Brief Bible Overview

Books of the Bible:

The Bible includes 66 books, divided between the Old Testament (39) and New Testament (27), written by at least 40 men over about 1500 years.

Following are the names of the books, with short summaries of their content. Dates come from the Ryrie Study Bible King James Version (Chicago: Moody, 1978). Authorship comes from a number of sources. The identity of some authors is disputed.

OLD TESTAMENT

Genesis
Writer: Moses, a prophet and leader of the Israelites
Approximate Date of Writing: 1450-1410 BC

Summary: God creates of the world, including Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve commit the first sin. God punishes man with a flood but saves Noah and his family. God calls Abraham to settle in Canaan. God makes a covenant with Abraham, and his descendants—Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s children (the Israelites)—become God’s chosen people, the Jews. The Israelites move to Egypt and stay there for 400 years, becoming slaves there.

Exodus
Writer: Moses, a prophet and leader of the Israelites
Approximate Date of Writing: 1450-1410 BC

Summary: God chooses Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, back to Canaan. The Pharaoh won’t let them go, so God sends ten plagues. The Israelites escape. On their way to Canaan, God gives them the Ten Commandments and tells them how to make a special tent for worshipping him..

Leviticus
Writer: Moses, a prophet and leader of the Israelites
Approximate Date of Writing: 1450-1410 BC

Summary: God tells the Israelites how to worship him with offerings and sacrifices, how to observe special holy days, and how to make themselves clean before God. Moses’ brother, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons become priests.

Numbers
Writer: Moses, a prophet and leader of the Israelites
Approximate Date of Writing: 1450-1410 BC

Summary: The Israelites are counted. They often disobey God and must wander in the desert for 40 years before entering Canaan.

Deuteronomy
Writer: Moses, a prophet and leader of the Israelites
Approximate Date of Writing: 1450-1410 BC

Summary: Moses tells again about the Israelite’s journey in the desert and about the laws that God gave to them. Moses dies and Joshua becomes the new leader.

Joshua
Writer: Joshua, leader of the Israelites after Moses
Approximate Date of Writing: 1400-1370 BC

Summary: The Israelites enter Canaan and conquer it. The land is divided among the Jewish tribes and becomes the country of Israel. Joshua dies.

Judges
Writer: Unknown, possibly Samuel, a prophet and judge
Approximate Date of Writing: 1050-1000 BC

Summary: For the next 300 years, God appoints judges to lead Israel. The people often turn away from God and follow foreign gods. When the people disobey him, God punishes them, but he blesses them when they repent.

Ruth
Writer: Unknown
Approximate Date of Writing: 1000 BC

Summary: A Jewish woman, Naomi, moves to Moab, where her son marries a foreigner, named Ruth. When her husband and son die, Naomi returns to Israel. Ruth chooses to join her, and in Israel she marries Boaz. Their son, Obed will become the grandfather of King David.

1 Samuel
Writer: Unknown, possibly part written by Samuel, a prophet and judge
Approximate Date of Writing: 930 BC and later

Summary: While Samuel is judge of Israel, the people decide they want a king, like those of the other countries around them. God chooses Saul to be their king, but Saul soon disobeys God. Therefore, God chooses David to become the next king. As a young man, David kills the giant, Goliath. Saul dies.

2 Samuel
Writer: Unknown, possibly part written by Samuel, a prophet and judge
Approximate Date of Writing: 930 BC and later

Summary: David becomes king of Israel. Overall, David is a good king, but during his reign, he committed the sins of adultery and murder. He repents, but his sins lead to trouble in his family. David’s son, Absalom, fights against him.

1 Kings
Writer: Unknown, possibly Jeremiah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: around 550 BC

Summary: David dies and his son, Solomon, becomes king. God blesses him with great wisdom and wealth. He builds a temple in Jerusalem for worshipping God. Solomon has many foreign wives, and later he follows them in worshipping foreign gods. After Solomon dies, the country splits into two parts, called Judah (in the south) and Israel (in the north). Most of the people of Israel worship the god Baal, but the prophets of Baal are defeated by the prophet Elijah.

2 Kings
Writer: Unknown, possibly Jeremiah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: around 55 BC

Summary: Elijah is taken into heaven, and Elisha takes over his role as a leading prophet warning the people of Israel to turn back to God. Most of the kings do not listen to the prophets, and they continue in their evil ways. Judah and Israel fight many wars with neighboring countries and even fight each other. Finally Israel is destroyed by Assyria, and later, Judah is destroyed by Babylon.

1 Chronicles
Writer: Ezra, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 450-425 BC

Summary: Contains genealogies of the Jewish people and a retelling of David’s reign: Saul dies and David becomes king. David prepares for Solomon to build the temple. David dies and Solomon becomes king.

2 Chronicles
Writer: Ezra, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 450-425 BC

Summary: Solomon receives the gift of wisdom from God. He completes the temple. He dies and the country is divided. Several kings lead Judah until the kingdom is defeated by Babylon. The temple is destroyed and most of the people are taken to Babylon as servants.

Ezra
Writer: Ezra, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 456-444 BC

Summary: Persia defeats Babylon, and some of the captive Jews in Babylon return to Judah and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, even though the people living nearby oppose them. Later, Ezra leads another group of Jews back to Judah and helps guide the people to follow God.

Nehemiah
Writer: Nehemiah. a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 445-425 BC

Summary: Nehemiah returns to Judah from Persia and becomes governor of Jerusalem. He leads the Jewish people in rebuilding the city’s wall in 52 days, even though the non-Jews in the area area against them. Ezra leads the people to confess their sins and renew their commitment to God. Nehemiah goes back to Persia, but when he returns he finds that the Israelites are disobeying God again. He rebukes them and corrects the wrong being done.

Esther
Writer: Unknown
Approximate Date of Writing: around 465 BC

Summary: Esther, a Jew living in Persia, marries the king and becomes the Persian queen. Haman, an official of the king makes a plan to kill all the Jews. Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, discovers the plan and tells Esther, who tells the king, saving her people. The king kills Haman and makes Mordecai his second in command.

Job
Writer: Unknown
Approximate Date of Writing: unknown

Summary: Job is a righteous man who worships God. Satan tests Job’s devotion to God by taking away his children, his possessions, and his health. Four friends try to explain the cause of his troubles, but Job does not agree with them. Then God speaks to Job and shows him that man is not wise enough to judge God’s actions. Job repents and God blesses him with more prosperity than he had before his trials.

Psalms
Writer: David, king of Israel, and others
Approximate Date of Writing: most written during the 900s BC

Summary: A collection of poems, including songs of praise, sorrowful prayers, prayers for help, confession of sin, and prophecy.

Proverbs
Writer: Solomon, king of Israel, and others
Approximate Date of Writing: 950-700 BC

Summary: A collection of wise sayings and teachings on seeking wisdom.

Ecclesiastes
Writer: Solomon, king of Israel
Approximate Date of Writing: around 935 BC

Summary: The “Teacher” tries to find fulfillment in the things of this world and concludes that without God, everything is meaningless.

Song of Solomon
Writer: Solomon
Approximate Date of Writing: around 965 BC

Summary: A love song, made up of the conversation between the king and a woman who becomes his wife.

Isaiah
Writer: Isaiah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 740-680 BC

Summary: Isaiah tells of the coming punishment of Judah, Israel, and other countries because of their sin. But because of his promises to the Jewish people and his love for them, God will not destroy them completely. God promises to send a savior who will come someday to be a suffering servant and an eternal king.

Jeremiah
Writer: Jeremiah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 627-585 BC

Summary: Jeremiah predicts the coming destruction of Judah by the Babylonians and the exile of the people to Babylon. But he also tells of God’s promise to bring the people of Israel and Judah back someday. Jerusalem is destroyed by Babylon, and Jeremiah tells that God will punish the countries who are enemies of the Jews.

Lamentations
Writer: Jeremiah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 586-585 BC

Summary: Jeremiah writes about his sorrow after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

Ezekiel
Writer: Ezekiel, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 592-570 BC

Summary: Ezekiel is a prophet among the people of Judah who have been taken as captives to Babylon, before the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. He predicts God’s punishment of the people of Judah as well as neighboring countries. He also tells of the restoration of Israel and describes a new, future temple.

Daniel
Writer: Daniel, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 537 BC

Summary: Before the final defeat of Jerusalem, the Babylonians invade Jerusalem and take Daniel and others back to Babylon. Daniel interpreted a dream for the king, who then gave Daniel and three of his friends great authority in Babylon. Daniel and his friends refused to worship anyone or anything other than their God, and God saved their lives when they were to be killed as punishment. Daniel has visions showing the future, including the coming of a savior.

Hosea
Writer: Hosea, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: around 710 BC

Summary: Hosea tells of the coming punishment of the people of Israel, followed by their repentance and God’s mercy, including his sending a savior.

Joel
Writer: Joel, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 835 BC

Summary: Locusts and a drought bring devastation to Judah, and Joel uses these events to warn about God’s coming punishment. He also says that God will later restore his people.

Amos
Writer: Amos, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 755 BC

Summary: Amos predicts God’s punishment of several countries, including Judah and Israel. He also tells of a future restoration of the Jewish people.

Obadiah
Writer: Obadiah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 840 or 586 BC

Summary: Obadiah predicts that the country of Edom will be punished for its proud opposition to Israel.

Jonah
Writer: Jonah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 760 BC

Summary: God sends Jonah to warn the people of Ninevah to stop sinning. Jonah does not want to go so he flees on a ship. God sends a storm, and when the sailors throw Jonah into the sea, he is swallowed by a great fish. The fish spits him out, and Jonah goes to Ninevah and the people repent after hearing his message.

Micah
Writer: Micah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 700 BC

Summary: Micah condemns the sins of the leaders in Judah and Israel and predicts the coming punishment of the Jewish people. This will be followed by the restoration of Israel, led by a ruler from Bethlehem.

Nahum
Writer: Nahum, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 663-612 BC

Summary: Nahum tells about God’s plan to punish Ninevah, which had become the capital of Assyria. While he would punish this enemy of the Israelites, he would also restore the Hebrew nation to greatness.

Habakkuk
Writer: Habakkuk, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 607 BC

Summary: Habakkuk questions God as to why he allows evil to continue in Judah. God answers that Babylon will punish them. When Habakkuk then asks how God can use the evil Babylonians to punish his people, God says that he will punish them, too. Then Habbakuk states his trust in God.

Zephaniah
Writer: Zephaniah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: around 625 BC

Summary: Zephaniah warns the people of Jerusalem and all of Judah, as well as other nations, about God’s punishment for their sins. But God will bless the people who trust in him, and he will restore Israel.

Haggai
Writer: Haggai, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 520 BC

Summary: After Persia defeats Babylon, the captive Jews in Babylon are allowed to return to Jerusalem. Haggai calls on these people to rebuild the temple. They begin work on the temple and God blesses them.

Zechariah
Writer: Zechariah, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 520-518 BC

Summary: After Persia defeats Babylon, the captive Jews in Babylon are allowed to return to Jerusalem. God gives Zechariah visions to encourage the people as they rebuild the temple. Zechariah also tells about the coming savior.

Malachi
Writer: Malachi, a prophet
Approximate Date of Writing: 450-400 BC

Summary: After the Jews return to Israel, God warns them about their failures in following him. He also promises that the Lord will come to judge the world and save his people.

 

NEW TESTAMENT

Matthew
Writer: Matthew, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 60s

Summary: Jesus, the Son of God, comes to teach God’s ways, performing miracles to help people and prove who he is. He dies on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and comes back to life after three days. Matthew shows how Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecies about the promised savior.

Mark
Writer: Mark in Acts, a coworker of the disciple Peter. Mark is called John Mark in Acts
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 50s

Summary: Jesus, the Son of God, comes to teach God’s ways, performing miracles to help people and prove who he is. He dies on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and comes back to life after three days. Mark emphasizes the miracles of Jesus.

Luke
Writer: Luke, a non-Jewish doctor and coworker of the apostle Paul
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 60

Summary: Jesus, the Son of God, comes to teach God’s ways, performing miracles to help people and prove who he is. He dies on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and comes back to life after three days. Luke gives us a very detailed account of the life of Jesus, emphasizing Jesus’ love for all people, including the poor, those with bad reputations, and non-Jews.

John
Writer: John, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 85-90

Summary: Jesus, the Son of God, comes to teach God’s ways, performing miracles to help people and prove who he is. He dies on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and comes back to life after three days. John includes events not included in the other three gospels.

Acts
Writer: Luke, a non-Jewish doctor and the apostle Paul’s coworker
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 61

Summary: The apostles spread the news about Jesus and the Christian Church is established. Paul, a Jewish leader who persecutes Christians becomes an apostle of Jesus and a strong leader in the church.

Romans
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 58

Summary: In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul explains how all people are separated from God and salvation is offered to both Jew and Gentile.

1 Corinthians
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 56

Summary: In this letter to the church in Corinth (a city in present-day Greece), Paul writes about issues of immorality and false teaching in the church.

2 Corinthians
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 57

Summary: In his letter to the Christians in the Roman province Achaia and to the church in its capital city, Corinth (in present-day Greece), Paul explains his ministry of bringing people into a new relationship with God and defends himself against false teachers who said his was not a true apostle.

Galatians
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 49 or 55

Summary: Paul writes this letter to the churches in Galatia (a region in present-day Turkey) to teach that Christians are made right by faith in Jesus, not by obedience to Old Testament laws. Paul also defends his position as an apostle.

Ephesians
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 61

Summary: In his letter written to the church at Ephesus (a city in present-day Turkey), Paul writes that all Christians, whether from Jewish or non-Jewish backgrounds, are saved by God’s grace. Paul teaches us how to serve God as mature members of the Church and in our relationships in the world.

Philippians
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 61

Summary: While a prisoner in Rome, Paul writes this letter to the people in the church at Philippi (in present-day Greece) to thank them for their help, to warn against the false teaching of those who say Christians mush follow all Old Testament laws, and to encourage them to follow Jesus even when they face difficulties.

Colossians
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 61

Summary: In this letter written to the Christians in Colosse (a city in present-day Turkey), Paul confronts false teaching by showing that Christ is fully God and is enough for our salvation. He also teaches how to live a holy life.

1 Thessalonians
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 51

Summary: Paul writes this letter to the Christians in Thessalonica (a city in present-day Greece). Paul encourages them to live godly lives and tells about Christ’s coming return.

2 Thessalonians
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 51

Summary: Paul writes this letter to the Christians in Thessalonica (a city in present-day Greece), telling them about things that would happen before Christ’s return, and warning them against being lazy.

1 Timothy
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 63

Summary: Paul tells his young coworker Timothy how to look after the church at Ephesus. He warns him against false teachers and instructs him about the proper way to worship, the qualifications of elders and deacons, and caring for different groups of people in the church.

2 Timothy
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 66

Summary: A prisoner in Rome and nearing the end of his life, Paul encourages his young coworker Timothy to serve God faithfully, even when faced with persecution and the opposition of people who reject God’s message.

Titus
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 65

Summary: Paul tells his coworker on the island of Crete how to appoint elders in the churches, how to oppose false teachers, and how to instruct the people in the church.

Philemon
Writer: Paul, an apostle
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 61

Summary: Paul writes to the Christian Philemon. Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, had run away, had met Paul, and had become a Christian. Paul asks Philemon to accept Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a Christian brother.

Hebrews
Writer: Unknown, but possibly Paul, the apostle; Barnabas, Paul’s coworker; or Apollos, who also knew Paul
Approximate Date of Writing: before AD 64-68

Summary: This letter is written to Christians who used to be Jewish and who are tempted to turn back to the Old Testament laws and practices. It teaches that Jesus is greater than the angels and Moses. Jesus is the high priest of a new and better covenant, in which he sacrificed himself for the world’s sin, once and for all. The writer calls on the Christians to continue in faith, following the example of the righteous people before them.

James
Writer: James, brother of Jesus
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 45-50

Summary: This letter is written to Christians who used to be Jewish. James teaches how to live life as a Christian. He writes that true faith must include right actions.

1 Peter
Writer: Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 63

Summary: Peter writes to suffering Christians, encouraging them to live holy lives and to submit to authority. Jesus was persecuted when he was on the earth, so his followers should expect to be persecuted, too.

2 Peter
Writer: Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 66

Summary: Peter warns the church about false teachers and tells the Christians to grow in their faith and be ready for Christ’s return.

1 John
Writer: John, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 90

Summary: In this letter, John writes about qualities that are part of a true Christian’s life—including loving each other. He also teaches that Christians should reject “antichrists” who don’t agree that Jesus was both a man and the Son of God.

2 John
Writer: John, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 90

Summary: John teaches that Christians should love each other and should oppose false teachers who deny that Jesus Christ came to the world as a human.

3 John
Writer: John, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 90

Summary: John commends his friend Gaius for his kindness towards teachers sent by John but condemns the actions of Diotrephes, a church leader who gossips and refuses to welcome the teachers.

Jude
Writer: Jude, brother of Jesus
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 70-80

Summary: This letter warns about false teachers who say that God’s grace allows Christians to sin and who reject Jesus as Lord.

Revelation
Writer: John, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples
Approximate Date of Writing: AD 90s

Summary: John tells about visions he has seen, showing what will happen in the future—including God’s punishment of those who oppose him, Jesus’ return, the defeat of Satan, and the creation of a new heaven and earth.

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