The Old Testament
The Old Testament consist of 39 books: Genesis to Malachi
Genesis is the first book of the Old Testament. It is a collection of early Israelite information concerning the origin of things. The book has two main divisions. The first is the history of early mankind, narrating the events of the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and Dispersion. The second section concerns the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
Exodus relates the history of the Israelites from after the death of Joseph, to the erection of the tabernacle by Moses. The book includes an account of the wanderings in the wilderness of Sinai and the giving of the law to the nation.
Leviticus can also be called: “The book of the law and the prophets”, as it contains very little historical matter, concerning itself with priestly legislation and the practice of the law among the people. Much importance is placed upon Israel’s separation from all heathen influences so that the nation may return its religious purity.
Numbers is a continuation of Exodus, recording the state of the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai until their arrival at Moab. The title of the book is derived from the two numberings of the people recorded here.
Deuteronomy is a sequel to numbers. Narrated in it are three speeches and two poems, spoken by Moses in Moab before the crossing of Jordan, in which he gives the Ten Commandments to the chosen people. A minor narrative in three of the chapters tells of the last days of Moses.
Joshua tells the story of Moses’ successor. It was Joshua who led the people into the promise land after the death of Moses. The book is also a narrative of the conquest of Canaan and the division of the land among the twelve tribes of Israel.
Judges is so-called because it relates to the times of various rulers or judges of Israel from the possession of Canaan until the time of Samuel. Also found in Judges is the recounting of the adventures of Samson.
Ruth is a beautiful idyll telling the story of Ruth the Moabites, and her mother-in-law Naomi. The two women returned to Naomi’s homeland Judah, and there Ruth the foreigner, marries Boaz. Ruth was the great-grandmother of David, the ancestor of Jesus.
First and Second Samuel contains valuable historical material concerning the religious and moral condition of the period. Samuel is the great prophet-Judge who helps to unite the scattered tribe under one king, Saul. The history of the reigns of Saul and David is also recorded.
First and Second Kings follow the monarchy to its summit under Solomon and the nation’s division, decline, and fall under Jeronoam and Rehoboam. Kings also gives an outline of the double captivity of Israel under the Assyrians and Judah under the Chaldeans.
First and Second Chronicles has much in common with the book of Samuel and Kings. They contain genealogical tables from Adam to the death of Saul, the reign of Solomon, the division of the kingdom, the exile, and the proclamation of Cyrus.
Ezra – Nehemiah is a companion book continuing the narration of Chronicles. Ezra details the first return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple. Nehemiah gives an account of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and of the efforts to bring religious reform to the people.
Esther is the last of the historical books, contains an early example of pre-Christians anti-Semitism. Esther, the Jewess, was chosen as a new queen for Ashasuerus, the king of Persia. Her uncle Mordecai had incurred the enmity of Haman, the evil court favorite, and so brought the threat of death to his people. Esther thought her position was able to avert the tragedy and save her people.
Job is the first of the poetical books, and deals with the problem of suffering. God allows Satan to afflict Job, a prosperous and pious Jew, with many hardships in order to test his faith. Job looses his children and his worldly goods, and is afflicted by a terrible disease. Finally when God question Job, he is forced to admit to the limits of human wisdom, and bow humbly before the will of God. With this new humility his faith is strengthening and Job finds peace.
Psalms is a collection of poems written over a long period of time by various authors. They express the heart of humanity in all generations through a variety of religious experiences. Originally the poems were chanted or sung to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument. One of the characteristics of this Hebrew poetry is parallelism; that is, the second line relates the idea of the first line.
Proverbs is a part of the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament. Contained in the book are short, pithy sayings of common sense and sound advice that relate to all ways of life; in short, a practical, everyday philosophy of living.
Ecclesiates contains the writings of a wealthy Jew who suffered from the sorrows and disappointments of live and now try to discover the true value and meaning of life through God. The author of this book calls himself “The Preacher”, “The son of David: and “king in Jerusalem”. Whether this was Solomon or a later, “son of David” is uncertain.
Song of Solomon is also called “Songs of Songs” and “Canticles”. This collection of love songs has long been an enigma and many inter-relations have been offered for it. This love relationship could signify the relationship between God and His people, or between Christ and His people.
Isaiah is the first collection of prophecy of the four major Hebrew prophets. Judge to come is fundamental to Isaiah’s teaching. Israel and Judah are to perish but a remnant will survive and a New Jerusalem will rise up as a city of the faithful. It is also in Isaiah that memorable prophecies of Christ’s coming are found.
Jeremiah is the book of the prophet Jeremiah, who received the divine call to prophecy while very young. It was his mission to predict doom upon his nation for it’s many sins. For this, the priest and the people hated him. More important than prophecies, was the emphasis Jeremiah placed on personal religion.
Lamentations consist of five poems occasioned by the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity. The first three elegies describe the terrible plight of the nation; the fourth compares the past history of Zion with her present state, and last is prayer for compassion and deliverance. The book is regarded as appendix to the book of Jeremiah.
Ezekiel is written by the prophet of the exile. The book is divided into two sections. The first denounces the sins and abominations of Jerusalem and the second looks to the future with the hope that the city will be restored after it has been cleansed. This later section contains passages strongly messianic in nature.
Daniel, like Ezekiel is divided into two parts. The first six chapters tells of David’s faith and the greatness of his God over the idols of Babylon. The last six chapters contain the four visions of Daniel and their interpretations.
Hosea is the first book of the twelve minor prophets. Because the time were outwardly prosperous, idolatry prevailed and immorality was rampant. Hosea urges a return to God in order that `he may show mercy and forgiveness.
Joel was written during the locust plague, a time of great distress for the people. The prophet sees in the devastation of the locust an indication of the coming day of the Lord. Therefore all must repent with fasting and mourning. With repentance, however, there is a promise of relief and God’s blessing for Israel.
Amos is the book of the herdsman from Tekoa, a small town Judah. He received a direct call from God to prophecy against the unrighteousness of both Judah and Israel. Amos was the first prophet to proclaim that god was the ruler of the whole world.
Obadiah is the shortest book of the Old Testament with only one chapter. In it is given a prophetic interpretation of a great calamity that has already occurred in Edom and a prediction of the universal judgment.
Jonah is the story of a prophet sent by God to Nineveh. Jonah was fearful of the call and tried to flee by sea to Tarshish. During the sea voyage he was thrown overboard by his fellow passengers and swallowed by a great fish sent by God. The prophet was saved and went on to Nineveh to successfully convert the people of that city.
Micah, the prophecy of the fourth in the great quartet of eight-century B.C. prophets, with Amos, Hosea and Isaiah, who preached against the idolatrous and unjust nations of their generation. Micha’s message was stern and uncompromising; judgment was to come soon for Judah.
Nahum consists of two poems. The prophet tells of the fall of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian nation. God id depicted as revengeful to those who conspire against Him. The book of Nahum also contains a classic rebuke against warfare and militarism.
Habakkuk, a book of prophecy, is concerned with the problem of unpunished evil in the world. It was revealed to Habakkuk that the Chaldean armies were to be God’s means of punishing the wicked and that evil would destroy itself. The book concludes with a poem of thanksgiving and great faith.
Haggai is a report on the utterances of the prophet Haggai during the second year of the reign of Darius, king of the Persian Empire, in the post-exilic period. The prophet is singularly concerned with the rebuilding of Temple, which was essential to restoring the nations purity. Haggai also believed that a great messianic age was at hand.
Zechariah is a book of prophecies of a contemporary of Haggai. Zechariah urged the people to rebuild the temple for he too believed in the imminent coming of the messianic kingdom Zechariah and Haggai are equally responsible for determining the narrow exclusiveness of post-exilic Judaism, since they declared that the blessing of God would be shared by Judah alone.
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament and belongs to the period of Nehemiah. The prophet’s message is to the priest, and the people, charging them with indifference, doubt and immorality. Malachi tells of the coming day of the Lord and closes the book with a prophecy of John the Baptist.
The New Testament
The New Testament consist of 27 books: Matthew to Revelation
Matthew has been pre-eminently the Gospel of the church. It tells us of God’s love for Israel and of the fulfillment of Christ of God’s promise to the nation. It gives the complete story of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. The Sermon on the Mount, and some of the most precious of Jesus’ parables are contained in this Gospel.
Mark is the earliest of the Gospels and contains much of the teaching of Peter. This Gospel presents Jesus as the man of power, the strong and active Son of God; its climax is reached when Peter made this great confession: “You are the Christ”.
Luke, the third Gospel was written by “the beloved physician”, the companion of the apostle Paul. Only in Luke are found the magnificent, the story of the birth of John the Baptist, the story of the shepherds, and the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lost sheep and the prodigal Son. Jesus is presented as the compassionate Savior, healer, redeemer and friend of the weak. From this Gospel comes a special feeling of the mercy of God, as Jesus made men understand it.
John was written by “the disciple that Jesus loved”. He tells us who Jesus was, what He is, and what He can always mean to those who love Him. His Gospel contains more than the others about the story of Lazarus, Nicodemus and Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and resurrection, and also about the disciples: Andrew, Philip and Thomas.
The Acts of the apostles, written by the “author of Luke’s Gospel”. Included in it is the account of what Jesus’ disciples did after His resurrection. It tells about the early Christian church and its missionaries, the baptism of Cornelius, the council in Jerusalem, and about the conversation of Paul and his journeys to establish churches and to teach. Acts emphasizes that the church is guided continually by the Holy Spirit.
The Epistles of Paul to the Romans was written by Paul in Corinth about 58 AD. The purpose of the letter was to secure the active support of the church in Rome for his missionary program. Paul stresses the universality of man’s sin but that God saves all men through faith in Christ. He discusses the plan of Israel in God’s plan of salvation and how Christians should conduct themselves.
The Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians were written from Ephesus about 57 A.D. The Christians of Corinth found it hard to live, as they knew they should, and questioned Paul about their difficulties. In first Corinthians Paul answered their question, points out what they did wrong, and encourages them with his message, “You are Christ”. Second Corinthians contains Paul’s message of thanksgiving and love. Then he goes on to describe his tribulations as he went about preaching the gospel of Christ.
The Epistles of Paul to the Galatians, written in 57 or 58 A.D. probably in Antioch, is the cornerstone of Christian freedom. In Galatians Paul tells of his own conversation and of how he stood firm in his belief that Christ was the savior of people everywhere, not just those who observe every detail of the Jewish law
The Epistles of Paul to the Ephesians written about 62 A.D. seems to be a general letter to the churches of Asia Minor. Paul presents God’s eternal purpose to save men through Christ; “the dividing walls of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles has been broken down through the cross of Christ. Paul extols us to live as worthy, true Christians.
The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians was written while Paul was a prisoner in Rome. This letter, Paul’s farewell message, is filled with gratitude and affection for his Philippian friends, the church which was perhaps dearest to him.
The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians were written by Paul, while he was a prisoner in Rome, to the Christian at Colossae in Asia Minor. Paul writes to encourage them with real truth; that through Christ they have the everlasting love of God.
The Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians were written by Paul from Corinth about 52 A.D. These two letters are the earliest writings of the New Testament. Paul told these Christians what sort of person they must be, and that they must do their duties everyday, and not stand idle, waiting for the second coming.
The Epistles of Paul to Timothy, written by the Apostle to His friend Timothy at Lystra, tell of the condition in the church and describe the qualifications and duties of the church officers. Second Timothy contains Paul’s request that Timothy come to Rome to see him.
The Epistle of Paul to Titus encourages Titus, Paul’s “true child in a common faith”, to lead the church to Crete.
The Epistle of Paul to the Philemon is a personal letter in which the Apostle beseeches Philemon to take back a runaway slave, Onesimus. The slave came to Rome, where Paul was being held prisoner, and there were converted by Paul.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, the authorship of which has been long debated, urges the Hebrew Christian community not to fall back into Judaism.
The General Epistle of James, written by the brother of our Lord, provides ethical instruction for all Jewish people who have become Christians. It is clear and practical in its dealing with Christian behavior.
The First Epistle of Peter was written by Peter from Rome between 64-67 A.D., to Christians who fled Asia Minor. It admonishes the pilgrim to have the hope and courage and to trust in the power of God.
The Second Epistle of Peter was also written by the Apostle Peter in the middle of the first century. It warns of false teachers who came into the early church and urges Christians to be brave and patient.
The Epistles of First John, assigned to the writer of the forth Gospel and revelation, testify that God is love and love is the test of religion. Second John is written to “the elect lady and her children”, probably a church. Third John is addressed to “the beloved Gaius”.
The General Epistle of Jude designates its author as “a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James”. Its message was for Christians wherever unity was threatened by heretical teaching and where Christian doctrinal and moral standards were questioned.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ to John (the Apocalypse) is the only prophetic book in the New Testament. Written by John, one of the Apostles of Christ, the book is addressed to the seven Christian churches in Asia Minor, whose members were being persecuted by Roman officials. The images and illusions of Revelation are difficult for us to understand today, but to the persecuted members of the seven churches John’s message was clearly one of hope, courage, and faith in times of trouble; and that on the Lord’s day the faithful would be greatly rewarded.