THE BIG PICTURE
If you pick up your Bible and start
reading in the beginning it might seem fine at first. But pretty
soon youre reading geneaology lists and instructions for building
a tabernacle. And then you jump to battle stories, to poetry, to
vivid warnings to Gods people, then you read Jesus life
story...four times in a row...why isnt the Bible in order?
Most books youve read have one, maybe two authors.
But because God used so many people to write the Bible, getting
a big picture becomes more difficult. It helps to get
two basic overviews: the plot, what happens in the Bible,
and the order, how the Bible is organized.
THE PLOT: A Timeline of Major Events and Time Periods
1. THE BEGINNING
The Bible begins at the very beginning...of everything. It tells
us that God created the earth, including the first people, Adam
and Eve. These two had a close relationship with God until they
chose to follow their own desires instead of Gods. Sin has
been causing all sorts of trouble for us ever since. God began planning
a way to undo the trouble it caused.
2. MEET THE FOUNDING FATHERS
God wanting some people to call His own that would play a part in
carrying out His plan to save us from sin. So God chose Abraham.
He was living in modern-day Iraq when God asked him to move to modern-day
Israel. Abraham had a son named Issac, who had a son named Jacob.
Later in life, God changed Jacobs name to Israel. These are
the guys the nation of Israel -- or Israelites -- came from.
3. A LITTLE TRIP TO EGYPT
Jacob (Israel) and his family move to Egypt during a severe famine
and stick around longer then they probably intended. As they grow
in number, they wind up becoming slaves of the Egyptians.
4. TAKING THE SCENIC ROUTE
God uses one of these Israelites, Moses, to deliver his people from
slavery in Egypt. Over a million of them head north to the land
God promised to give them, taking a 40 year detour in modern-day
Saudi Arabia for an attitude adjustment. God used this detour
as an opportunity to give them laws for their new nation.
5. HOME SWEET HOME
6. ONE NATION UNDER GOD
After serving their time in the desert, Moses handed his leadership
over to Joshua, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land
of modern-day Israel. As they established their place in the land,
God used them to route out the evil in the land.
The Israelites were ruled by God, who used people called judges
to uphold His standards and lead the people.
7. THE GOLDEN AGE
The Israelites decide they want a real king. Saul, the
first king, was later replaced by David, the nations greatest
king. Israel was at the peak of success during the time that David
and his son, Solomon, ruled.
8. THE GREAT DIVIDE
The kings became corrupt and the country split: Israel to the north
and Judah to the south. Both countries began serving other gods
and after many years, God used the Assyrian and Babylonian nations
to punish them. They were exiled to modern day Iraq, and later returned.
9. HES FINALLY HERE!
God sends His solution to our sin problem: His son, Jesus. Jesus
takes our punishment of death upon himself when He dies on the cross...and
shows the victory over sin He provides by coming back to life.
10. START SPREADING THE NEWS
Jesus goes back to God in heaven, and those who believe Him gather
together, forming the early church. Early church leaders like Paul,
Peter, and James spread the good news of Jesus and strengthen the
THE ORDER: Understanding How the Bible is Organized
Even though the Bible has a clear plot,
the various styles of writing make it nearly impossible to put in
order. One author might be writing a historical account of
nation of Israel, while another is writing down what God has to
say about the spiritual condition of the people at the time. So
instead of being arranged in exact chronologial order, the Bible
is categorized by the style of writing, and then chronologically
(typically) within each section.
The books of the Bible are divided into the Old Testament
and New Testament. The Old Testament covers the beginning of time
until about 300 years before Jesus birth. In it we learn more
about who God is and His desire to know and love us. The New Testament
covers Jesus life until about 60 years after his death. Here, God
reveals His plan to restore our relationship with Him and save us
THE OLD TESTAMENT
Books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
These books cover the origins of the Jewish race and
culture, and includes the laws that God established for the Israelites.
Genesis is mostly narrative, with the remaining books containing
mostly rules for the Jewish religion and society with a few stories
Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1
& 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
These books contain the history of the Israelites
as they enter the Promised Land until they return from exile. The
books contain many exciting stories, but were also record
books for the nation, so there are lists of people and places
that have little significance for most modern readers. Although
the books within this section are in chronological order, some overlap
and some periods of history are not covered.
Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Song
The poetry in these books are raw expressions of real
life. With songs of praise to God, asking Him why?,
crying out for help, words of wisdom and conclusions about life
and love, these books show people expressing genuine thoughts and
feelings that reflect who God is and how we are to relate to Him.
Books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel,
Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,
God used prophets to get messages across to His people.
These prophets relied on memorable communication methods, because
not everyone could read or had access to writings. Some prophets
acted out Gods message and some used poetic language,
both of which would leave a lasting impression for listeners.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
Books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts
The first four books, the gospels, cover Jesus
life and ministry. They are separate narrative accounts that focus
on various aspects, but many stories overlap. Acts contains a history
of the early church.
Books: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians,
Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon,
Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Revelation
Apostles, those sent by Jesus to minister to the early
church, wrote letters (also called epistles) to individuals and
churches to encourage and instruct them in their faith. Revelation
is unique from the other epistles because of its apocalyptic/prophetic
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