An Overview of the Books in the Bible
Christians believe that God wants us to know Him, and that He has taken the initiative to make Himself known to us. One of the ways He has done it is through the Bible, the written Word of God.
The cold reality is that the entire human race has been hostile and in rebellion against God the Creator. In and through the Bible God has disclosed Himself to mankind, and also the only acceptable plan for a reconciliation between Him and humanity.
The Bible has one unifying theme: presenting Christ the Redeemer, the sacrificial Substitute for sinners.
The Bible is God speaking His truth, His message to us in human words, words which can be understood. Without this revelation we could only speculate, could only suppose and guess. We could not know anything with certainty.
Surveying the Bible, one can quickly learn that it is a collection of writings, and these are divided into two major parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The earliest parts were written about 3600 years ago and the remainder over the next 1500 or so years. Though some 40 different writers participated, yet there is an amazing unity to its content.
Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul wrote most of the epistles of the New Testament. Psalms, near the very center of most Bibles, has the most chapters — 150.
The Bible is made up of 66 separate books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.
The Old Testament
The Old Testament contains a collection of books which were the unique possession of the Hebrew or Jewish people. They were written before the time of Christ on this earth. Old Testament writings can be grouped into four categories: the Pentateuch (writings of Moses); the Historical Books; Poetry and Wisdom Literature; and the Prophets.
The Pentateuch is comprised of the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The word Pentateuch means five books. Genesis gives an account of the creation of the world.
It also details the great universal flood, and the families of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus Christ descended from Abraham.
Exodus describes the dramatic deliverance of the people of Israel from their status as slaves in the country of Egypt. As a people group, they had been in Egypt 430 years, most of that time as slaves to the Egyptians. Moses was Godâ€™s human leader in accomplishing their release. Both the books of Exodus and Leviticus outline laws and commandments God gave the people of Israel. These were given for their own good, and to preserve them as a special and a holy people for God.
The Book of Numbers informs us of the details of a census of these people. In the Book of Deuteronomy Moses gives three rather major addresses to the people he has led for 40 years. In the first, he reviews their history and Godâ€™s intimate involvement with them. In the second he outlines Godâ€™s laws and commandments, and the blessings which will follow obedience. In the third address, Moses confronted them very bluntly with the horrible consequences which will certainly follow if they ignore Godâ€™s commands. But if they would consistently obey, amazing blessings would come to them.
The Historical books of the Old Testament include Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
The Book of Joshua takes up with a new leader, after the death of Moses.
Joshua leads these people for the next 40 years, directing them as they conquer and gain possession of the land which God had promised.
The Book of Judges informs us of the fickleness of the Israelites and their rebellion against the rule of God. It resulted in punishment from God in the form of military oppression and subjugation by neighboring countries. It was a painfully distressing experience. Eventually they would repent and seek God. He would be merciful and send deliverance. Then they would relapse into their old ways again. This cycle was repeated numerous times.
Judges were their only leaders during these times.
The Book of Ruth tells the story of a family, a family forced from their land by drought and extreme poverty. Migrating to an adjoining country, the father soon died, and then each of the two adult sons. Ruth was the recent widow of one of these sons. She insisted on returning with her mother-in-law to the land of Israel. Here she met and eventually married a well-to-do land owner named Boaz. This marriage put her in the family line of Jesus.
The books of 1 and 2 Samuel recount the ministry and leadership of the prophet Samuel. At the insistence of the people and with the consent of God, he assisted in the selection and the installation of Saul, the first king of Israel. 1 and 2 Kings describe the character and the rule of the various kings who followed. 1 and 2 Chronicles repeat some of the history found in the books of the Kings, but add various additional information.
The Book of Ezra gives the story of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Obviously it had been torn down, destroyed by enemies. The Book of Nehemiah portrays how he led in the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. He had been an official, an aide to the King of Persia, but was given a leave of absence to direct in this project. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were challenged by enemies who wanted to defeat their project. Nehemiah also brought about some social reforms, including the halting of the Jews from charging interest on loans to their fellow Jews.
The Books of Poetry and the Wisdom Literature include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon). The Book of Job chronicles the story of Job, a wealthy but devout man, and how he lost everything — wealth, family, friends and health. It goes on to tell how his faith in God coped in such stressful times, and the reward of his faith. Throughout all of this, Job continued to trust God and believe in His goodness. His faith was vindicated.
The Prophetic books include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. These prophets were Godâ€™s spokesmen, His voice to the people. Often they courageously pointed out sins and called both people and their kings to repent. They warned of calamities which would come if the warnings were unheeded.
The New Testament
The New Testament was written after Jesusâ€™ time on this earth. It provides information on the ministry and the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. The â€œEpistlesâ€ were letters written by the Apostles to different churches or even to individuals. The New Testament concludes with the prophetic book of the Revelation.
New Testament writings can be divided into four groups: the four Gospels and the Acts; the Pauline Epistles; the General Epistles; the Revelation.
Most of the books of the Bible have multiple chapters. A very few have only one rather short chapter. These would include Obadiah in the Old Testament; and in the New Testament, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude.
The four Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus Christ is the central person in each of these. They tell of His birth, life, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection. The Book of Acts informs us of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the impact of this event. It further describes how the Apostles spread the good news and the teachings of Jesus all over the then-known world. Churches were established.
The Pauline Epistles were obviously authored by Paul. His letters include the Epistles to the Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. These letters provide instruction on how to be a good follower of Jesus Christ and how to respond to many different practical situations. These were written both to individuals and to groups or churches.
The General Epistles include the letters to the Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 , 3 John and Jude. These letters of course were written by Apostles other than Paul. They give direction on Christian conduct, what to believe, what to beware of and what to expect.
The Book of Revelation is essentially a vision God gave to the Apostle John. At this time, John had been banished to the island of Patmos because the emperor viewed him as unpatriotic and as a threat. While here in this lonely and barren environment, God gave him this remarkable vision.
It relates to the end of time, or the end of this age as we know it. It contains almost too much startling prophecy to summarize in a few sentences. It predicts that a one-world government will arise near the end time. It will be led by one whom the Bible calls the anti-christ. He will have a first lieutenant known as the false prophet. Everyone will be required to accept a universal mark (666) either on their hand or their forehead. Refusal will result in death.
This anti-christ is the sworn enemy of the God of Heaven, and he foolishly challenges Him. God wins decisively in this final conflict. After cleansing the earth and releasing it from the bondage and misery inflicted by sin, God will establish His literal kingdom on this earth. He will rule in righteousness and justice forever and ever.
If you are interested in what is going to happen in the future, the Bible offers the only trustworthy information. It is the word of the God who presides over all that happens, and who knows it ahead of time. This God has revealed everything important that we need to know. It is in the Bible.
Wise and thoughtful people look ahead and plan ahead. There is so much uncertainty in our world today that people donâ€™t know what to expect. The Bible is the one source of certainty. It is true and it is reliable. That is why you would be ever so wise to read it and ponder its message. Since Jesus Christ is the focal point, the unifying theme of the entire book, it would be good to begin reading in the Gospels. These present His life and teachings.
If you own or have access to a Bible, you are privileged. Untold numbers of people around the world would give most anything for a copy. Read it. But before you begin, try praying and asking God to give you understanding. If you read but still are completely confused, seek out a Christian or a good church which teaches the Bible. The Bible is Godâ€™s attempt to communicate with you!