An Overview of the Bible
by Clyde Cox
(The following is an excerpt of a
letter written by a close friend who wanted to explain the sequence and
history of the bible to a new member of his Sunday School class)
One of the problems with Bible reading is that we skip around so much that we cannot see the continuity of the story of God. What I am writing is from memory and will be generally correct, but will not stand careful scrutiny. I hope that you will be able to sort out some of the stories of the Bible. By the way, I did not start a serious Bible study until I was about 40 years old.
The Old Testament was written in about three different periods. Scholars can tell the approximate time that story was written by names of places that occur in the Bible. For instance in San Antonio, if the word “Alamodome” appeared in writing, the
manuscript would have had to be written after construction of the Alamodome. In the Bible, some towns, mountains, etc. have different names depending on the nationality that ruled at a particular time. Recording of the Bible started at about 1500 B.C., with additions being made in about 900 B.C. and 550 B.C.
Genesis contains the “Creation Story” about how God created the heavens and the earth, man and woman, and all living things. Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain slew Abel out of jealousy and other things. Cain was given a “mark” and banished to other parts of the world. In Genesis, “the great men of old” lived. These men lived into the hundreds of years. Genesis also describes the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, and Joseph). Joseph was the son of Jacob and Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Eventually, Joseph’s eleven brothers and their families went to Egypt where their off spring lived for four hundred years. There are some beautiful stories that are fun reading and are very memorable. The flood that destroyed the world is also in Genesis. By the way, Adam and Eve had more children than just Cain and Abel.
Exodus is a book about Moses, who was born a Hebrew, but was taken into the Pharaoh's castle, where Moses lived to be a man. Through some beautiful stories, Pharaoh let the Hebrew people leave Egypt. The Hebrews often disobeyed God and God made the Hebrews wander in the desert for 40 years before he allowed them to go into the land of Canaan. The “Ten Commandments” were given to Moses by God during this time. Crossing the Red Sea also occurred during this time.
Leviticus is primarily filled with Jewish Law, much of which remains a part of the Jewish religion today.
Numbers deals with counting the Hebrews.
Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Bible and takes the Hebrews through the 40 years in the desert, Moses turning leadership over to Joshua, Moses’ death, and the prelude to the Hebrews conquest of the land of Canaan.
The first five books of the Bible are called the Torah or the Book of Law. These same five Books are Holy Scriptures to the Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
From roughly 1375 B.C. to 975 B.C., Israel was ruled by Judges and did not have a central government. When the country got into trouble, a strong man arose and led the people against the Enemy. Sampson and the story of Ruth are beautiful stories that come during this period. Samuel was a priest chosen by God and Samuel anointed Saul first King of Israel.
There are two books of “Kings” and two books of “Chronicles,” that generally tell the history of Israel for a period of 950 years (1050 B.C. to 590 B.C.) “Kings” tell the exploits of the rulers of Israel and “Chronicles” tells more of a historical record of the rulers. The stories of King David and King Solomon are in these books. David and Bathsheba are also included.
About 722 B.C., Israel was conquered and many of the rich and intelligent people were relocated to Babylon. Judah (the southern kingdom) continued to be a problem to Babylon and Assyria and about 590 B.C., the temple in Jerusalem was completely destroyed along with Jerusalem and more people were taken into exile.
During the period of the “Kings” and ”Chronicles,” there was a group of men interspersed throughout the different rulers’ reigns that were called the “Major Prophets.” Some of these men were Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, and Daniel. The rest of the books are called the “Minor Prophets. Elijah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were probably the most important of the prophets. (Great stories come from this era of prophets).
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are known as the four Gospels. Gospel means “good news.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called Synoptic (meaning nearly alike) and John is totally different and is considered more evangelistic; also considered a “Book of Love.”
Mark was written in the 50’s or early 60’s. Matthew was written in late 50’s or the 60’s. Luke was written around 59 to 63. John was probably written by the Apostle John and may have been written as late as 85 A.D., but was probably written around the 70’s.
B.C. means before Christ, but A.D. does not mean “After Death.” A.D. stands for the Latin words, Anno Domini, which means “In the Year of Our Lord.”
The Gospels tell of the birth, life, miracles, death, and resurrection of Christ. The Gospels are not exactly alike as you and I would not describe an event exactly the same as the other.
Mark was written first and the writers of Matthew and Luke probably had access to Mark. Mark is shorter and more to the point. Matthew and Luke embellish Mark’s Gospel. Matthew and Luke are the only Gospels that contain the birth of Jesus story. John was probably written by the Apostle John, who was considered “The Disciple that Jesus Loved.”
The “Book of Acts” is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Acts tells of the resurrection of Jesus, his time on earth, and his ascension into heaven. As we are studying in S.S. class now, Acts tells of the starting of the church and how the Gospel was spread throughout all the world. The two major Apostles that spread the Gospel were Peter and Paul. Other great evangelists were Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, and John Mark. The church was organized during the period after Pentecost and is described in Acts.
Paul wrote letters to churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossi, and Thessalonica. These letters are referred to as “Romans,” “Corinthians,” “Galatians,” and “Ephesians.” Paul wrote personal letters to individuals such as Timothy and Titus.
Peter, James, and possibly the Apostle John wrote books at the end of the “New Testament.” In Paul’s letters to the churches, he told the people how to conduct their worship services and how to administer their churches. In letters to individuals, Paul told them how church leaders and other Christians should conduct themselves.
I hope that this short history will give you some information and will help you see the continuity of the Bible. When you have had time to read The Bible a few times, it will actually read just like a novel.
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