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Understanding the Bible is one of the most difficult parts of our walk with God. It’s not just a history book, it’s the Word of God.
It’s what God uses to speak to us, and it’s the main resource God has given us to help us know Him more. Since the Bible is so important for our walk with God, so I am going to do my absolute best to help you understand and make sense of it.
Throughout this post what I am going to share with you is an overview of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
By understanding the big picture, it will help you understand how the stories of the Bible interlink and come together to reveal one giant story of God’s love and redemption. Let’s dive in!
Bible Overview Chart
Sometimes it helps to look at the Bible visually. The below chart outlines all 66 books of the Bible and categorizes them into their Biblical genre.
Understanding the Biblical genres, why each book was written, and for what purpose each book was written will help in understanding the Bible as whole. Source
Summary of the Whole Bible
The Bible was written over the course of roughly 1000 B.C. to 120 AD and is split into two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The word “testament” is actually an old English word meaning “covenant” which is simply an agreement between two parties. It’s unfortunate we call them “testaments” because it would make way more sense to describe the Bible as the Old and New Covenants that God has made with His people.
If this makes no sense to you, don’t worry, it’ll make more sense after reading the info below. 🙂
Old Testament Summary
The Old Testament consists of 39 books and tells the story of God’s chosen people, the Hebrews, who were later known as the Israelites or Jews. Sometime around 1800 B.C. God made a covenant with a man named Abraham to make his descendants a great nation, blessed by God to be a blessing to all nations. Some of the first descendants migrated to Egypt to escape a famine in their own land. After many generations (and approximately 400 years) the descendants had grown to over 2 million but they had become enslaved to the Egyptians (all of this is covered in the Book of Genesis). Hearing the people’s prayers God sent a leader and prophet, Moses, to lead the Hebrews out of slavery and into the Promised Land of Israel that was part of God’s covenant to Abraham. During this time God gave Moses the 10 Commandments which Christians to this day still base their moral life and decisions upon (all of this is covered in Exodus). God established His covenant with the people of Israel through giving of the Law. This served as a binding agreement between God and His people in relationship. The requirements of the Law were designed to set apart the Israelites as God’s chosen people, to protect the Israelites and lead them on the pathway towards living rightly in the eyes of a holy God (much of this is covered in Leviticus and Deuteronomy). Despite God revealing Himself through miraculous signs and wonders, the Israelites turned away from God and lapsed into idolatry and sin again and again, delaying their journey to the Promised Land. God rose up another leader, Joshua, who was to lead a new generation of Israelites into the Promised Land. With Joshua’s leadership the Israelites finally conquered the land of Canaan and entered the Promised Land (much of this is covered in the Book of Joshua). Once Israel was an established nation, Israel begins a cycle of abandoning God, falling captive to oppressive nations, and then calling out to God to be rescued. Despite their disobedience, God saves His people again and again using “heroes” called Judges who provided council and leadership and delivered Israel from their oppressors (this is covered in the Book of Judges). Eventually the people of Israel wanted to have an earthly king to rule them like the other nations, so 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles cover Israel’s first king, King Saul, and then the anointing and story of King David and the rest of Israel’s kings that followed him.
Israel reached its peak of power and prosperity during the reigns of David and his son Solomon. At the end of Solomon’s reign, the Israelites split into two: the Kingdom of Judah in the South and the Kingdom of Israel in the North and the temple was destroyed.
A large portion of the Old Testament is written by prophets who gave warnings and condemned the people of Israel for the way they were relating to God and one another. Through these books of the Bible God uses major and minor prophets to lead the Israelites away from sin and back on the path of righteous (a few examples of this are the books Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, and Micah).
PS: The term “major and minor prophets” does not mean some prophets were more important than others, but instead is referring to the length of the book.
Throughout the Old Testament you’ll read some really messed up stories that is a clear indication that the writers of the Bible made no attempt to hide the sins and failings of the Israelites.
The Bible is definitely R rated so if you thought Netflix was interesting…you need to be reading your Bible. It will blow your mind.
Ultimately the Old Testament is a story of God’s chosen people who continually fell into sin and God’s unconditional love and redemption of His people. Some of these prophets foresaw the coming of the Messiah (which means “anointed one”), who was to be the savior and liberator of the Jewish people.
Between the Old and New Testament there is a time lapse of 400 years where God was silent. Many people refer to this period of time as the intertestamental period.
Old Testament Summary PDF
If you are only wanting a PDF with an overview of the Old Testament, then click below and it will be sent directly to your email. It is a great resource for you to reference at any time.
New Testament Summary
The New Testament consists of 27 books of the Bible that are unique to Christianity. Throughout the entire New Testament, the political atmosphere has shifted and Israel has been invaded by the Romans and is living under Roman rule. At this point, Israel has lost a lot of its power as a nation and Rome and Greece were making huge strides towards power and control. The New Testament begins with the 4 gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) which recount the story of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Although exact dates are unknown, Jesus was born around 6 and 4 B.C. in Bethlehem, and was destined from birth to fulfill the role of Messiah or “Christ” that was prophesied in the Old Testament. God established a new covenant in the person of Jesus Christ. Matthew 5:17-18 reveals Jesus’ words on this perfectly;
Throughout the 4 gospels the story of Jesus’ ministry demonstrates His fulfillment of the Law and His teachings represent the “greater” covenant Jesus establishes in its place. Jesus challenges us that the fulfillment of the Law isn’t merely adhering to the external rules of “do’s” and “don’ts” but instead truly comes from a heart devoted to God and reliance on His love and grace. The gospels also recount the Great Commission which was the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to His disciples to spread Jesus’ teachings around the world. The Book of Acts shows us the birth and spread of the early church mostly through Peter and Paul. Lead only by a small group of disciples and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the disciples spread the message of Jesus (referred to as the “Good News”) across the Roman Empire. The story of Paul and his conversion to Christianity is an important theme in the Book of Acts. The second half of Acts focuses on Paul’s missionary journeys to many countries north of the Mediterranean Sea. As the Good News spread, new churches were started and new believers began to grow in the Christian faith. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, 21 of them are epistles, or letters. Many of these letters were written by Paul to the churches he had founded. These books are known as Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul. Through them he explained his beliefs about Jesus, instructed them on proper forms of worship, and sometimes reprimanded them for immoral behavior. Paul taught that the way to salvation and eternal life is to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not through obedience to the Old Testament Law. Paul is recognized as one of the most energetic and influential interpreters of Jesus’ life and teachings. Although 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament are traditionally accredited to Paul, many scholars agree that he could have written only seven or eight of the epistles. Some epistles that are unanimously agreed upon to be written by Paul are Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon.
Each of the epistles addresses valuable wisdom and advice such as how to walk in grace, peace, and love (Ephesians), how to lead a church (1 Timothy), how to cling to Christ despite persecution (Hebrews), how to identify who we are in Christ (Colossians), and much more.
Lastly, we have the final book of the New Testament, and therefore the final book of the Bible, Revelation. Revelation is in the “apocalyptic” genre. The word “apocalypse” is actually a Greek word meaning “revelation”. This book of the Bible foretells of future events regarding the end times written by John, who is in exile on the small Greek island of Patmos.
In Revelation, John writes of visions revealed by an angel providing encouragement and hope to those who are faithful, while imparting a warning to Christians who have grown apathetic in their walk with God.
Revelation is like the sci-fi book of the Bible leaving many Christians fascinated, puzzled, stumped and ultimately divided on how to interpret it. Because of the Book of Revelation is widely considered the most difficult book in the Bible, many ignore it altogether.
A fun, but fictional, interpretation of Revelation was created in the extremely popular Christian fiction book series Left Behind. Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins wrote the series based on their own interpretation of the end times. I’ve read both the kids series and the adult series and they really make for an enjoyable read.
Click here to view the Left Behind Adult Series – The Complete Collection
Click here to view the Left Behind Kids Series – Collection 1: Volumes 1-6
Regardless of the many interpretations of Revelation, the central theme is clear regarding a message of hope for the ultimate glory, dominion, and triumph of God and His people over evil.
New Testament Summary PDF
If you are only wanting a PDF with an overview of the New Testament, then click below and it will be sent directly to your email. It is a great resource for you to reference at any time.
Overview of the Bible PDF
If you would like a PDF with an overview of the whole Bible, then click below and it will be sent directly to your email. This way you can reference it at any point if you are confused. 🙂
I hope this Bible overview has helped you. Now that you have an understanding of how each book of the Bible creates one giant story, it’s time to learn how to study the Bible book by book. If you want to see the exact Bible I use to study the Bible, click here to view the Life Application Study Bible.
Coming soon: How to Study the Bible for Beginners
Did you learn anything new from the Bible overview? Love to know below!
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