How is the Bible organized?

Often you will hear people will say, “I don’t know very much about the Bible, so where or how do I start?” The Bible is laid out like a book, and most often you start a book from the front cover and work toward the back, however is that the best way to explore God’s word?

Those are both important and essential questions. To understand the Bible, we must not only know that it is God’s word, but we must understand the way in which it had been organized for the sake of reference. We say”organized” because the Bible has been carefully arranged and indexed to facilitate study. Even though the Bible comes to us in one book, it is actually a collection of sixty-six individual books, written by a number of authors over a period of roughly sixteen hundred years, extending in content from the creation of the world to the second coming of Christ, and yet it contains an amazing singleness of purpose and a unified theme which could only be the work of a single author; God!

So where, then, do we start with such an amazing and important book? First, we need to recognize that there are two divisions within the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Let’s begin with some simple, yet crucial observations concerning the Old Testament.

The Old Testament contains 39 books which have been arranged according to whether they are law, history, poetry, or prophecy.

  • The books of law cover the period from the creation of the world to the deliverance of Israel from the land of Egypt (ca. 1,400 B.C.).
  • The history books cover the period from the formation of the nation of Israel in the promised land to roughly four hundred years before the time of Christ.
  • The poetry books were written in both periods,
  • The prophecy section was written during the establishment of the nation of Israel.

Below is a chart which reveals the books of the Old Testament in order arranged according to their basic content.

This may all seem a bit confusing to you, but the time will come when this seems like “old hat.” For now, though, it would be good if you could learn the books of the Old Testament from memory and in order. It is easiest to memorize them section, by section.

The same is true of the New Testament. You should learn the books of the New Testament in order, but again, you must first know something about them. Below is a chart which reveals the books of the New Testament in order according to their basic content.

The books of the New Testament can be arranged according to whether they are biography, history, letters, or prophecy.

  • The books of biography are what we call “gospels,” and they record for us the life and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ (ca. 4 B.C. to 30 BCE)
  • The book of Acts tells us of the history and expansion of the early church, as well as providing several examples of how individuals became Christians
  • The letters or epistles are written in terms of what we should and should not believe, know, and do as growing Christians. They were written in the period from about the mid-forties A.D. to the mid-nineties A.D.
  • The book of Revelation is the only New Testament book devoted primarily to prophecy (ca. mid-nineties).

I know for some this information may be review however memorizing the books in the order of their appearance in the Bible will enable you to find things easier and make more effective use of your Bible.

In the following studies will we explore other important pieces of information about the Bible. The purpose of this study is simply to give you a point of reference for how the Bible together ahs been organized. This will help you read the Bible from a more informed perspective, and as a result, more productively.

“let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”

Colossians 3:16

QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW AND STUDY .

  1. The Bible is actually a collection of how many books?
  2. In the Old Testament, which books are the books of the law?
  3. Which books could be called Old Testament.
  4. List the books of poetry found in the Old Testament.
  5. Recite from memory the books of the Old Testament.
  6. The biography books of the New Testament record whose life and what is another name for these books?
  7. Which books are the biography books?
  8. Which book tells of the history and expansion of the early church?
  9. List the New Testament letters in order
  10. What New Testament book is devoted primarily to prophecy?
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