A Terribly Inadequate Introduction to the Bible

A Cheat Sheet to the Bible’s 66 Books (Plus the stuff Protestants don’t count)

–Old Testament (Hebrew Bible, First Testament)

  • Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy [Pentateuch/Torah/Law]
  • Joshua-Esther [History]
  • Job-Song of Solomon [Wisdom/Poetic books/Writings]
  • Isaiah-Daniel [Major Prophets]
  • Hosea-Malachi [Minor Prophets]


  • Tobit-4 Maccabees [Not part of the Protestant Bible]

–New Testament

  • Matthew, Mark, Luke, John [Gospels]
  • Acts [Sequel to Luke; account of the beginnings of the Church]
  • Romans-Jude [Letters, a.k.a. epistles; 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 and/or 2 Thessalonians probably written by the apostle Paul]
  • Revelation [Apocalypse]

An Oversimplified Explanation of How we got the Bible

  1. The material of the Bible was put into written form.
    1. Old Testament books began as oral tradition; the stories and teachings were eventually written down in Hebrew; some aspects of the oral tradition are recorded in more than one place–presumably by more than one author.
    2. The Gospels and Acts also developed out of an oral tradition; Mark was likely the first Gospel to be written down, probably shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
    3. The letters of the New Testament originated as written documents from church leaders to developing faith communities.
    4. Revelation is a description of a vision from John of Patmos; it is of a literary type common to the era–apocalyptic writings. (New Testament books originally written in Koine Greek)
  2. The Christian Church adopted a biblical canon
    1. What we consider the Old Testament consists of texts mostly considered scripture in the Jewish community during Jesus’ time; Jesus quotes from all of the books of the Torah, most of the prophets, and some of the writings.
    2. There is broad consensus that the current canon has been accepted in the East and the West since the 5th Century, though formal articulations have been approved by various church bodies as late as 1672.
  3. Scholars discern the most authentic texts and produce various translations
    1. King James Version: 1611; some people feel this is the only acceptable translation
    2. New International Version: latest revision in 2011; most popular among evangelicals
    3. New Revised Standard Version: 1989; considered most scholarly; uses inclusive language for humanity
    4. Paraphrases are also available, such as Eugene Peterson’s The Message

An Embarrassingly Brief Time Line of the Bible (basically from New Interpreter’s Study Bible)

  • ???–Creation and Flood [Genesis]
  • 2000-1500 BCE –Patriarchs and Matriarchs (Abraham, Sarah . . . Joseph) [Genesis]
  • 1300 BCE–Exodus from Egypt [Exodus]
  • 1340 BCE (or thereabouts)–Entering the Promised Land [Joshua]
  • 1200-1020 BCE–The Judges [Judges]
  • 1020-1000 BCE–King Saul [Monarchy chronicled in: 1&2 Samuel, 1 &2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles]
  • 1000-960 BCE–King David
  • 960-930 BCE–King Solomon
  • 930-922 BCE–Division of Kingdom into Judah (Southern) and Israel (Northern)
  • 597-587 BCE–Babylonian Exile (of Judah) [Exile and return chronicled by the prophets]
  • 538-539 BCE–Return to Judah
  • 516/517 BCE–Temple rebuilt and dedicated
  • 458-433 BCE–Later Prophets


  • 332 BCE–Alexander the Great conquers Palestine [This whole section from Apocrypha]
  • 198 BCE–Seleucids take control of Palestine
  • 167 BCE–Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes outlaws many Jewish practices and desecrates Temple
  • 167-165 BCE–Maccabean Revolt; Seleucid forces defeated; Temple cleansed
  • 165-135 BCE–Maccabeans rule Judah
  • 143-37 BCE–Political unrest leads to Roman rule


  • 4 BCE–Jesus Born; Herod the Great dies [Gospels]
  • 28-33–Jesus’ one-year ministry within this period [Gospels]
  • 30–Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection [Gospels]
  • 40–Paul’s conversion [Acts]
  • 41–44–Herod Agrippa I rules Judea; apostles persecuted [Acts]
  • 44–Herod dies.
  • 51-53–Paul in Corinth [Paul’s letters]
  • 63-64–Paul executed in Rome
  • 66–first Jewish revolt
  • 70–Jerusalem destroyed
  • 95–Domitian emperor of Rome; localized persecution; Revelation written?

So What’s it All About

  • God created us and loves us.
  • God desires to be in relationship with us.
  • People mess up. A lot.
  • Jesus, God in the flesh, is the most complete revelation we have of the Divine.
  • Because of Jesus, we can have a saving relationship with God.
  • The Church is a primary way God chooses to work in the world.
  • People mess up. A lot. And we are forgiven.

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