Lesson 1: A Map of Our Journey

The Bible has been a source of comfort and inspiration to mankind for more than 2,500 years. No follower of Jesus Christ can be happy and effective without a basic knowledge of the Bible.

Read 2 Timothy 2:15, and explain why we should study the Bible:

 
 

During these 52 lessons we will try to discover the outstanding message of each book in the Bible and how each book fits into the Bible as a whole.

I. Origin and History of the Bible

The Bible is without question the most amazing book in the world. No one man or group of men planned the Bible. It was written in different lands over a period of some 1,500 years. It was written by more than 40 authors from all walks of life—shepherds, farmers, tentmakers, a physician, fishermen, philosophers, and kings. These authors lived hundreds of miles apart, and some of their lives were separated by centuries. Most of them never saw each other at all. Yet, the Bible has a close-fitting unity, as if one author wrote it, which is indeed the case. Who is that one Author, and how did His message come to be written down (2 Peter 1:21)?

 
 

The Bible has been translated into more than 1,100 languages and dialects, while the works of Shakespeare, who was probably the greatest author of secular literature, have been translated into less than 50 languages. Although the Bible originated in the Middle East, it has transcended all national and ethnic boundaries and is accepted by people around the world. More than 30 million copies of the Bible are sold each year.

II. The Theme of the Bible

The Bible's theme, which begins in the book of Genesis and ends in the book of Revelation, is "the redemption of mankind." The moment man sinned, as recorded in the third chapter of Genesis, he died spiritually, and the penalty of spiritual death was upon him. However, in the same chapter God declares His intention to redeem mankind from this death (Gen. 3:15). This is the first verse of prophecy concerning the Messiah to be found in the Bible. This verse declares that Someone born of a woman would come into the world to defeat the old serpent, the devil.

The OT is a history of the Hebrew race through which this Person, who would crush the head of Satan and redeem mankind, would be born. More than once Satan tried to annihilate the Hebrews to prevent the Messiah from being born.

There are many sub-themes in the OT, but the main theme is the preparation of the One who will be born in the fulness of time (Gal. 4:4).

This theme of the OT is fulfilled in the NT. The hoped-for Messiah—the son of David, the son of Abraham, and ultimately the son of Eve—was born. Matthew begins his book with a genealogy to show that the promised Messiah of Genesis 3:15 had come.

What was His name (Matthew 1:1)? _________________________

III. The Divisions of the Bible

The Bible is divided into two main sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word testament means "covenant" or "agreement." The OT was written in Hebrew, and the NT was written in Greek.

The difference between the two Testaments is that the OT is the record of God's dealing with people under the Law, and the NT is the record of God's dealing with people under grace. The old covenant ended, and the new covenant began at the Cross.

A. The Old Testament

(1) The first five books of the OT are called the Pentateuch (pen-tah-tuke). The word pentateuch means a "five-volume book." These books are generally thought of as a distinct unit, called the Law.

They are: (See chart on page 5.)

Genesis

 
 

Leviticus

 
 

Deuteronomy

Whom did God inspire to pen these five books (John 1:45 and 7:19)?

 
 

(2) The next 12 books are books of History. These books show us how the Lord brings the chosen people into the Promised Land and how the Law cannot bring salvation. They deal with the continual apostasy of Israel, and they tell us the stories of the great leaders and kings of Israel.

They are:

(3) The third section of the OT is the books of Poetry. These are books of encouragement, comfort, wisdom, and songs. They are also called "wisdom literature."

They are:

(4) The fourth section of the OT is the Prophets. There are 17 books in this section, divided into two sections—the "major" and the "minor" prophets.

They are not called "major" and "minor" because some are more important than others, but because of the amount of material contained in each book. In other words, the major prophets are larger than the minor prophets.

What does the word prophet mean (see Exodus 7:1-2)?

 
 

The Major Prophets are:

The Minor Prophets are:

This makes a total of _________________________ books in the OT, with four divisions—Law, History, _________________________ and Prophets.

B. The New Testament

(1) The first section of the NT is called the Gospels. They are also called "biographical" books, as they tell us about the life and the teachings of Jesus Christ, as well as His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

The Gospels are:

(2) The next section in the NT is History and contains only one book: Acts. This book is a sequel to the gospel of Luke and deals with the origin and the growth of the early church.

(3) Next are the Pauline Epistles. The apostle Paul wrote almost one-half of the NT. These fourteen books, if the book of Hebrews is included, are divided into three sections: the Church Epistles, the Pastoral Epistles, and the Personal Epistles.

The Church Epistles are:

A good way to remember the Church Epistles is as follows: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, then General Electric Power Company (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians), and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

The Pastoral Epistles are:

The Personal Epistles are:

(4) The next section is the General Epistles. Each book carries the name of its author and is written to all Christians.

They are:

(5) The NT has one book of Prophecy. It is called the Apocalypse or the Revelation. It was written by the apostle John. This is the last book in the NT and in the Bible as a whole.

Thus, there are 4 Gospels, 1 book of History, 14 Pauline Epistles, 7 General Epistles, and 1 book of Prophecy, for a total of _________________________ books in the New Testament.

There is a total of _________________________ books in the entire Bible.

IV. How to Study the Bible

It is impossible for any Christian to mature without a systematic method of studying the Word of God. Don't be concerned about the amount of Scripture you read, but be sure you allow what you read to SPEAK TO YOU. I would suggest you read only 10 to 15 verses at a time. A good system would be to study the Bible by the paragraphs which are marked in most Bibles. Regardless of how much or how little of the Bible you study at a time, always ask God to help you understand what you are about to read. Listed below are some important tips for getting the most out of your Bible study:

First, get a good Bible. You get what you pay for, and a good Bible is no exception. Ask your pastor or teacher for help in this area.

Second, get a good Bible commentary, which will be very helpful in understanding the meaning of difficult passages.

Third, get a good Bible dictionary, which will give the definitions and backgrounds of difficult words in the Bible.

For the Bible student who is interested in the original text, the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. E. Vine is excellent.

Chart of Old Testament Books