30 Days to Understanding the Bible Session 1

Faith Church May 1, 2004


Overview:  This session covers the material in Chapters 1-3

I.  The Structure of the Bible


So let’s begin with “The Old Testament and the New Testaments”

When we talk about the structure of the Bible, the most obvious division is, the old and new testaments.

How many books are in the OT?  (39)

It begins with creation and tells the story of the Jewish people up until the time of Christ.

It is written by 28 different authors, and covers a period of over 2000 years.

(INPUT:  what is “amazing” about that fact?)


How many in the NT?  (27)

This records the birth of Jesus Christ, His life and ministry, and how God used the disciples of Jesus to establish NT churches after Jesus’’ death and resurrection.

How many in the whole Bible? (66)


Now as you look at that list of 66 names it looks like an unorganized mess doesn’t it, how will you ever know where to look to find what you want?

However, a very important piece of this puzzle is that in each testament, there are three different kinds of books and they are arranged in a very logical order.


A.  Structure of the OT

For the OT, you’ll find, historical books, poetical books, and prophetical books.

What kind of information would you expect to find in the historical books? - history

What kinds of information would you expect to find in the poetical books? - poetry

What kinds of information would you expect to find in the prophetical books? - prophecy.


In the OT, the first 17 are historical, the next 5 are poetical, the last 17 are prophetical.

[review the books of the OT, using these categories—mark out on transparency and then show  “The three kinds of Books in the Old Testament” transparency}

Note:  there is obviously overlap between the categories [poetry in the historical books, etc].

Some people make the mistake of thinking that the books of the Bible are one long line of unbroken history, so if you start at the beginning, each book advances the historical story.

The truth is, the OT historical story is contained in the first 17 books.

Another important idea here is that of these 17 historical books, 11 are primary history, 6 are secondary history (Leviticus, Deut, Ruth, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ester—why secondary?).

Once you have this historical understanding, you simply need to know where the other books fit into the historical line.

the charts on p. 7 help you do that.


 Now, as we look at all this, an important summary statement for the OT is, “The Old Testament is the story of God and the Hebrew people, their poets, and their prophets.”


B.  The Structure of the NT

Just like with our study of the OT, we find in the NT that there are 3 categories of material in the NT....historical books, Pauline epistles, and general epistles.

the word epistle means “letter”.

the books break down like this....

the first five books are historical

the next 13 are Pauline epistles

the next nine are general epistles


So if you want to read the story of Jesus and the church He established, you read the first five books.

If you want to read the letters of the apostle Paul, you read the next 13 books.

If you want to read instruction to individuals and churches from other people like James, Peter, and John, read the last nine.

With the OT, we gave you a key statement to memorize.

We’d like to do the same with the NT.

The New Testament is the story of Jesus, the Church He founded, and its growth under the leadership of His apostles after His death.

Now, let’s see if you got all of this, turn to pp. 11& 12 in your books and take 3 minutes to fill in the quiz. (Review if you want.)


II.  The Geography of the Old Testament

Now,  we want to work on the issue of the geography of the Old Testament.

let me ask you to take a couple of minutes and silently read the information on pages 13-14 and be ready to answer questions:


1) What is the writer’s point?

2) Is there anything in these paragraphs that surprised you?  [cf. the distances between the planets].

3) Do you agree with the 3rd paragraph on page 14?  Why or why not?

4)  May want to discuss attached quotes at end of this lecture “In reference to Israel’s “promised land”


Okay, Now, I am going to tell you the story of the Bible in 1,000 Words (Do you believe I can do it?  --I have a prepared story that does it and as I do it I am going to show you where all of these events take place in the Bible on the map.

Now do you realize that all of that happened in a land about the same size as the state of texas?


INPUT:  How does this compare with what you had previously thought about the size of the Old Testament world?


Now, let’s just mention briefly the key items on the map


Okay, you have just gained some knowledge of the geography of the OT and that will enable you to understand and envision the history that unfolds from it.


INPUT:  What may be some stories or events in the Bible where understanding the geography helps you understand something from God’s Word?

(Exile being taken away from Babylon, Exodus, Joshua and the conquests, etc.)



III.  The History of the Old Testament

Our author divides the OT into nine main eras.

Eventually, we’ll add three more from the NT, for a total of twelve.

Our goal in this point is that you will


1) Know all nine eras of the OT

2) Be able to name a key person who goes along with each era

3) Be able to identify on a map the geographical location of each era.


First, we need to learn these nine eras.

Let me ask you to close your books, and we want to unscramble the eras.


The creation of the world and man, and early events

The birth of the Hebrew people through a family of Patriarchs, covering a period of 200 years

The exodus of the Hebrew people as they are delivered out of four hundred years of slavery in Egypt

The conquest of the Promised Land by the Hebrew people upon their return from Egypt

A four hundred year period during which Israel is governed by rulers called judges

An additional four hundred year period during which Israel becomes a full-fledged nation ruled by a monarchy

A seventy-year period during which Israel’s leaders live in exile, having been conquered by foreign countries

The return of the exiled Jews to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple

A final four-hundred-year period between the close of the Old Testament and the opening of the New Testament. silence


INPUT:  Now, let’s go through each era and ask this question what would be the most prominent person associated with that era. 

Creation          Adam              The first man

Patriarch          Abraham         The first patriarch

Exodus            Moses              The leader of the exodus

Conquest         Joshua             The leader of Israel’s army

Judges             Samson            The most famous judge

Kingdom         David              The most well-known Israelite king

Exile                Daniel              The major exilic prophet

Return             Ezra                 The central return leader

Silence             Pharisees         The religious leaders



INPUT:  Now using our map we want to place each person in an appropriate geographic location?


Adam, Eden—The garden of Eden, where Adam is created Near the convergence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers

Abraham, Canaan—Abraham migrates from Ur, near Eden to Canaan, where he and the other patriarchs live until the time of slavery in Egypt.

Moses, Egypt—During a severe famine, the Israelites migrate to Egypt and are enslaved four hundred years before their exodus to freedom

Joshua, Canaan—Joshua leads the conquest of the Promised Land in Canaan

Judges, Canaan—The Israelites live in Canaan under a loose tribal system ruled by judges for the next four hundred years.

Kingdom, Israel—With the formation of a formal monarchy, the land is now referred to by the national name of Israel

Daniel, Babylon—Because of judgment for national moral corruption, Israel is conquered by foreign nations, finally forcing her leaders into seventy years of exile in Babylonia.

Ezra, Jerusalem—The exiled Israelites are allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and temple, though they remained under the dominion of Persia

Pharisees, Jerusalem—Though dominion of the land changes from Persia to Greece to Rome, Israel is allowed to worship in Jerusalem without disruption for the next four hundred years of “silence”



Congratulations!  You have just taken a major step toward mastering an overview of the OT. 


From now on, we will become more and more specific, but you have laid a good foundation that can be built upon in successive chapters.

Faith Church