you want a a special key to unlock the Bible’s understanding, start by getting very familiar with the Old Testament. Pray for the Spirit’s guidance and understanding as you read and study. Yes, commentaries and teachers of the Bible can help you learn what a text means, and they have their place. Yet we must keep them in their place by first wrestling with and praying over the Bible ourselves. As it says in Job, “Behold, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him?” (Job 36:22).

If you pursue this direction, you will have the life-long pleasure of discovering how well-fitted together the Bible truly is. You will see that, like my new windows, the Bible is God’s means for us to look into and through to help us see Christ clearly.


For a great book to help you see the Bible this way, check out David Murray’s Jesus on Every PageSee here for a review.


  1. Bob Copeland January 10, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

    What a beautiful illustration! And what an important truth it illustrates, a truth that is lost on so many people today! Thanks.


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