Learn how to break down books for each area of your life and to get a holistic view of the entire Bible.
Sometimes we go to our prayer times, get out our Bible, journal, a pen and maybe some worship music. Some of us begin to sit quietly, others pray loudly, others listen for God’s leading. But so often we do not really know where to begin if we are honest with ourselves! Which books of the Bible do we use for what?
This is Pt 2 of a Series on How to Study the Bible.
I remember when I first rededicated my life to Jesus, I was so full of the Word actually because I grew up in very strong Bible teaching churches. I grew up in a “Bible study family.” We were going to go to church every single Sunday (which I LOVED). And…we were going to talk about what I personally learned in church.
I remember vividly the trips home from church services as a five year old, my parents in the front seat, they seemed so huge back then, asking me the familiar question, “What did you learn in church today?”
And learn I did, because we paid attention. I am so thankful my parents had a great expectation of his, they had faith in the fact that we could learn at a young age. Church was fun, it was exciting, it was where I heard amazing Bible stories.
And I loved stories.
I was a little writer bubbling over with the desire to read more and more and more.
Those stories have never left me. Some of them I have now written in an adult perspective for women. They are the stories that have guided my life values. These women (and men) of the Bible are my greatest heroes and are intertwined in the fabric of my identity.
They are threaded in my life foundation. They lead the way I think, the way I see the world (Christian worldview), the way I relate to my peers and leaders. And they can never be taken from me.
I am blessed.
As a member of the Millennial Generation (1981-2000) I am one of only 4% of young adults my age who actually attend church. And that is directly attributed to my Personal Understanding of the Biblical Truths I was taught.
That question, “What did you learn in church today?” made my faith, My Faith, not my parents faith- at a young age. And My Faith was personal. My Faith was meaningful. My Faith was truth. My Faith was understood when I gave my tiny heart to Jesus at four years of age.
It was real when I prayed a prayer asking Jesus to show me where my little lost glasses were as an elementary child. And He did.
Of course, the expression of my faith has evolved over the years to more “mature” conveyances, but the foundation is and always will be a deep, rich Biblical legacy.
How Do You Study the Bible?
My profession or calling is to help other Millennials, some who were raised on this same foundation, but many who did not have a Biblical church upbringing to grow in their own personal love for Scriptural truth. In essence, I am called to ask over and over again the resounding question, “What did you learn in church today?” This question can be translated, “What did you learn from the Bible today?”
And it is my joy to see them answer that personal question on each one of their unique experiences.
Like my parents, my eyes light up as I express another viewpoint of the same text and watch them grow!
As this is occurring I wholeheartedly believe in the tools I received and want to share them with you. They are tested and proven tools you will grow to love.
The Bible Bookshelf
The Bible Bookshelf is a symbolic bookshelf dividing the Bible into sections by type. As you can see to the left, there are the following types of books: Law, History, Wisdom, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, Gospels, History, Letters of Paul to Churches, Letters of Paul to Individuals, General Letters and Apocalyptic books.
In your personal Bible study, this shelf will help you have a greater understanding of how the Bible made up as a whole. Then you will be better prepared to know which books to reference on an experiential level (when you are encountering different life experiences).
It is also important to understand that the Bible is not written in a chronological order. Therefore, some Bible book authors were living many years apart but their messages are found many books later in the Bible.
For example, 1 Samuel 20 and Psalm 59 were written in the same year, 1013 BC. But the book Psalms is 10 books apart from the book 1 Samuel. Also, different Psalms were written in different time periods. Psalm 60 was written 15 years after Psalm 59. And Psalm 63 was written 41 years after Psalm 59.
Fortunately, we do not have to guess when the books of the Bible were written. There are free resources where we can get a timeline of the entire Bible.
Now that we understand how to study the Bible and how the Bible is chronologically setup, we can begin to dig into the types or genres of the books of the Bible.
I personally love genres because of my English major background so please bear with me as the nerd in me comes out!
The Bible is made up of 66 separate books (with different authors) over the time span of 1500 years. These books create a library having varying subtopics. These genres are:
The Law Books- The Law Books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy reveal more about the God created legal system for the Jewish people of the Old Testament. They help us learn more about this people’s government by answering questions like:
- “What were the moral laws” or the “matters of behavior” during Biblical times? See Exodus 20
- What were the social and state laws? See Leviticus 25:13
- What were the domestic laws and matters of hygiene? See Leviticus 12
- What were the religious laws? See Leviticus 1-7
- What were the laws on worship and sacrifice? See Leviticus 1-7
- What were the blessings and curses? See Deuteronomy 28 (Ferdman’s Handbook of the Bible, 59)
It is important to remember that these were the Laws God gave to Moses on how He wanted His Chosen people (the Jews) to live their daily lives. If you want to know the details of the Jew’s lifestyle the Law books will help bring you contextual understanding.
The History Books- The History Books, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther reveal more about what actually happened in the storyline of God’s people, the Jews.
Webster’s defines history as “a chronological record of significant events (as affecting a nation or institution) often including an explanation of their causes.” That’s exactly what the history books do- they tell the history of a nation, the Israelites. They include explanations of their causes.
As we read the Bible, we must remember that these are true stories of people who lived on the same planet Earth as we live on, these are not fictional figures made for our entertainment.
The History Books help us learn more about what actually occurred by answering questions like:
- What was the historical background to the passage? See Ezra 1:1
- What actually happened? Who were the people involved? See Luke 2:1-2; 3:1-2
- Where did it happen? See Nehemiah 1
- Often material was selected to make a point: is there one stated or implied? Judges 6:1, 7, 8 (Ferdman’s Handbook of the Bible, 59)
The Wisdom or Poetry Books– The Wisdom or Poetry Books bring the drama of the Bible to life, imagine various characters in a play or novel. It is interesting how these different genres of the Bible relate to different types of people with various interests or personalities. Creative tend to feel a profound connection to the poetry books of the Bible.
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon reveal the characters, giving us a microscopic visual of their deepest emotions and thoughts. When we read them we can ask the questions:
- Is it a drama with characters, as in a play? See Job
- Or poetry, expressing one person’s feelings which we can share? See Psalm 42, 29, 68
- Is it highly symbolical? Is the language from the worship or history of Israel? If so, what is referred to? See Psalms 77, 78, 79
- Is there a historical setting which will help us understand the poem? Or was it writtenf or use in Israel’s worship? See Judges 4-5
- Is there repetition or contrast for poetic effect? See Proverbs 10:11 (Ferdman’s Handbook of the Bible, 59)
The Prophetic Books- There are Major and Minor prophetic books, considered so because of the length not the importance of the books. The Major Prophetic Books are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The Minor Prophetic Books are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
These books were written by the Old Testament prophets. Some consider Revelation one of these books as well, but Revelation can also be in it’s own category as an Apocalyptic (End Times) book.
They reveal prophecy (God’s direct word for the nation(s), people and speaking into particular situations).
These books also include Messianic prophecy, predicting specific attributes of the Messiah, what He would accomplish, down to how he would physically look (See Isaiah 53). It is incredible how specific and accurate these prophecies were. When we read them we can ask the questions:
- What was the historical background? See Daniel 1:1
- Is it written in poetic form? See Isaiah 36:22-29
- Is the language highly symbolical? If so, what is the imagery taken from? See Daniel 7
- What was the original purpose of the prophecy in its time? What is the universal principle involved? See Isaiah 30:1-5
- Are there specific claims to its fulfillment in the New Testament? See Isaiah 53; Acts 8 (Ferdman’s Handbook of the Bible, 59)
Next week we will explore the New Testament section of the Bible bookshelf. This review should help you begin to understand the Bible on a broader level so you can take it to a deeper level.
Resources used in this article:
Each section of questions was taken from Ferdman’s Handbook of the Bible, pg. 58
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Tenth Edition
For Part 1 of this series go here: http://jadelee.org/spiritual/how-to-study-the-bible/
Do you have any questions or tips on how to Study the Bible? Please use the Comments Section to add your valued input!