This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Joshua 1:8 (AV)
The following post will briefly discuss the identity, nature, parts and various elements of the Holy Bible, providing a general overview and history, followed by summaries of the Old and New Testaments, for the purpose of general familiarity with the scriptures and ease of navigation.
Time will also be given to identifying and rectifying the most common misconceptions concerning the use, identity and integrity of the Holy Bible.
The Word Of God
The Holy Bible is understood to be, and known as, the inspired Word of God. This means that although men have physically written the contents of the Bible throughout the ages, the authorship from its time of inception down to every word and thought was personally and supernaturally inspired and directed by God Himself.
The Bible says in the Book of 2 Timothy,
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (AV)
True Christians affirm the Bible to be the sole faithful record of the revealed Word of God to mankind, inspired by God from cover to cover, and the primary resource and sustaining grace for the Christian life.
The Bible contains the absolute truth about the one true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the absolute truth about the origins of life and the early history of the world, the absolute truth about God’s involvement within His creation, and also His ultimate will and purpose for humanity. The Bible has introduced countless people throughout the pages of history to the Living God and has been a foundational element of the modern developed world as we know it today. There is no other book in existence comparable to the Holy Bible.
The literary substance of the Bible has its historical origins and tradition within the nation of Israel, stemming back roughly three and a half to four millennia from the present day. However, the content held within its pages extends back to the beginning of time itself. The entire Bible is a compilation of 66 pieces of literature. It is a prophetic record containing various genres of writing such as historical accounts and records, records of law, works of poetry, proverbs of wisdom, prophecies and letters directed to certain individuals and groups by a number of early church figures, all inspired by God under prophetic utterance and delivery through the Holy Spirit.
The Bible has been divided in two primary parts known as the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is a collection of 39 works or ‘books’ which were composed between roughly 1500 and 400 B.C.. They were written originally in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages with a Greek translation made in the course of time. The New Testament contains the remaining 27 books which were written between roughly 31 and 95 A.D. in the common Greek language of the first century–Koine Greek.
The most immediate copies of these works have perished in the course of history due to most of them being written on Papyrus which is a very thin paper like substance, which if it is not preserved carefully, is highly perishable. However, there is a large body of existing copies contained within the Christian scriptural tradition providing accurate preservation of what was originally written. Concerning the Old Testament, the Jewish people in time past had observed very strict and rigid traditions when it came to copying and preserving the scriptures for future generations. In a similar manner the New Testament tradition of scholarship has also carefully preserved the Scriptures for the last two millennia up to the present day.
The plain tracing of history in connection with the Bible, and its continued preservation are extraordinary in themselves, and as a collection of literature, it is known to be the most highly accurate body of historical documents in existence. The various elements contained within the Bible make it a rich treasure of literature. The Bible captures the core expressions of the human experience on a universal level. The divine nature and divine authority of the Bible makes it the most controversial book in human history. The Bible has stood the test of time indeed and has inspired events that have shaped human history and the understanding of life itself, and will continue to do so.
But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. 1 Peter 1:25 (AV)
Old Testament Summary
The following summary will briefly describe the different books of the Old Testament, their key characteristics and some background information. The Old Testament works are grouped into what is called a ‘canon’ which basically means, ‘a list of books/writings’. The Old Testament section of the Bible can be divided into smaller sections for ease of navigation. Four sections will be summarized as follows: The first section will include the books from Genesis to Deuteronomy. Section two will outline the books of Joshua to Esther. The third section will summarize the books of Job to Song of Solomon. The fourth and final section will present the books of Isaiah to Malachi.
Genesis to Deuteronomy
The first five books of the Old Testament are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books in the Hebrew tradition are called the ‘Torah’, meaning ‘law, direction or instruction’, and in the Christian tradition they are referred to as the ‘Pentateuch’, meaning ‘the first five books’. They were authored by Moses who was a very important prophet, leader and authority figure within the historical nation of Israel. These books–as with all books of the Bible–carry prophetical value but the Torah also carries historical elements, providing us with much insight to earth’s early history, the middle east, the nation of Israel, and their dealings with God and other nations.
Genesis records such events as the beginning and creation of the universe (Genesis 1-2), it follows early humanity and their initial dealings with God (Gen 3-11), and the ancestral history of the nation of Israel up to their establishment in ancient Egypt (Gen 12-50). Exodus, meaning ‘exit’, contains the development of Israel as a nation in its tribal divisions when situated in Egypt under slavery. It records their extraordinary liberation from slavery, departure from Egypt and subsequent travels in the wilderness, and their initial establishment as a nation under the laws of God including the establishment of a priestly service (Exodus 20-40).
Leviticus continues on from Exodus recording the establishment of God’s law and priesthood, designated to the service of God in mediation between God and the nation. Then the book of Numbers appears as a record following Israel’s time of nomadic travels or ‘wanderings’ in the ancient near/middle eastern wilderness following their exit from Egypt. This period of time in the wilderness contains the history of Israel’s dealings with other nations of the land, under the prophetic guidance of Moses, and often regarding warfare. Deuteronomy follows up toward the end of Israel’s travels in the wilderness and details a reiteration or second enforcement of God’s law. It concludes with expansion of an important covenant between God and Israel then the death and burial of Moses.
Joshua to Esther
The following set of books contains a large and complex body of prophetic accounts and historical information regarding the nation of Israel stretched out over a period of roughly 800-1000 years (1400 B.C. or 1200 B.C.–400 B.C. approx) It also includes a couple of interesting parallel narratives alongside the main body, set within various time periods. This group contains the books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. This collection is highly detailed so key points and descriptions will be listed as follows.
The Book of Joshua records Israel’s acquisition of and settlement within the land of Palestine under the prophetic direction of God through Moses’ successor Joshua. Judges contains the account of Israel’s time as a nation ruled by various leaders called ‘Judges’ up until their time of transition into a bonafied kingdom. The Book of Ruth is a parallel narrative which takes place in the period of the judges, following a character by the name of Ruth who has important links to the lineage of the later developing kingship of Israel. The Books of 1 and 2 Samuel record the transition and initial rule of Israel as an established kingdom. Located within these two books are the accounts of Israel’s first king named Saul and His successor–the most beloved king of natural Israel, King David.
The Books of 1 and 2 Kings record the succession of the kingdom down through the line of King David beginning with his son Solomon. King Solomon brings Israel to its peak splendor as a kingdom; however, later events lead to the split of the kingdom into two sectors called the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The books of the Kings follow these two kingdoms under their respective rulers right through to their eventual plunder by certain surrounding nations and subsequent exile out of their land into captivity under the foreign nations of Assyria and Babylon
The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles are a historical summary of the entire kingdom period of both 1-2 Samuel (1 Chronicles) and 1-2 Kings (2 Chronicles). These two books give another parallel witness to the kingship period which helps greatly in locating and cross-referencing dates, events and biographical information concerning important figures of ancient history. The books of the Kings and Chronicles provide important details of a large chunk of history regarding the ancient world. They have immense spiritual value with highly inspirational content and numerous examples of God’s dealings with humanity centered in the kingdom of Israel.
The Book of Ezra and and the Book of Nehemiah follow up, recording the return of the Israelites from captivity to their homeland, and the reorganization of their nation. Under the direction of a man named Zerubbabel, along with Ezra and Nehemiah and other prophets, they proceed to regroup as a people and rebuild their nation and reestablish their priesthood and sociopolitical system. Even throughout a time of external threat in war they still proceeded to reestablish their nation and institute religious reform with a reinforcement of the laws and customs of God. The Book of Esther is another parallel account in the time of the return of Israel from captivity. It follows the story of a young Jewish woman named Esther, who within the Persian Empire became the wife of the emperor, thus becoming his queen. It highlights aspects of Jewish history in parallel at the time of the Israel’s return from exile, and provides understanding of God’s delivering power and involvement in the affairs of foreign nations exampled in Persia.
Job to Song of Solomon
This section of the Old Testament contents together is commonly known as the ‘wisdom’ literature which holds the following books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. They hold similar content concerning life and divine wisdom, devotional material and poetic literature. These books have high spiritual value and certain ones are known to be the most rich and beloved books of the Bible to many. They tend to be highly poetic and use carefully constructed word imagery. They are known to be controversial in places making them a truly valuable and interesting read.
The Book of Job is a narrative about a Jewish God-fearing man called Job. This book is dated 600-400 B.C. or 250 B.C. approximately. It follows the story of Job in a time of intense affliction and provides insight into the theme of suffering and evil and how this reality of life is placed within God’s framework of His personal righteousness and justice. The Book of Psalms is quite possibly the most beloved book of the Bible across the board. It is a large collection of poetry and hymns (songs) spread over a large time within Israel’s history and has very high devotional and spiritual value. The Psalms are attributed to a number of authors including King David, Moses and Asaph among others. They express the human experience in vivid and wide emotional substance. The Psalms also have a prophetic element and a historical value which makes them highly important to the wider understanding of the Bible.
The Book of Proverbs is a treasure chest of wisdom. Proverbs was authored by King Solomon–son of King David and his successor–who was known to be the wisest of all men in the ancient world. This book is full of concise statements of truth and wisdom and is truly valuable in application to practical life. Ecclesiastes is a book of observational wisdom commonly considered to be authored again by King Solomon. The author calls himself ‘the preacher’ and has purposed to seek out wisdom. This book is highly considerate of the functional issues and absolute inevitabilities of human life, and is a thought provoking read. The Song of Solomon is the third in the line of books thought to be authored by King Solomon. This highly poetic book explores the theme of intimate love and interestingly parallels a number of relational and prophetic themes present throughout the Bible.
Isaiah to Malachi
This body of works is known as the prophetic books called, ‘the Prophets’. They are several detailed prophecies from a number of Israel’s prophets and are stretched over roughly a 400 year time period within Israel’s kingship (800-400 B.C. certain dates may vary). The prophet was also known as a ‘seer’ or ‘man of God’ who was sent by God to a particular place and people to bring a particular message to them. Often the prophet would bring a message of sharp judgment from God because of evil committed, which would result in calamity of that place and people; at the same time the prophet may, depending on the situation, also bring a message of mercy, liberation and forgiveness from God along with the judgment. The prophetic ministry also extended into special consultation of God on behalf of an enquiring party, often members of national leadership and royalty.
In certain cases prophecies also extended to predict events further into the future, even to the time of the world’s final age. The number of prophets throughout Israel’s history is not restricted to the number of particular books of the Prophets. Certain prophets who do not have recorded prophecies are known for their miraculous and supernatural exploits and would often face harsh persecution by opposition; their stories are located elsewhere within the Bible. The books of the prophets are usually split into two groups: the ‘Major’ and ‘Minor’ Prophets. These two groups distinguish prophets who had rather complex and long recorded prophecies and ministries (major), from those who had shorter prophecies and ministries (minor).
The Major Prophets
The Major Prophets consist of the following books: Isaiah, Jeremiah (with Lamentations), Ezekiel and Daniel. The messages of these prophets were aimed at the southern kingdom of Judah before and during the time of their exile.
The prophecies of Isaiah to the kingdom of Judah stretched over an estimated 60 years (approx 740-681 B.C.). The entire content of Isaiah’s message from God included elements such as repentance, exaltation of God in His holiness, divine judgment and calamity over Israel and the nations of the world, predictions of the coming Messiah and a vision of a new heavens and new earth among many other significant themes.
Jeremiah was a prophet to Judah at the time preceding their exile to Babylon and into the early stages of it (626-585 B.C. approx). He is often called the ‘weeping prophet’ because his message was one of repentance in broken-heartedness towards his people for their evil practices and rejection of God’s law. Jeremiah was persecuted for his efforts as he was instructed by God to warn of the coming judgment and calamity, exhorting the people of Judah to repentance and reformation of their ways. In Jeremiah’s time, Jerusalem was utterly destroyed and the people totally plundered and given over to a time of extreme affliction and suffering. The Book of Lamentations is also attributed to Jeremiah and contains a prophetic expression of extreme anguish for his nation at the time of their affliction.
The Book of Ezekiel is a majestic, complex and rather distinct book containing symbolic imagery of God by way of the prophet Ezekiel’s visions. Ezekiel’s prophecies were directed to the captivity of Judah within the time of their initial exile (593-571 B.C. approx). Ezekiel’s messages for them included calling them to repentance for their evil ways, warning them of the coming judgment of Jerusalem, and also giving the nation hope for their restoration in the future. Ezekiel is known as the ‘watchman’ in that God had made him a prophet to warn the nation to turn from their wicked practices or else face calamity in harsh destructive judgment.
The Book of Daniel is an elaborate prophecy interwoven with spanning history and is considered ‘apocalyptic’, meaning that it is a type of prophecy containing far field future predictions ‘revealing’ things to come concerning the end of days. It follows Daniel, a young Jewish man who was taken to Babylon in exile when the kingdom of Judah was plundered. Daniel rose to favor within the kingdom and faced testing trials for his faith. His prophetic ministry stretched from approximately 605-536 B.C.
The Minor Prophets
The Minor Prophets are a group of twelve books following twelve prophets whose times of prophecy were scattered throughout Israel’s kingdom period. The prophecies of the Minor Prophets were directed to both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah; however, the messages often included judgments to be proclaimed to other nations and even to the future world. At the same time, certain prophets had their prophecies expressly aimed at other nations for special reasons. They are listed as: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. A brief description of each of the books of the Minor Prophets follows.
The first of the minor prophets is the Book of Hosea. His message was directed to the northern kingdom of Israel before the time of their exile. His prophecy is dated approximately between 750-715 B.C. The message of Hosea includes elements such as judgment against Israel due to their unfaithfulness to God, the call to repentance, God’s warning of the coming exile, and the instilling of hope through God’s healing and covenant. The Book of Joel is next up, a prophecy directed to the southern tribe of Judah. It has an estimated 8th or 6th century dating. The prophet Joel brought a message of judgment for Judah and also the nations of the earth in the future. God calls His people to repentance through Joel and also declares the future blessing to come upon them and the world by His Spirit.
Amos is another minor prophet whose prophecy was directed to the northern kingdom of Israel around B.C. 760. His message declared the coming exile of Israel, and coming judgment against both Israel and Judah and also the surrounding nations. The Book of Obadiah is another prophetic record to which holds a possible 5th century date. The prophecy is directed to a nearby nation called Edom. Obadiah declares destruction and judgment to Edom in the fierce coming Day of the Lord. The prophecy also speaks of Judah’s deliverance and the judgments concerning various nations.
The Book of Jonah follows Jonah the prophet who had an interesting prophetic career, having had a certain reluctance about fulfilling his particular assignment. He was sent by God to a city called Nineveh in the Assyrian empire to declare their coming judgment. Jonah ran from his assignment because of the difficulty posed, but God gave him special encouragement to get the job done. The book has an 8th century setting (approx 785-755 B.C.) and has some distinguishing features as a prophetic narrative. Estimates put the next book on the list, the Book of Micah, in the time frame of the 8th century (approx 742-687 B.C.). Micah’s prophecy was aimed at the southern kingdom of Judah and records the prophet’s outcry against wickedness throughout the land, and declared to the nation the approaching judgment from God.
The Book of Nahum is a short prophecy directed to the city of Nineveh declaring God’s pending judgment of destruction to His adversaries in that nation who continued to work evil after previous warnings from God. The prophecy is thought to be dated somewhere between 664-612 B.C. The Book of Habakkuk is the next book with the prophet’s message directed to the southern tribe of Judah prior to their exile to Babylon. It is held to be dated between 625-598 B.C. and deals with impending judgment on Judah at the hands of Babylon. The Book of Zephaniah is next and contains an interesting prophecy of doom when the coming and dreadful “day of the LORD” arrives. The prophecy describes the judgment determined for Judah and Israel, Judah’s restoration, and also predicts the far field future destructive judgment determined for the entire world. The prophecy is held to be dated somewhere between 640-609 B.C.
The Book of Haggai is the account of the prophet Haggai and his prophecy to Judah in the period after Judah’s exile in the time of their return. It is dated whereabouts of 520-480 B.C. Haggai brought a message of exhortation to stir the nation to rebuild their plundered and destroyed temple of the LORD. The prophecy also displays the displeasure of God at their neglect of His temple while the nation concentrated on their own well being. The Book of Zechariah follows the prophet Zechariah who also brought a message to Judah in the time of their return (approx 520-480 B.C.). He prophesied to stir the nation to action in regards to the rebuilding of the temple. The prophecy is unique in that it is also full of vast prophetic imagery and points to far field future predictions and fulfillment concerning God’s approaching purposes for the world through the Jewish nation.
The Book of Malachi is the final minor prophecy in the canon, concluding the works of the Prophets. His prophecy is dated approximately between 440-428 B.C. and is aimed at the re-established nation and priesthood of Judah in Jerusalem. The message deals with the various sins and the complacency of the nation and priesthood following their re-institution. It highlights specific rituals touching the decline of standards within the priestly system, and declares a coming time of distinction between the true servants of God and the false. The day of the LORD and the “Sun of Righteousness” is spoken of pointing to the fulfillment of the Messianic vision in Jesus Christ.
The New Testament
The New Testament is a collection of works which center on the life and works of Jesus Christ and His apostles in the 1st century A.D. The collection contains prophetical and historical accounts of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection called the gospels, and also records the subsequent exploits of His closest followers in the years following His ascension. These accounts were derived from eye witness sources directly connected to the events and are highly detailed in nature.
The New Testament also contains a large amount of epistles, or letters, written by certain apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. These letters are directed to various Christian authority figures and churches throughout the Greco-Roman Empire of the first century. The New Testament concludes with a apocalyptic prophecy called the Book of Revelation, which was to be circulated throughout particular churches in the Roman Empire. These prophetical/historical accounts, letters and apocalyptic prophecy provide a powerful and accurate historical witness to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Early Church.
The 27 books of the New Testament are listed as follows: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude and Revelation. A brief description of the New Testament books follows.
The gospels are the first four books of the New Testament and are four separate accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, His ministry and also the events of His death and resurrection. The Gospel of Matthew is the first in line and is held to be written by Matthew who was also called Levi, a tax collector who was one of the twelve chosen disciples/apostles of Jesus. Dated approximately 60-65 A.D. (estimates vary) the Gospel of Matthew was initially produced for a Jewish audience and is known for its teaching value. It is a lengthy and highly detailed account of the life and teachings of Jesus and His disciples.
The Gospel of Mark is next and is commonly attributed to a Christian disciple named John Mark who was a disciple of Paul the apostle, a very important Christian apostolic church leader whose inspired writings fill a large portion of the New Testament. Mark’s gospel is dated to approximately 55-60 A.D. and was first purposed for the benefit of Christians in Rome. It is a short but dense account primarily concerned with highlighting the facts about Jesus Christ and His ministry throughout Israel.
The Gospel of Luke is next and is the first part of two accounts in the NT written by a Christian disciple named Luke, a physician who was a close companion of Paul the apostle. Luke’s Gospel is highly investigative and is valuable for its detail, clarity and historical qualities. Dated to around A.D. 60, the work itself suggests it was written for a specific person and would appeal to a non-Christian audience. Having been carefully derived from eyewitness sources, Luke’s gospel is an accurate historical witness to the life and exploits of Jesus Christ and His disciples.
The Gospel of John is the fourth and final account and is held to be written by the Apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest followers numbered among the twelve original disciples. The Gospel of John has a different coloring in comparison to the other three gospels and is known for its unique tone and emphasis. This book is dated approximately to the late first century and highlights the divine qualities of Jesus Christ, and is aimed at those who need assurance of the validity of Christian truth. It contains events, and dialogue unique in comparison to the other gospels. The Gospel of John is a powerful witness to the truth concerning the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
The Book of Acts
Directly after the four gospels we find the Book of Acts which is the second of the two accounts written by Luke, the companion of Paul mentioned above. The Book of Acts is known as “the Acts of the Apostles” and follows the events of the apostles and the early church after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts are considered to be produced at the same time (A.D. 60) being the sum total of one lengthy investigative endeavor.
Dramatic in nature, Acts is highly informative concerning God’s direction of the church in its genesis. The supernatural power of God demonstrated by the Holy Spirit independently and through the apostles, is woven all throughout the remarkable events recorded in the account, making it a powerful testimony to the sovereign purposes of God and the power of the gospel. The work closely traces important events across an almost thirty year time period and gives valuable historical credibility to the birth, life, power and spread of the early church following the ascension of Jesus Christ.
The Epistles of Paul
Paul the apostle was a highly important early church figure who under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote thirteen instructional epistles, or letters, in the New Testament, making his writings a large amount of the entire NT record. He was a ‘chosen vessel’ of God (Acts 9:15) to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God to the Gentiles (the nations outside Israel). He was a rigorous and diligent missionary, planting a large number of churches throughout the Greco-Roman empire of the first century. His letters provide valuable inspiration to Christians and are highly informative concerning Christian truth and the life of the early church. A brief description of his letters follows.
The first of his letters is called the Book of Romans as it is addressed to the Christian church and the Jewish people in Rome. The Book of Romans is dated to approximately 57-59 A.D. and is rather dense for its size containing a great deal of teaching material. Paul provides details on many subjects such as the law of God, the grace of God, the gospel, the Christian life and the contrast between the Christian church the nation of Israel. The Book of Romans is one of the core letters of Paul and is very high value in terms of detailed Christian teaching and spiritual power.
The next two letters are 1st and 2nd Corinthians, addressed to the church in Corinth, which was an ancient city in first century Greece. The first letter is dated approximately between 53-54 A.D. and deals mainly with a church having numerous problems organizationally as well as behaviorally. The second letter is dated to approximately 55 A.D. and deals with local church matters and also encouragement regarding the Christian hope and witness. Matters concerning core Christian teachings, and apostolic authority are also addressed. These two letters of Paul also paint a picture of early church organization, politics and logistics through giving a unique insight to complex church life in first century Corinth.
The next letter of Paul is named Galatians being addressed to the church in Galatia, a region situated within the first century Roman Empire. The Book of Galatians is essentially a crisis control letter and deals with false teachers and their counterfeit gospels. Dated between 47 and 52 A.D. the letter to the Galatians contrasts the Christian reality against the Jewish religious tradition which the Galatians were in danger of falling into at the hands of certain false teachers and opposers of the gospel. The distinction Paul makes between tradition and truth, and between the law and the Spirit is of high importance to understanding the gospel, Christian life and the way of faith.
The Book of Ephesians follows, a letter of Paul which was addressed to a church in Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), and was also a circular letter to be received by a number of churches at the time. It is dated to approximately A.D. 60-62, written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome for preaching the gospel. Ephesians expands on God’s eternal purposes through the mystery of the church and provides strength and encouragement to the saints of God in the spiritual battle.
The Book of Philippians is another letter written while Paul was in prison at Rome. Addressed to the church at Philippi in first century Macedonia, Philippians explores Paul’s life and his calling touching subjects concerning the gospel, the excellence of Christ, false religious teachers in opposition to the faith, and an exhortation to the saints to persevere in their call in Christ. The letter to the Colossians is the third letter of Paul written while in prison and is addressed to the church in Colossae in the Roman province of Asia Minor. Colossians deals with clarifying the truth concerning the identity and nature of Christ in the midst of false religious traditions and teachings in circulation at the time. Philippians also encourages the saints to keep their eyes and minds on the unseen realities above and to live their lives on earth as those called by God in Christ.
The next two letters written by Paul 1st and 2nd Thessalonians are addressed to the church in Thessalonica, first century Macedonia/Greece whereabouts of 51-52 A.D. The first letter follows up on Paul’s recent visit to the church, adds further teaching to the church touching on elements such as sexual immorality and the coming return of Christ, concluding with encouragement to the saints in their faith. The second letter centers on the coming return of Christ and the preliminary events concerning it. While it is a short letter, it is powerful and concludes with a strong exhortation to be ready, active and not at all idle in faith or work while waiting for the “Day of the Lord”.
Two letters called 1st and 2nd Timothy follow. They are addressed to an overseer of the church in Ephesus, a young man named Timothy. In the first letter, dated to approximately A.D. 63, Paul outlines matters of church conduct and operation, and also warns of future complications with dangerous teachings and dispositions of certain people. The second letter is dated to approximately 67 A.D. and is written from a later prison term of Paul’s than that previously mentioned. He strongly encourages Timothy to stand fast in the face of all things and be a faithful minister to the Lord. He warns Timothy of future situations that would arise and to do his duty for God in anticipation of Christ’s coming. Both letters contain strong exhortation to perseverance in the faith of Christ.
Titus is another letter which echoes in a similar manner to those of Paul to Timothy. Written approximately in A.D. 65 it is addressed to Titus who was an overseer of a church on the island of Crete, Greece. Paul calls Titus to teach authentic Christian doctrine while refuting the false teachings of certain men. Within the letter Paul outlines matters of church governance, highlights the workings of God’s grace and the kindness of God through that same grace. The letter closes with an exhortation to seriousness in the faith and good works. Philemon is the shortest of Paul’s letters, addressed to a friend of Paul’s called Philemon. It deals with an issue concerning a runaway slave of Philemon’s and their restoration to each other in light of their common faith in the Lord. The letter is the fourth of Paul’s while in prison (along with Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians) written in approximately A.D. 61-62.
The last letter to be held in Paul’s list of writings is the Book of Hebrews as is thought to be addressed to the Jewish Christians of Rome in A.D. 64. The Book of Hebrews is dense and high value for Christian truth. The letter suggests that it is aimed at exhorting Jewish Christians to remain faithful to Christianity and avoid falling away from the faith. It touches on the truth of Christ as the Son of God and His role as High Priest in heaven, the consequences of turning away from the faith and concludes with a lengthy exhortation to maintain in the faith as to receive the promises that are reserved for the faithful believers. Hebrews, when explored thoroughly is truly inspiring and remains a treasure of the Christian faith to this day.
The General Epistles and the Book of Revelation
Closing off the New Testament are seven more letters from apostolic figures–James, 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, Jude and Revelation. These letters are high value reads and their authors are influential figures of the Christian faith. Brief descriptions of these seven letters will follow.
The Book of James was written by the Apostle James, the brother of Jesus who was an original disciple of Jesus, and the overseer of the church in Jerusalem. Written approximately in 48-49 A.D., the letter deals with matters of faith and works, issues of partiality in dealings and respect of persons, sin, repentance, oppression, finances, encouragement to genuineness of faith, and restoration of the brethren who are going astray. Though a relatively short letter, the Book of James has much detail concerning practical Christian reality.
The next two books, 1st and 2nd Peter are written by the Apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ original disciples, a member of the twelve. The letters were directed to a wide audience of five provinces in the Roman Empire. The first letter written in 65 A.D. has a message that deals with various elements including encouragement to the hope of salvation in Christ, holiness of life and conduct, and patience and endurance through persecution. The second letter written in 67 A.D. reminds of the validity of the truth of God through His prophetic word, deals with false teachers and their coming consequences and finishes up with a strong warning concerning the coming ‘Day of the Lord’. The letters of Peter give great encouragement in the faith and insight into the coming events which will further shape and wind up history as we know it.
Three letters are next in the canon and are held to be authored by the Apostle John who was also one of Jesus’ closest disciples. The Epistles of 1st, 2nd and 3rd John give valuable insight into mature Christian life, and expands the understanding of God’s divine love in Christ. Dated approximately to the late first century these letters focus on the truth of God’s Word and the love of God in expressed in Christ. At a time when false teaching and opposition was heavy, John asserts the core Christian truths concerning the Son of God and how a Christian can truly know Him. The letter also speaks of how God’s love towards the world is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and how the Christian life is lived out in truth according to God’s Word. The first letter is the longest of the three and is aimed at correcting certain wayward beliefs and teachings in circulation throughout John’s area of ministry–Asia Minor (the modern day Turkish region). The second and third letters are very short and are addressed to certain church groups and figures whom John encouraged and exhorted in His region of ministry. John’s letters compliment the Gospel of John nicely and are faithfully dedicated to affirming the truth of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Jude is a short but powerful letter authored by Jude the other brother of Jesus, with the date traced approximately to 68 A.D. The Book of Jude calls Christians to ‘earnestly contend for the faith’ in response to false religious teachers who seek to pervert the faith and gospel. It details the activities of these false teachers within the church and describes the terrible judgment due to them at the coming of the Lord. Jude concludes with exhortation to the churches calling them to work towards their salvation in the mercy and love of God attempting to save as many as possible through the gospel as duty calls. Jude’s letter exhorts Christians to strong faith and to battle for a pure gospel in the face of opposition.
The Book of Revelation concludes the New Testament and is a book of apocalyptic prophecy revealing things previously hidden. The Book of Revelation is held to be written by the Apostle John and dated to the 90’s A.D. The book of Revelation is addressed to the seven churches situated within the Roman province of Asia Minor and is an express message from Jesus Christ Himself given to John in a vision and by angelic mediation.
Being a rather large letter and prophecy, it is a dense piece of work. It contains individual messages from Jesus for each of the seven churches and then proceeds into a lengthy apocalyptic prophecy concerning the ultimate future purposes of God for the world and eternity in the context of the revealed truth of the Gospel and Jesus Christ the Son of God. Revelation is highly symbolic in imagery and has been a source of controversy throughout the ages concerning Christian prophecy surrounding the return of Jesus Christ, the destiny of the church, and the close of the world’s history as we know it. Being a marvelous and majestic read, the Book of Revelation surely exalts Jesus Christ as:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:16 (AV)
Misconceptions About the Bible
There are several common misconceptions about the Bible in circulation; however, when they are examined closer they can be found to be fallacious and based upon conjecture, prejudice and arbitrary opinion. Let us now explore some of the most challenging misconceptions and deconstruct them.
The Bible is often referred to as a ‘story book’ based upon ancient fabrication. While the Bible does contain ‘stories’ they are to be understood in their correct historical context, literary genres and with intended purpose in mind. Even stepping back a touch, one must remember that the contents of the Bible are supernatural having been divinely inspired by God Himself, and recorded intentionally in their form and purposes; therefore, they need to be approached with great prudence and maturity. Also, the historical validity of the Bible is highly credible, being supported by ancient archaeological findings, extensive historical research across many fields, and advanced biblical and academic scholarship. Biblical validity is the subject of constant literary and textual criticism and ever-growing debate, and has been for the last few centuries and beyond. The Bible has stood its ground on its own merits against harsh scrutiny and is surely a highly accurate body of historical documents, one of the most accurate in existence–it is no mere storybook.
The Bible is also on the flip side, believed to be purely a history book and only a production of men. The Bible has a very credible historical aspect to it yes, that is good because it shows that it does not follow pure philosophy or religious fabrication. However, it is important first to understand and not overlook whose history the Bible primarily follows and what kind of record we are dealing with. The Bible follows the history of the Almighty God of all creation in His specific dealings with mankind through the nation of Israel, so it is no general history in question here. It is a supernatural divinely inspired prophetic record. As the Bible follows the historical dealings of God with Israel over a roughly two thousand year span, it records divine communications through the prophetic spirit over a vast amount of time. The Word of God is divinely inspired and a product of the Holy Spirit as He worked with holy men chosen as instruments of His communication to the world. The Author and Source of the Bible is not confined to history past, or to the will of men, but is ever present in the world and uses His living revelation to communicate with men and women on a daily basis.
The Bible states in 2 Peter 1:19-21:
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:19-21 (AV)
Also in Hebrews 4:12 it says:
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (AV)
Therefore, God has recorded His Word in written form, in a supernatural manner down to the letter, using certain and chosen men, at carefully selected periods in history, all overseen at His discretion and for His purposes. And it is the same Word He uses today to reveal Himself to the hearts of the people in the world. The Bible is no mere history book written by men.
The brief summary above of the Bible, its contents and background should provide a stepping stone to further study. However, the initial thing for anyone to do, which is the most important, is to simply read the Word of God and let the Lord speak to them through it. The Bible must be opened and revealed to the heart of the reader by God Himself through His Spirit, and then all things will fit into place. The Word of God will endure forever and will continue to be fulfilled. May it bless you and show you the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matthew 24:35 (AV)
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