A Gospel Story-arc Approach to Daniel 1, Part 2

In my last post, I began showing how to use the Gospel Story-arc as a narrative GPS for interpreting the Bible, using Daniel chapter 1. 

Last time, I wrote about looking for clues to connect the story to the larger plot line of the Bible. Today I'll share how to discern the story structure of a text, once again using Daniel chapter 1.

The simplest story structure contains just three elements: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Unfortunately, using a structure like this doesn't yield much insight for interpreting and applying the text.

I look instead for up to seven elements: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and untying. Some stories do not include all seven. Or they might combine two or more of the elements. They might also arrange the elements in a different order. Regardless, the seven form a kind of standard structure that stories follow, and that we seem to have hard-wired into our expectations for how stories are told.

In the case of Daniel chapter 1, here is the structure I discerned using the seven elements, summarized in seven statements:

1.  Exposition

The King of Babylon conquers the King of Judah, overrunning Judah’s capital, plundering religious artifacts from her Temple, and taking into captivity certain youths from the royal family, stripping them of their identity, cultivating their dependency, and re-educating them, to leverage their gifts in support of his own political and religious system. 

2. Inciting Incident

Among the youths was one named Daniel, who resolved not to defile himself with the King’s food and drink, a resolve that represented his obedience to God, and his faith and participation in God’s plan.

3. Rising Action

Daniel’s resolve led him to propose a test, a test whereby he and three others would follow dietary rules consistent with their covenant relationship with God.

4. Climax

Daniel and the others passed the test with flying colors.

5. Falling Action

Consequently the rest of the youths that Nebuchadnezzar had taken captive were shifted to follow the same diet as Daniel and his three friends. 

6. Resolution

Daniel and the three others completed their training, though their wisdom and skill was obviously sourced in God, not in the language and literature of the Babylonians.

7. Untying

Daniel’s influence extend for nearly 80 years through the reigns of two other Babylonia kings, and after they were overthrown, into the reign of Cyrus, King of Persia.

Organizing Daniel chapter 1 into a story structure like this helped me to make connections to the larger story told in the Bible, and then to discern how to teach my way through the text. I'll explain more about this in my next post.

For now, take a stab at using this approach yourself. Select a Bible story, then try to discern its structure, using the seven elements. Then send me a message to share your work. I'll look forward to seeing what you come up with.







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Randal Gilmore