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Series Theme:  Can I Believe the Bible
































































Title:   3. What is the Bible


A series that explains what the Bible is and why we can trust it.



1. General Introduction

This is one of a series of pages on the Bible and this particular one explains just what you will find in the Bible.  

In  a basic introduction we will cover the general structure of the Bible anmd then we will go on to very simply explain how it came to be written.

Finally we will do a simple run-through of the Bible givign a very simple description of each of the 66 book.  We have sought to keep this page as simple as possible.




2. What is the Bible : A Basic Introduction

The Bible comprises 66 books written over a 1600 year span by over 40 authors from every walk of life. Originally it was written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

It comprises historical narrative, teaching, poetry and prophecy. It is divided into two main sections, the Old and the New Testaments.

The Old Testament covers the period from the beginning of the world up to several hundred years before Christ, and recounts the origin and history of the nation of Israel during that time period.

The New Testament was written probably between AD50 and AD100 and comprises the four Gospels (accounts of the life of Christ), the Acts of the Apostles (account of the early years of the Christian church), the letters (written by early leaders to various churches and individuals), and the Revelation (a prophecy about the last times).




3. How did it come to be written?

The earliest parts of the Old Testament appear to have been written by Moses (one of Israel's earliest and greatest leaders), often at the instigation of God as an account of God's dealings with Israel.

Subsequently, scribes obviously wrote down things that were happening and these were formed into the historical books.

Other key writers were king David and king Solomon, and then a variety of prophets.

In the New Testament, the Gospel writers collected together all the information they could about the life of Christ, and thus we have four books recounting the same history from differing viewpoints.

The letters came to be written as the travelling church leaders communicated with friends and with churches they had been to.

The Revelation was written by the apostle John recording a vision he had received.




4. The Books in More Detail

If you turn to the Contents page of any Bible you will find a full list of the books in the Old Testament. The following is just a simple overview of the content of those books:

Old Testament

The first five books are often referred to as the Pentateuch

Genesis (history)

The creation story, the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall, growth of civilisation, the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.

Exodus (history & Law)

The story of the rescue of God's chosen people from captivity in Egypt and the making of the great covenant, or agreement with God, at Mount Sinai.

Leviticus (Law)

The book about the Levites who were God's priests in Israel, and the laws that God gave for worship and for holy living in Israel.

Numbers (Law & history)

The first census of Israel, several chapters containing laws, then a narrative section that follows the people of Israel from Sinai to Moab, east of Palestine, over a period of 38 years.

Deuteronomy (history & Law)

Before Moses' death he reminds Israel of all that had happened and the laws God had given them as they prepare to enter the Promised Land.

Joshua (history)

The conquest of the Promised Land (Palestine or Israel).

Judges (history)

Judges tells of the gradual conquest of much of the land and the ongoing rises and falls of the nation depending on the depth of their relationship with God.

Ruth (history)

Ruth tells of how Ruth, a Moabitess, comes to be part of a Jewish family and brings her widowed mother-in-law back to enjoying life. On return to Israel she is eventually courted by Boaz who she marries. Ruth bears a son who becomes David's grandfather.

1 & 2 Samuel (history)

1 Samuel begins with the story of the prophet Samuel, who has to anoint Israel's first king, Saul. Saul fails as a godly king and we then follow David's early days before becoming king.

2 Samuel tells the story of David's rule, as king of both Judah and Israel (the north.)

1 & 2 Kings (history)

‘Kings' continue the story of the monarchy begun in 1&2 Samuel.

1 Kings begins with Solomon becoming king, and David's death. It then recounts the reign of Solomon, the break up of Israel into Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

2 Kings continues the story of the monarchies of Israel and Judah. It covers the period from about 850 BC to about 585 BC. During this period, Israel fell to the Assyrians (in 721 BC), and Judah to the Babylonians (586 BC).

1 & 2 Chronicles (history)

Written for the returning exiles as a reminder of what God had done for them, Chronicles are a restatement of the reign of David (1 Chron) and then the reign of Solomon and building of the temple, followed the history of the southern kingdom to the exile.

Ezra and Nehemiah (history)

An account of events after the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon, specifically the rebuilding of the Temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem.

Esther (history)

A short account of the escape of Jews from annihilation in Persia about 450BC.   Esther, a Jewess, becomes queen, and has to risk her life to reverse the royal edict to have the Jews killed.


Possibly one of the oldest writings in the Bible, Job is about suffering and seeks to answer the question: why does God allow us to suffer? The first two chapters give the historical background and these are then followed by dialogues with Job's so-called "friends".   In the closing chapters we learn that wisdom is God-given.


Psalms is a collection songs or poems.


A book of teaching, probably from Solomon, in the form of general teaching in chapters 1-9, and then through short sayings for the rest of the book.


A discourse, probably by Solomon at the end of his life, that shows that human endeavour without God is pointless.

Song of Solomon

A love song, probably by Solomon.

Isaiah (Prophecy & some history)

Isaiah prophesied long before the exile but warned of it's possibility. A book of strong warnings, but also of great hope of what God would yet do.

Jeremiah (History & Prophecy)

In the closing years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent exile, Jeremiah was God's witness in the capital city and with those left in the land, who eventually fled to Egypt.


A poem of lament after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel (Prophecy)

Ezekiel was a prophet who was taken into exile in Babylon in one of the earlier deportations. His message was first warning about Jerusalem's destruction, and then of hope for a return and rebuilding of the Temple of God. Ezekiel was God's witness in Babylon among the ordinary people there.

Daniel   (History & Prophecy)

Daniel was taken in the exile to Babylon where he became a senior official in that land. He became God's witness to the court of Babylon. In the latter chapters there are prophecies of the end times.

(At the time of the exile, “God's men on the spot” were Jeremiah in Jerusalem, Daniel in Babylon, and Ezekiel with the common people exiles in Babylon. They each speak God's word into this amazing time of history)

Hosea / Joel / Amos / Jonah / Micah / Habakkuk / Zephaniah / Haggai / Malachi

So-called “minor prophets” who brought God's word to Judah and Israel at various times prior to and after the exile.



New Testament

The Four Gospels:

Matthew (History)

The ministry of Jesus seen with a strong Jewish slant.

Mark (History)

The ministry of Jesus seen with a strong slant for the Roman population

Luke (History)

The ministry of Jesus seen with a strong slant towards the Greek or generally Gentile world

John (History)

Written quite a lot later than the three “Synoptic” gospels, John, more than the others, seeks to speak to the whole world about the one who was clearly God on earth.

The Ongoing Church:

Acts (History)

The sequel to the Luke's Gospel, Acts tells the story of the beginnings of the church and the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem as far as Greece, under the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Letters or Epistles (all teaching)


The apostle Paul's letter to the church at Rome, declares the basics of the good news of Christ, salvation for all people.

1 & 2 Corinthians

Paul's letter to the church at Corinth. In the first one he deals with lack of harmony and internal strife in the Corinthian church, a church he had founded. In the second one he seeks to counter misunderstandings about himself and his ministry.


Paul's letter to the church in Galatia. In it he counters claims by some Jewish Christians that a convert to Christianity must first embrace Judaism, and must observe Mosaic law. He speaks about the freedom that comes with Christianity.


Paul's letter to the church at Ephesus.  This letter celebrates the life of the church, a unique community established by God through the work of Jesus Christ, who is its head.


Paul's letter to the church at Philippi.  In it he exhorts the church to live the Christian life and to maintain good ethical conduct. He also introduces Timothy and Epaphroditus as his representatives, and warns against legalists and libertines.


Paul's letter to the church at Colossae.  In it he speaks against false teachings which were being spread in the churches.

1 & 2 Thessalonians

Paul's letter to the church at Thessalonica.  The first letter was written to strengthen the new Christians in their faith. In the second one he corrects wrong views about Jesus' second coming.

1 & 2 Timothy

Paul's letters to his young friend and colleague, Timothy.  In 1 Timothy Paul encourages Timothy and gives him help and advice as to how the church should be, and what kind of leaders it should have. He continues this in the second letter and encourages Timothy to resist false teachers.


Paul's letter to his colleague Titus who he wants to teach to be a good leader, and instructions how the church should behave.


Paul's letter to his friend Philemon. With this letter he sends Onesimus, a run-away slave and recent convert to Christianity, back to his master. Paul pleads with Philemon, on the basis of love, to take Onesimus back and treat him as a fellow Christian.


This book, by an unknown writer, speaks to Jewish believers scattered around the Middle East and shows how Jesus was the successor to Judaism.


The apostle James wrote this very practical letter to encourage Christians who were scattered around the Middle East, and covers a whole range of very practical issues in living the Christian life.

1 & 2 Peter

The apostle Peter again wrote (in his first letter) to scattered and persecuted Christians in the early church to bring major encouragement in the face of that persecution. In the second letter he speaks against false teachers.

1,2 & 3 John

The first letter from John was against false teachers, and to encourage Christians in their faith. In the second letter, a shorter one, he wrote to a lady he knew, and to her church, about how important it is for Christians to love one another. In the final very short letter he wrote to thank his friend Gaius for supporting him against local opposition.


Jude wrote to warn Christians against false teachers.

Revelation Prophecy:


An amazing record of revelations that the apostle John received while in exile on the island of Patmos, first of Jesus speaking to the seven churches of Asia Minor, and then of the end times being rolled out under the direction of Jesus, concluding with a picture of heaven.