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About the Author
Dr. Max Anders is the author of over 25 books, including the bestselling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, and is the creator and general editor of the 32-volume Holman Bible Commentary series. He has taught on the college and seminary level and is a veteran pastor. Max provides resources and discipleship strategies at www.maxanders.com to help people grow spiritually.
Read an Excerpt
30 Days to Understanding the Bible
By Max E. Anders
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2004 Max Anders
All rights reserved.
The Structure of the Bible
Charles Steinmetz was an electrical engineer of towering intellect. After he retired, he was asked by a major appliance manufacturer to locate a malfunction in their electrical equipment. None of the manufacturer's experts had been able to locate the problem. Steinmetz spent some time walking around and testing the various parts of the machine complex. Finally, he took out of his pocket a piece of chalk and marked an X on a particular part of one machine. The manufacturer's people disassembled the machine, discovering to their amazement that the defect lay precisely where Steinmetz's chalk mark was located.
Some days later, the manufacturer received a bill from Steinmetz for ten thousand dollars. They protested the amount and asked him to itemize it. He sent back an itemized bill:
Making one chalk mark $ 1
Knowing where to place it $ 9,999
If you know where the chalk marks go, the most overwhelming tasks are easily solved. If you don't, even simple tasks can be impossible.
Learning about the Bible can be much the same. If you don't know much about it, it can be like trying to cross the Sahara Desert blindfolded. Yet if you learn where a few of the major chalk marks go, the Bible can be at the very least an interesting and valuable source of information and inspiration.
My own experience bears this out. Many years ago, I decided I was going to master the Bible. I was going to begin with Genesis and read through Revelation, and I wasn't going to put it down until I understood it. I soon became hopelessly entangled in a jungle of fantastic stories, unpronounceable names, broken plots, unanswered questions, and endless genealogies. I stubbed my toe on Leviticus, sprained my ankle on Job, hit my head on Ecclesiastes, and fell headlong into the mud on Habakkuk.
I was defeated. I threw my Bible down, concluding that the Bible was a series of unrelated stories put together in random order!
Then one day I discovered a key. With this key, the fog that enshrouded my understanding of the Bible began to lift. Not that things came into sharp focus, but at least I began to see shapes on the horizon.
The key: Learning the structure of the Bible. If you want to learn architecture, you must first learn how buildings are put together. If you want to learn sailing, you must first learn how ships are put together. And if you want to learn to understand the Bible, you must first learn how the Bible is put together.
The Old and New Testaments
The Bible has two major divisions: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament begins with creation and tells the story of the Jewish people up to the time of Christ. It is made up of thirty-nine individual "books" (the Book of Genesis, the Book of Exodus, etc.) written by twenty-eight different authors and spans a period of over two thousand years.
The New Testament is the record of the birth of Jesus, His life and ministry, and the ministry of His disciples, which was carried on after Jesus was crucified. The New Testament is composed of twenty-seven books written by nine different authors and covers a time period of less than one hundred years. The total number of books in the entire Bible is sixty-six.
How many? ________ books in the Old Testament
________ books in the New Testament
________ books in the whole Bible
Old Testament Books
Genesis 2 Chronicles
Song of Solomon Habakkuk
1 Chronicles Ezekiel
New Testament Books
Colossians 1 Peter
John 1 Thessalonians 2 Peter
Acts 2 Thessalonians 1 John
Romans 1 Timothy 2 John
1 Corinthians 2 Timothy 3 John
2 Corinthians Titus
The Old Testament
Here is the key to understanding the Old Testament. Of the thirty-nine books in the Old Testament, there are three different kinds of books: Historical Books, Poetical Books, and Prophetical Books.
What kind of information would you expect to find in the Historical Books? history!
What kind of information would you expect to find in the Poetical Books? poetry!
What kind of information would you expect to find in the Prophetical Books? prophecy!
If you know what kind of book you are reading, then you will know what kind of information to expect, and you can easily follow the logical flow of the Old Testament!
In the Old Testament:
... the first seventeen books are historical, ... the next five books are poetical, and ... the next seventeen books are prophetical!
The Three Kinds of Books in the Old Testament
Song of Solomon
If you want to read the story of the Hebrew nation in the Old Testament, you must read the first seventeen books. These books compose a historical time line for the nation of Israel.
If you want to read the poetry of Israel, you must read the next five books of the Old Testament.
If you want to read about the prophecy of Israel, you must read the final seventeen books.
This is somewhat oversimplified, because there is some poetry in the Historical Books, and some history in the Prophetical Books, etc. The point is, however, that each of the books fits into a primary category. If you keep this structure in mind, the Old Testament will begin to take shape for you.
My mistake was in assuming that the whole Old Testament was one long, unbroken story and that the history would flow evenly and consistently out of one book into the next until they were all finished. Now I know the story line is contained in the first seventeen books.
Of the seventeen Historical Books, eleven are primary Historical Books and six are secondary Historical Books. The history of Israel is advanced in the eleven primary books and repeated or amplified in the six secondary books. The Poetical and Prophetical Books were written during the time period that is constructed in the first seventeen books.
Let's take a look at the historical time line of the Old Testament in chart form:
As you can see, Job was written during the time period of the Book of Genesis, and Psalms during the time of 2 Samuel, while Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon were written during the time of 1 Kings, and so on.
To use an analogy, we constructed a similar chart for U.S. history. Imagine that you read an American history book for the main story line. The history book would give you the major periods in U.S. history. Some of these periods might be associated with a major poet or writer and a major philosopher. The poets would correspond to the poets of Israel, and the philosophers would correspond to the biblical prophets.
The New Testament
Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, there are also three different kinds of books: Historical Books, Pauline Epistles, and General Epistles. The Historical Books are the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The Epistles were letters written to various individuals and church congregations. The Pauline Epistles were letters written by the apostle Paul. The General Epistles were letters written to individuals and congregations by a number of different people, hence the rather generic name General Epistles. The primary content in all the Epistles is instruction on Christian doctrine and lifestyle.
What kind of information would you expect to find in the Historical Books? history!
What kind of information would you expect to find in the Pauline Books? instruction!
What kind of information would you expect to find in the General Epistles? instruction!
In the New Testament:
... the first five books are Historical Books,
... the next thirteen books are Pauline Epistles, and
... the next nine books are General Epistles!
The Three Kinds of Books in the New Testament
Matthew TO CHURCHES:
Luke 1 Corinthians 1 Peter
John 2 Corinthians 2 Peter
Galatians 1 John
Ephesians 2 John
Philippians 3 John
1 Thessalonians Revelation
If you want to read the story of Jesus and the Church He established, you must read the first five books of the New Testament. These five books form the historical framework for understanding the entire New Testament!
If you want to read the apostle Paul's instruction to churches and individuals, you must read the next thirteen books. If you want to read the instruction to churches and individuals by men like the apostles Peter and John, you must read the final nine books of the New Testament.
To find something in the Bible, you use a standard reference system. This consists of the name of the book of the Bible, the chapter number followed by a colon, and the verse number (each chapter is divided into numbered verses). For example:
Genesis 1:1 = Genesis 1: 1
(book) (chapter) (verse)
When you see a reference such as Joshua 1:21, you will either have to memorize the books of the Bible to know where Joshua is, or you can look it up in the table of contents. It is well worth the time to memorize the books, and it is easiest to memorize them according to their categories.
For example, you now know that there are three types of books in both the Old Testament (Historical, Poetical, and Prophetical) and the New Testament (Historical, Pauline Epistles, and General Epistles), and how many books are in each section. Memorize the first seventeen Historical Books. Then, when you have these memorized, learn the five Poetical Books, and so on. This system is much easier than attempting to memorize an unbroken list of sixty-six books.
There is no substitute for reading the whole book for yourself, of course, but it is possible to offer a quick overview. To read "The Story of the Bible," turn to the Appendix.
1. There are 39 books in the Old Testament. There are 27 books in the New Testament. There are 66 books in the whole Bible.
2. The Old Testament is the story of God and the Hebrew people, their poets, and prophets.
There are 3 kinds of books in the Old Testament:
17 Historical Books, 5 Poetical Books, and 17 Prophetical Books.
3. The New Testament is the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the Church He founded, and its growth under the leadership of His apostles after His death.
There are 3 kinds of books in the New Testament:
5 Historical Books, 13 Pauline Epistles, and 9 General Epistles.
________books in the Old Testament
________books in the New Testament
________books in the whole Bible
The Old Testament:
The Old Testament is the story of G________ and the H________ people, their poets, and prophets.
There are 3 kinds of books in the Old Testament:
P _________________Books, and
There are ___________Historical Books.
There are ___________Poetical Books.
There are ___________Prophetical Books.
The New Testament:
The New Testament is the story of J________, the C________ He founded, and its growth under the leadership of His a___________s after His death.
There are 3 kinds of books in the New Testament:
P _________________Epistles, and
There are ________ Historical Books.
There are ________ Pauline Epistles.
There are ________ General Epistles.
Congratulations! You are off to a fine start. As we move from the general to the specific, you can build your knowledge of the Bible like rows of brick on a house. In twenty-nine more days, your house will be finished.CHAPTER 2
The Geography Of The Old Testament
The size of our solar system is beyond comprehension. To get some perspective, imagine you are in the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats with nothing but tabletop flat ground around you for miles and miles. There you put down a beachball two feet in diameter, which you use to represent the sun. To get a feel for the immensity of the solar system, walk about a city block and put down a mustard seed for the first planet, Mercury. Go another block and for Venus put down an ordinary BB. Mark off yet another block and put down a green pea to represent Earth. A final block from there, put down a mustard seed to represent Mars. Then sprinkle some grass seed around for an asteroid belt.
We have now walked about four blocks, and we have a beachball (sun), mustard seed (Mercury), BB (Venus), pea (Earth), mustard seed (Mars), and grass seed (asteroid belt). Now things begin to stretch out.
Continue for another quarter of a mile. Place an orange on the ground for Jupiter. Walk another third of a mile and put down a golf ball for Saturn.
Now lace up your tennis shoes and check their tread. Then step off another mile and, for Uranus, drop a marble. Go another mile and place a cherry there for Neptune. Finally, walk for another two miles and put down another marble for Pluto.
At last, go up in an airplane and look down. On a smooth surface almost ten miles in diameter we have a beach ball, a mustard seed, a BB, a pea, another mustard seed, some grass seed, an orange, a golf ball, a marble, a cherry, and another marble.
To understand our replica of the solar system even better, use another beachball to represent Alpha Centauri, the next-nearest star to our sun. You would have to go another 6,720 miles and put it down in Japan!
Understanding the size and location of things and the relationships and distances between them gives us perspective. Just as this example gives us perspective about the solar system, a knowledge of geography can give perspective about the events of the Bible. It is helpful to know the names, locations, and relative positions of important places. Otherwise, we skim over information without comprehension or visualization, and this makes the Bible less interesting and less easily understood.
The one who is ignorant of geography cannot know history. The Bible is largely history. So to begin our mastery of the history of the Bible, we must start with the geography of the Bible.
Excerpted from 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max E. Anders. Copyright © 2004 Max Anders. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Section 1: The Story of the Old Testament,
1. The Structure of the Bible, 11,
2. The Geography of the Old Testament, 21,
3. The Historical Books, 29,
4. The Creation Era, 41,
5. The Patriarch Era, 47,
6. The Exodus Era, 52,
7. The Conquest Era, 59,
8. The Judges Era, 65,
9. The Kingdom Era, 71,
10. The Exile Era, 77,
11. The Return Era, 84,
12. The Silence Era, 91,
13. The Poetical Books, 98,
14. The Prophetical Books, 106,
Section 2: The Story of the New Testament,
15. The Geography and Structure of the New Testament, 115,
16. The Gospel Era, 127,
17. The Church Era, 134,
18. The Missions Era, 141,
19. The Epistles, 148,
Section 3: The Ten Great Doctrines of the Bible,
20. The Overview of Bible Doctrine, 161,
21. The Doctrine of the Bible, 169,
22. The Doctrine of God, 177,
23. The Doctrine of Christ, 187,
24. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, 195,
25. The Doctrine of Angels, 206,
26. The Doctrine of Man, 215,
27. The Doctrine of Sin, 224,
28. The Doctrine of Salvation, 232,
29. The Doctrine of the Church, 241,
30. The Doctrine of Future Things, 250,
The Summary of the Bible, 262,
What the Bible Teaches, in 1,000 Words, 264,
The Message of the Bible, 267,
The Story of the Bible, 271,
Arc of Bible History, 272,
The Ten Great Doctrines of the Bible, 273,
Teaching Plans, 275,
Reproducible Images for Teaching, 301,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an awesome ebook and I look forward to each new study of the Bible. This is especially good reading for those who want to learn about the Bible but haven't read it through and through yet. Max Anders is a great author and I look forward to reading his other ebooks
I've used this book as cirriculum for a teen boys Sunday School class at our church. It provides an excellent overview of the Bible, and how to think about the Bible, which of course is the cornerstone document for all Christians. Known as "people of the Book," all Christians need a good understanding for what the Bible says, and how it's put together. Only when one understands this context does one truly understand the message. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a better understanding of the Bible--believer or non-believer.
Very informative. LH
I am totally amazed at how easy this book is to read and understand. Wonderfully written and I have already recommended this book to several family members and friends.
A very good introduction to the Bible that helps to show how the different genres, historical periods, characters, and authors join to show how God works to the salvation of many.
This is a Awsome book for those who want to understand God better and the way the bible was put together.
This book gives a broad perspective of the Bible. We used this for a Bible Study group, made up of newer believers, and those who had studied the Bible for years. It was enjoyed by both groups. The questions /activities encourage you to remember things by repetition. We spent 9 weeks on the book, and it was time well spent.
This book is practical and easy to read. It teaches the structure and outline of the Bible as a basis for further study. It is not a commentary. It truly gives the reader an understanding of how the Bible is put together, who wrote it, why they wrote it and when they wrote it. It is great for new Christians and for those who have been on the journey for a long time. I recommend it for everyone who is tired of being embarrassed about not knowing the basics of the Bible.
This book is very interactive, which is something I was looking for. It takes you step by step through the Bible so that you understand all the BASICS. It is very basic, and I was hoping to learn more about each book of the Bible. Although it gave a short synopsis, and helps you remember names, places, timelines, etc. it really doesn't get into the sort of depth I was looking for. It is a great read for the first time through the Bible!
My new years resolution was to gain an understanding of the history of the Bible. I grew up learning Bible stories and specific scriptures, but have never been able to understand all of that in the context of history. Max Anders' book is elementary and repetitive, but in a few hours of working through it, already I understood enough to put much of what I have learned in the past into context. I like the workbook style of this book, and the fact that each chapter includes a review of all previous chapters. The repetition is key in retaining the information. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of the Bible in its historical context.
I have used this book for several years to teach a 'Bible 101' class. It is a very good resource for learning a basic, broad brushed overview of the entire Bible, from the geography and structure to the main characters, themes and teachings. It is a great catalyst for a follow-up in-depth class.