Week One: Understanding the Bible

Many scholars have gone before us…

Welcome to Week One in How to Study the Bible series!

We begin the study of Mark by considering how this book fits into the overall story of the Bible.

Reading a book of the Bible without understanding its context is like reading chapter 21 in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and expecting to understand why the ship is preparing to sail.

The book of Mark is one of the four biographies of Jesus. They tell the good news of the new covenant God offers to all people. They begin the New Testament section of the Holy Bible.

These gospel writings follow the book of Malachi and 400 years of silence from the Lord. No judges. No prophets. No revelations from God until John the Baptist became His mouthpiece announcing the coming of Jesus Christ. So, how does it all fit together??

The Bible: Collection of Dozens of Writings

The first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) tell of creation and the origin of the people of Israel.

Next twelve books are the History channel of the Old Testament (Joshua through Esther). Wars, kings, treachery, friendships, illicit relationships, murder, love and more.

The next five books are Poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs) and actually represent about 1/3 of the Bible. Honesty and raw emotions emerge in abundance.

The final 17 books in the Old Testament are written by prophets. God spoke through them to call the people back to faith in Him. The first five books in this section (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel) are referred to as the “major prophets” while the remaining 12 are called the “minor prophets”. Why? Only because the first five are longer!

The New Testament… God’s new covenant…follows. The four gospels (means “good news”) plus the book of Acts are history books. Each gospel was written to a different audience. Acts tells what happened following Jesus’ ascension to heaven and the spread of the early church.

The next 13 writings are letters by Paul. The Lord inspired him to write prolifically to the nascent churches throughout the Mediterranean region.

Eight more letters, by the first disciples, follow Paul’s writing.

The Bible concludes with the prophetic book of Revelation (not plural Revelations!). John recorded his vision from God of the end times along with a beautiful picture of the new heaven and the new earth.

The consistent theme throughout scripture reveals how God seeks to draw us to Himself…first through the nation of Israel, then through the prophets, then through His Son Jesus. The writings record the faithfulness and failures of people through the ages. God’s hand alone remains faithful.

A Word, Please

Amazon lists over 322,000 Bibles and books about the Bible. Indeed, many people have studied and translated and paraphrased and annotated and researched this book. Many voices exist. Many. Not all opinions draw the same conclusions. Traditions, backgrounds, and agendas vary.

Just so you’ll know…I believe in the divine inspiration and the authority of Scripture. My beliefs are similar to those described by my church’s website.

Your Turn

1) This week, read an overview of each of the books of the Bible.

Your Bible may include summaries before each book or in one of the appendices.

If not, go online: The Blue Letter Bible offers an excellent and brief summary online. Christianity Today shares a more detailed outline with chapter references.

Or google “overview of the books of the Bible.” Be cautious, however, in your reading. Read the website’s “statement of faith” to understand how they interpret scripture.

2) Be able to articulate, in 60 seconds or less, how the book of Mark fits into the God’s story. (Who wrote it, why did he write it, who did he write it to, what is it about??)

Posted by Sharon R. Hoover 

<< Intro article to the How To Study The Bible 

Week Two: Insights and Tools for Mark 1-3 >>


About Sharon R Hoover

Serving the church for over twenty years in discipleship and mission ministries, I've walked alongside many people travelling and exploring the journey of faith. Add in my own crazy path and I hope my writing will offer glimpses of life worth sharing.
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4 Responses to Week One: Understanding the Bible

  1. Pingback: Week Two: Insights and Tools for Mark 1-3 | a Journal of Missional Living

  2. Pingback: How to Study the Bible | a Journal of Missional Living

  3. Looking forward to reading. However, will be having surgery soon. All the best with this series.

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