I. An Overview of the Bible
To begin our lifelong study adventure, we will need a solid foundation. Actually, our exploration will build on three foundations.
First, although the Bible consists of sixty-six separate books penned by over forty authors over a period of several thousand years, it is an integrated message system. Every passage, every word, every number, and every place name is there for a specific reason. A skillful design pervades the whole.
Second foundation is that this message system is from outside our dimensions of space and time. It is literally of extraterrestrial origin. 2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
Third, every word and every phrase of the Bible turns around a central theme. The Old Testament theme is the account of a nation its origin, destiny, ups and downs, and its history yet to unfold, looking to the arrival of their Messiah. The New Testament is the account of a man, the Creator of the universe whose appearance is the central event of all history. His redemptive work changing mankind for all time!
II. Laying the groundwork: an old testament overview
The Old Testament consists of thirty-nine books. The most venerated portion of the Old Testament is the Torah, the five books of Moses known also by the Greek word, Pentateuch.
The Torah consists of five books:
1. Genesis is the book of beginnings—the word itself means “the beginnings.”
2. Exodus follows, and it describes the birth of the nation.
3. Leviticus details the laws of that nation.
4. Numbers tracks the wanderings in the wilderness the forty years before the new nation was able to enter the land that God had set aside for them.
5. Deuteronomy is a review of the laws; it is also the book that Jesus quotes from the most.
The Torah is pivotal to everything we will be dealing with.
The Torah is followed by twelve historical books which are divided by a major event in
6. Joshua succeeded Moses and conquered
7. Then came the three hundred years known as the period of the Judges.
8. During this time a fascinating little four-chapter book called Ruth was written. Ruth is one of the most important books in the Old Testament. You will not understand the book of Revelation unless you understand the book of Ruth.
After the Judges are the records of the kingdom itself:
9. 1 Samuel - the birth of the kingdom.
10. 2 Samuel the reign of King David.
11. 1 Kings the kingdom divided after David dies, the death of Solomon and the civil war which follows, dividing the kingdom permanently.
12. 2 Kings the history of the divided kingdom.
13. 1 Chronicles the reign of David.
14. 2 Chronicles - the history of the southern kingdom.
The post-exile history books include:
15. Ezra - the return from the Babylonian captivity.
16. Nehemiah - the rebuilding of the city of
17. Esther - the escape from extermination under the
The five books of poetry Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs—are the poetry, hymns, and wisdom of the nation.
18. Job - "peaking behind the curtain.”
19. The book of Psalms (which is actually five books) is the hymnbook of the nation, which not only contains beautiful hymns and praise but includes some incredible prophesies.
20. Proverbs contains, but is not limited to, the Wisdom of Solomon.
21. Ecclesiastes, also written by Solonmon, talks of the vanity of life.
22. Song of Solomon is a book about wedded love and other topics.
Next in line are the five Major Prophets:
23. Isaiah is the Messianic prophet.
24. Jeremiah deals primarily with the desolation of
26. Ezekiel is in captivity, but in his book he talks about the rebuilding of the
27. Daniel’s theme is “the times of the Gentiles.” Daniel is unique in portraying an overview of all Gentile history - from
The Major Prophets are followed by twelve Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. The last three of the twelve— Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—prophesied after the return from
28. Hosea focuses on the apostasy of the
29. Joel speaks of “the day of the Lord,” a climax which is also in the future.
30. Amos speaks of the ultimate rule of the dynasty of David on the planet earth.
31. Obadiah focuses on the destruction of
32. Jonah is a warning to
33. Micah is best known for prophesying that
34. Nahum describes the destruction of
35. Habakkuk contains, among other things, the very interesting phrase “the just shall live by faith,” which becomes the cornerstone of three New Testament epistles.
36. Zephaniah prophesies many things, one being that when
37. Haggai predicts the rebuilding of the
38. Zechariah has a number of fascinating prophecies about the Second Coming of Christ.
39. Malachi has a final message to a disobedient people, and he sets the stage for John the Baptist who comes in the spirit and power of Elijah.
That’s the Old Testament. The key idea is of a single, integrated design. You’ll find that the more you know about these books, the more inseparable they are. As you begin to develop respect for the integrity of the whole, you’ll be amazed at how any confusion, the many seeming paradoxes, and quibbles evaporate.
III. Laying the groundwork: a new testament overview
The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books. The first five are historical books - the four Gospels and the book of Acts. Twenty-one interpretive letters called the Epistles are next. The New Testament ends with the climactic book, the book of Revelation. Thirteen epistles were written by the Apostle Paul and eight were written by and to Hebrew Christians.
The four Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are parallel yet distinctive.
1. Matthew presents Jesus Christ as the Lion of the tribe of
2. Mark presents Jesus Christ as the Suffering Servant.
3. Luke presents Jesus Christ as the Son of Man.
4. John presents Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Each of the four Gospels presents a particular perspective—they overlap in many ways yet they each have distinctive vocabularies, emphases, and genealogical perspectives. Each is very skillfully designed to present a particular aspect.
5. The Book of Acts describes the formation of the church in the first thirty years.
The Pauline Epistles are interpretive. They explain the relevance of what has gone before - including both the Old and New Testament. Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians are one group; each book was written to churches with the intention that they would be circulated. Paul also wrote four letters to pastors called the Pastoral Epistles: 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.
6. Romans, called by some the “Gospel According to Paul,” is the definitive statement of Christian doctrine in the New Testament; it is comprehensive, well organized, and one of the most profound books in the New Testament.
7 & 8. 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians are letters Paul wrote to help establish order in the Church.
9. Galatians was probably the key book in the Reformation, distinguishing between law and grace—it is by grace that we are saved, not by keeping the law.
10. Ephesians could be considered the high ground of the New Testament. It could be called “The Church in the Heavenlies.”
11. Philippians is “joy through suffering.”
12. Colossians teaches that Christ is pre-eminent above all things.
13. First Thessalonians declares the mystery of what we call the “Rapture.”
14. Second Thessalonians clarifies some confusion about the Rapture. Both letters focus on Second Coming aspects; they are end-times epistles.
15-17. First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus give pastoral advice.
18. Philemon, though a short letter, is a model of intercession on behalf of a runaway slave. There are many lessons in this one-chapter book.
These are followed by eight Jewish epistles: Hebrews; James; two by Peter; three by John; and one by Jude.
19. Hebrews amplifies the New Covenant over the Old Covenant.
20. James talks about faith demonstrated.
21. First Peter talks about the persecuted church.
22. Second Peter talks about the coming apostasy and the end times.
23. First John is the classic epistle on love.
24. Second John warns about false teachers.
25. 3 John speaks on the preparation of helpers.
26. Jude, like 2 Peter, discusses the apostasy, except Jude has some Old Testament roots that are fascinating in their own right.
The final book and, in fact, the climactic book of the entire Bible, is the book of Revelation.
27. Revelation is more than just the close of the Bible; it is the consummation of all things. Everything that started in Genesis finds its end in the book of Revelation. It is the only book in the Bible that has the audacity to pronounce a special blessing on the reader. The book’s 404 verses contain over eight hundred allusions from the Old Testament. So if the book seems strange to our understanding, it’s because we haven’t done our homework in the Old Testament.
The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed; the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.