For those who are new to the Bible, I’d like to offer some basic information, as well as an overview of its contents, so that you can take what you will be learning as you read and see how it all fits together into the Bible’s timeline. This should quickly bring you up to speed on what you should know when you initially come to faith in Yeshua our Messiah (Jesus Christ/Anointed One).
The Bible is a book that contains a variety of information such as the history of Israel and its people, as well as how God interacted with them in the past and how His plans extend into the future. The Bible is not just historical; it is a living document. It is full of types and patterns, principles, ordinances, judgments, and commands for living. The Holy Spirit can take anything in it, even historical information, and speak directly to you about a situation you are facing today.
Christians and Jews divide and refer to the Bible differently.
The Old Testament is also known by the Jews as the TaNaKh, which is an acronym for:
- Torah (Instruction, Law, Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
- Nevi’im (Prophets)
- Historical books: Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings
- Latter prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel
- Minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
- Ketuvim (Writings)
- Religious poetry and wisdom books: Psalms, Proverbs, Job
- Five megillot (scrolls): Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther
- Books of Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as 1 & 2 Chronicles.
It is good to get a foundation in Torah first because the New Testament should be viewed through that worldview! This is especially true of Paul’s letters. There is plenty of information on this site, such as posts, pdfs, and presentations, to help you navigate that.
The New Testament is also known as the Apostolic Writings/Scriptures. It includes:
- The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
- Acts of the Apostles
- Paul’s letters to churches: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- Paul’s letters to individuals: 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
- Other letters: Hebrews, James; 1 & 2 Peter, 1 – 3 John, Jude
The Catholics, as compared to Protestants, also have seven other books as part of their canon of Scripture: Baruch, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach, Tobit, and Wisdom.
The Bible begins with the beginning. It teaches that we are living on a young earth compared to what scientists teach us. There are time gaps in the Bible at various times in the texts.
Genesis covers a variety of things in the period of the beginnings. It contains historical information, as well as genealogies. Some stories include creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel. It also covers the period of the Patriarchs: Abraham > Isaac > Jacob > 12 sons. Jacob’s (also known as Israel’s) 12 sons were born to four women:
- Leah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun
- Zilpah (Leah’s maid): Gad, Asher
- Rachel: Joseph, Benjamin
- Bilhah (Rachel’s maid): Dan, Naphtali
These 12 sons gave rise to the 12 tribes of Israel. Through a series of events, Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. Eventually, he rose to power, and Joseph’s family came to Egypt to survive a famine. Their descendants eventually became slaves in Egypt.
In the book of Exodus, God introduces Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His Hebrew name contains the English consonant letters YHVH (or YHWH). Masoretic vowel pointings cause His name to be pronounced Yahweh or Yehovah (Jehovah).
God had heard the cries of His people and raised up Moses to be their deliverer in order to bring them to the Promised Land of Canaan, which God had previously covenanted with Abraham to give to His descendants as a possession. Part of this Promised Land is known as the country of Israel today.
While in the wilderness, God established His covenant with Moses and the mixed multitude that had come out of Egypt at Mount Sinai. The terms of that covenant are known as the Law or Torah. Moses received the Law and built the Tabernacle according to the pattern that God gave to him. The law is good and holy; God intends for you to have it written on your hearts. Some laws were for everyone, others only for priests, others only for men, and others only for women.
God gave the people the Levitical sacrificial system as a means to forgive and atone sin. This system is described in detail in the book of Leviticus; this book is the heart of the Torah. It also contains laws regarding what is food and what is not – what things are clean and acceptable to eat and what is not. It also contains laws regarding what is considered sexual immorality. Much of the dietary laws, purity laws, and rituals are also typological in nature – typological of the kinds of men or of the Messiah.
The sacrifices were supposed to only be offered in the place that God set forth. There were several places where sacrifices were offered in the early years of being in the Promised Land, but eventually, this was only in Jerusalem on the temple mount. There is archeological evidence that sacrifices were offered elsewhere despite God’s commandment. Originally, the sacrifices were offered in the Tabernacle. Later, during the United Kingdom, Solomon built the first temple in the mid-10th century BCE; this was destroyed in 586/587 BCE by the Neo-Babylonian empire. A second temple was built in 516 BCE but was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans under Titus, and there are no sacrifices being offered there today.
The original sacrificial system typologically pointed to the sacrifice of Yeshua (Jesus). Eventually, the temple will be rebuilt, and sacrifices will be offered during the Messiah’s millennial reign in Jerusalem. At this point in time, Israel does have what is needed for the next temple, and it can be quickly put in place.
Due to sin, the mixed multitude that left Egypt ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. During this time, there were a variety of events including rebellions and miracles. These are described in the books of Exodus and Numbers. Much information here is historical as well as typological, such as the bronze snake that Moses lifted up.
The book of Deuteronomy contains a review of the covenant between YHVH and His people. It contains the terms of the covenant, which includes the blessings and the curses. Obedience brought blessing; disobedience brought curses or judgments. The goal of the curses is to bring the people back to the terms of the covenant. This is a perpetual covenant. In the end, all the people in the world will be either in or out of covenant with YHVH. Those who are in covenant – those who comprise the olive tree of Israel – will have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life.
After the first generation that left Egypt died, God brought the second generation into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership. The people failed to conquer the land as God commanded. This is described in the book of Joshua.
The book of Judges describes the period of the various judges in Israel; some include Othniel, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, and Samuel. During this time, there is a repeated cycle of sin in which God’s people failed to live according to the terms of the covenant. Their enemies would oppress them until God sent a judge to deliver them. A separate book about this time-period is the book of Ruth.
Eventually, the people begged the judge and prophet Samuel for a king because they had rejected God as their king. According to God’s instruction, Samuel anointed a man named Saul to be king. Saul proved unfaithful to God, and eventually, God removed him. Long before this happened, God sent Samuel to anoint another man who would become king after Saul’s death.
The young man who Samuel anointed was named David, the son of Jesse. He was related to Naomi and Boaz from the period of the judges, which is mentioned at the end of the book of Ruth. There are some interesting stories about David in the books of 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles. Overall, David was known as a man after God’s heart, but he did have a major failure. The Bible often shares the good and the bad about people. In this case, the bad was David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the death of her husband, Uriah. Bathsheba’s second son, Solomon, became king in David’s place. This whole time-period is known as the United Kingdom.
After Solomon, the kingdom was divided into the northern kingdom, known as Israel or Ephraim, and the southern kingdom, known as Judah. The northern kingdom had a series of wicked kings that practiced and supported idolatry. The southern kingdom had both righteous and wicked kings.
God sent prophets to warn the people to repent of their idolatry or face the coming judgment of God, but they refused to listen.
Because of the northern kingdom’s wickedness, they were carried away by the Assyrians in several deportations. The southern kingdom did not learn the lesson of the northern kingdom; they were eventually exiled to Babylon for 70 years. After that time, King Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem; many chose to stay instead of return.
Much of the history of this time-period is found in the books of 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, all the prophets including Daniel, as well as the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
More history after the remnant returned from Babylon is found in the extra-biblical books of the Maccabees, which is not in the Protestant canon. This covers time when a portion of Daniel’s prophecies were fulfilled.
This brings us to the period of the New Testament when Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ/Messiah) was born. His coming was prophesied by various prophets. Daniel’s prophecy pinpoints the timing of Yeshua’s arrival. Yeshua’s miracles, parables, life, death, and resurrection are detailed in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We do not know very much about Yeshua’s early life – just a few snippets. However, Yeshua began his ministry of teaching, healing, deliverance, and other miracles when he was about 30 years old.
Yeshua had 12 disciples: Simon (Peter) and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who was later replaced by Matthias because he had betrayed Yeshua and killed himself.
The Acts of the Apostles, often referred to as Acts, give a historical account of the early church/assembly after Yeshua’s resurrection and ascension to heaven. This covers the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), various missionary journeys that resulted in Jewish believers, and the Gentiles coming to believe in the Messiah – their grafting into the olive tree of Israel.
The letters to the churches address specific problems that were going on in the churches. Much of it applies to us today, but some of it addresses things we do not have full information about; this would be historical and/or cultural information. Some of the applicability of their contents, especially as it pertains to women, is debated today for cultural reasons.
The book or apocalypse of John known as Revelation contains a lot of symbolic imagery that is typical of dreams and visions. Its apocalyptic content is like what is found in Daniel, Ezekiel, and other prophets. The keys to unlocking this book are found in the Tanakh. However, we must remain fluid in its interpretation today. Please be aware that many eschatological (end-time) teachers do not agree on all its interpretation.
We must remember that the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day had Daniel’s visions, yet they missed and/or rejected Yeshua’s arrival. If we are not careful, we could misinterpret the times of tribulation and the players that lead up to Yeshua’s second coming. I think it is okay to have ideas on who the players are, but things may not go down exactly as expected.
Topics in Revelation include letters to the 7 churches that were in what is modern-day Turkey, as well as the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls of wrath. There is also the description of the Harlot – Babylon the Great – and the beast that she rides. Revelation also covers the return of Messiah.
We must be aware that there is a debate over when believers will be raptured – when the saints will rise to meet Yeshua in the air – either pre-tribulation, pre-wrath, or post-tribulation. We may be missing a few bits of information to settle the debate. Yeshua is expected to return to destroy the beast and false prophet of Revelation, as well as the ten kings who are kings with the beast. Following this, the thousand-year reign of Messiah will take place; during this time, Satan will be bound in the abyss. Satan will be released at the end of the millennium to raise up an army to destroy Jerusalem and the saints. Instead of accomplishing their goal, they will be destroyed. The devil will be cast into the lake of fire. The Great throne judgment that follows will be a time when the wicked are judged before they are cast into the lake of fire. Revelation ends with a description of the new Jerusalem that comes down to a renewed earth. In this description, we see allusions back to the Garden of Eden that was described in Genesis.
As you read the text of the Bible, you will find that various denominations interpret the Scriptures differently. Part of their problem is the lack of a foundation in the Torah. Ask the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to lead you into truth and to bring godly people into your life that can help you walk with Messiah.