What is the Bible’s Structure?
Question: “What is the Bible’s structure and how can our understanding of the Bible's structure helps clarify the intent of what God is communicating to us?”
While there are many ways to define and explain the structure of the Bible, the following presents the lines of the most common description. Understanding the Bible's structure and presentation helps clarify the intent of what God is communicating.
The Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years by 44 men. It contains over 3,000 promises and over 2,000 prophecies, of which 1,817 have been fulfilled with 100% accuracy. It also references over 2,900 people.
The Bible consists of two sections -
The oldest examples of nearly complete Bibles are the Codex Vaticanus (Codex means ancient manuscript text in book form) from pre 350 AD, the Codex Sinaiticus from about 350 AD, and the Codel Alexandrinus from about 425 AD.
The Old Testament contains 39 books that are commonly divided into four major groups:
The Books of the Law or Torah:
The first five books of the Bible are written in Hebrew and called the Torah, and is often misleadingly translated as “law”, but more correctly means “teaching ” or “instruction”.
- Genesis – Covers the beginning of the world, creation of man, man’s sin by believing Satan’s lies, Satan stealing the authority God gave to man, and Satan becoming the god of this world (Genesis 1-
- Exodus – Exodus means, "Exiting out of," and gives the history of Israel led into bondage in Egypt to their deliverance 400 years later.
- Leviticus – This is an instruction book for the Priests of Israel for the sacrifices and services they rendered in the tabernacle.
- Numbers – This book provides the numbering of the tribes of Israel and covers some of their journeys in the wilderness.
- Deuteronomy – Meaning "copy of the law," and covers what Moses presented to the new nation prior to their entrance into the Promised Land.
The Books of History: twelve books in all, from Joshua through Esther.
The Books of Poetry and Wisdom: five books, from Job to Song of Solomon.
The Books of Prophecy: seventeen books from Isaiah to Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament.
An overview of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is a review of the conflict between God and Satan. God telling His people how to walk with Him, as in the garden, and Satan lying to the people and trying to convince them that they do not need God, that they do not need to follow the law, they are good enough, or that God does not exist. Satan was using all the tricks at his disposal to hurt, harm, and kill God’s children.
During this period, man did not have the Holy Spirit indwelling within him and sacrifices for sin consisted of annual animal sacrifices. The shed blood of innocent animals was used to wash away their sins. During this period, God gave instructions or laws to protect and govern the people. The law did not clean the people, but demonstrated that man was too sinful to follow perfectly the law. Before the law, there was no sin, because there was no law. No matter how hard a person tried to follow the law, they always failed. A better way was needed to sanctify the heart and please God. A way was needed that would provide man with redemption so that he could have a closer relationship with God. Jesus Christ provided the needed salvation in the New Testament.
The New Testament contains 27 books that are commonly divided into five major groups:
The first four books of the New Testament are called The Gospels because they present the story of Christ. They cover Christ’s birth, life, ministry, teaching, conviction, death, burial, resurrection, and His last instructions to His apostles.
- Matthew -
- Written by Matthew Levi, a tax collector. This gospel was written for the Hebrew mind. Presents Jesus the servant.
- Mark -
- Written by John Mark, companion of Peter. This gospel was written for the Roman mind. Presents Jesus the King.
- Luke -
- Written by Luke the physician and traveling companion of Paul. It is written for the Greek mind. Presents Jesus the Man.
- John -
- Written by the apostle John. This gospel was not directed to any particular group, but presents the deity of Jesus and His purpose. But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name John 20:31).
The Gospels were written between 32 and approximately 62 years after Christ’s ascension, with the Gospel of Mark being the first and John being the last.
Acts follows the Gospels and was written by Luke. It is the last book of history. It tells of the ascension of Christ, the spread of the church, the growth of the church, disagreement among church leaders, the conversion of Paul the apostle, and Paul’s imprisonment and journey to Rome.
The Epistles of Paul
- Romans – This book was written to the Romans and develops redemption of Christ for both the Jews and the Gentiles, and the doctrine of faith and obedience.
- I & II Corinthians -
- Paul had established the church at Corinth and was writing in response to various questions and problems that existed in the congregation. His second letter was in defense of his position as an apostle and their need to fulfill their commitment to support saints in need.
- Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians: These small books address needs, problems, and operation within local congregations.
- I & II Thessalonians -
- Paul had established this congregation, but was not able to finish developing the church before having to leave. These letters were written to provide needed instruction to the congregation in setting the church on a stronger foundation.
- I & II Timothy – Timothy had been a young traveling companion of Paul who became a pastor. These letters provide pastoral guidance.
- Titus – Titus also traveled with Paul. Paul sent him to Crete to help the churches and to ordain elders.
- Philemon -
- This book deals with the difficult problem of slavery.
- Hebrews – While not certain, this book is credited to Paul by most scholars. The book compares the different aspect of Judaism with Christianity, showing that the Christian system is superior in all aspects.
- James – James, the Lord’s half brother, wrote about Christian perfection.
- I & II Peter -
- Written by Peter. Supports the teachings of Paul and instructs Christians in their duty to follow Jesus Christ.
- I & II & III John -
- John wrote these chapters. They confront false doctrines and present the need to be obedient to the faith and to the truth. I John provides strong proof that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
- Jude – Written by Jude. He warms against false doctrine and encourages the saints to follow the simple truth of Jesus.
The Book of Revelation is difficult for many to read, as much of it is prophetic and will only become clear after the prophecies have occurred. The one point that is clear is that the saints should persevere in the face of oppression, that the saints and church will be victorious and that Satan will be defeated. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).
Overview of the New Testament
In the New Testament, we have Christ coming to earth as man, laying aside His Godly powers and glory, to teach mankind about the salvation that He provided, and to start His church (church does not mean a building, but means “those who are called out”). Satan knew that Christ represented the end of his kingdom and arranged for Christ’s crucifixion. Satan thought he had won, but Satan actually lost through the shed blood of Christ. Christ reclaimed from Satan what Satan had stolen from Adam. Christ then gave mankind, through the church, back the power and authority that was intended for mankind through Adam. Like most authorities, it is only effective if it is used. We will review this further. After Christ crucifixion, Satan continued on as normal. Not because he still had the power, but because most people do not even believe Satan exists. And who is Satan’s primary target? Is it the unsaved? No. He already has the unsaved and only needs to keep them. It is the saved that Satan mostly hates, it is the saved that Satan wants to turn away from God, and it is the majority of the saved who let Satan have his way rather than using the power and authority given to them by Jesus to send Satan packing. Click to learn more about our authority.
The New Testament is the continuous conflict between man and Satan with Christ being the pathway for the unsaved. It is Christians learning how to use the tools God has given them through Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and His Holy Word, and experiencing the blessed life that He wants us to have. The Word of God ends with Christ returning, providing Satan his final defeat, and victory for God and His saintly children.
Some say that the Bible is an acronym for -
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