Quick Bible Survey
Get the gist of the whole Bible in 4 minutes:
The first page of the Bible presents the world as created by God (not by an impersonal force, or an eternal law, or by chance.) God calls it “good,” so the Bible is different from those religions that call spiritual things “good” and material things “bad.” God creates mankind “in His image,” which is the foundation for recognizing the equal value of all people. In chapter four mankind accepts Satan’s urging to disregard God, and so brings sin and sorrow into the world. (Satan–the devil– is described in the Bible as an angel who was created good but became God’s opponent.) God promises that a descendant of mankind will be a savior who will crush Satan. After population has increased, a great flood comes, showing that judgement is real but that God saves his people.
About 2000 BC God chooses a man named Abraham and leads him to settle in Canaan, the area now called Palestine. See location map and scroll to map A. God presents Abraham with a promise, called “the covenant,” that his descendants will live in that land, and that one of those descendants shall be a blessing to the entire world. Abraham’s grandchild Jacob receives the name Israel, so the descendants are called Israelites, and later called Jews. Around 1800 BC the people move to Egypt and stay there for 400 years, eventually becoming enslaved there.
In the 1400’s BC (some say 1200’s）a man named Moses leads the Israelites to escape Egypt. Moses receives the Ten Commandments and other laws, including those for an animal sacrifice system establishing the principle that sin demands punishment but that punishment can be taken by a substitute. The first Bible books are composed, using Hebrew, the language of the Israelites. After the Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years, Moses’ successor Joshua leads the people into Canaan and establishes the nation of Israel there. Scroll to map B to see Israel divided among its twelve tribes.
After several hundred years of having temporary leaders, the Israelites began to be led by kings, of whom the most famous was David, who began to rule around 1000 BC, establishing Jerusalem as his capital city. God promised David that one of his descendants would rule a kingdom that would last forever. This descendant was called the “Messiah” (anointed king; the Greek translation is “Christ.”). David’s son Solomon built a temple and extended the size of the state of Israel (Scroll to Map C to see the kingdom at its largest extent), but after his death the nation divided into two competing kingdoms. The one in the north was called Israel, and the one in the south called Judah. Scroll to map D to see the two kingdoms.
During the rule of the kings, many of the Bible books written by prophets appeared. In 722 BC the northern kingdom was conquered by an empire called the Assyrian Empire, and the people were dispersed and are now considered the “ten lost tribes.” The southern kingdom, ruled by descendants of David, continued until it was conquered by the Babylonian empire, who destroyed the temple and deported the leading people to Babylon. This time period, called the “exile,” continued for about 70 years. This was the time of the prophet Daniel, the one who was thrown to the lions for refusing to worship an idol. Daniel had visions in which he saw a heavenly “son of man,” and in which he envisioned the coming of an eternal kingdom after the passage of several hundred years. The Persian Empire defeated the Babylonians, and in 535 BC permitted the Jews to return to Israel, where they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and built another temple. This began the “second temple period,” which continued until the Romans destroyed that temple in AD 70. Prophets continued to write during this reconstruction period, and the last prophet is dated at 400 BC. This marks the ending point of the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the “Old Testament.”
During the 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus, the Israelites are ruled by Persians, then the Greek rulers following Alexander the Great, and finally the Romans take over the region in 63 BC.
The New Testament
The appearance of Jesus, during Roman Empire times, is commemorated on our calendars as 1 AD. (The AD is Latin for “year of the Lord;” secular writes prefer CE, which stands for “common era”). Scroll to map E to see Israel during the time of Jesus. At the age of 30, at the time foreseen by Daniel, Jesus begins to speak in public, calling himself the “son of man,” and announcing that the “eternal kingdom” was arriving. Jesus traveled through Israel teaching and healing. He was arrested by authorities in Jerusalem and killed by being nailed to a cross. After three days he was “declared the Son of God with power by rising from the dead.”¹ His followers (the disciples) proclaimed him to be the Messiah (Christ) promised to David, and that his death paid the price for sins,² as had been predicted 700 years before in the book of Isaiah, and fore-shadowed by the animal sacrifice system, which now comes to an end. This message about Jesus is called “the gospel,” because that word means “good news.”
Along with Paul and other apostles (those who are sent out)., this gospel message was spread to Jews around the Roman Empire, and non-Jews (called Gentiles) also began to believe in Jesus. These believers came to be called “Christians.” The New Testament has many letters written to Christian churches, and also four versions of the life of Jesus, called “gospels,” written by four different authors. One of them, John, has a sentence about his gospel that serves to sum up the purpose of the Bible: “these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you will have life in His name.”³ John also wrote the last book of the New Testament, in which he envisions the final victory over evil and the wonders of eternal life, “where all tears will be wiped away,” for, as Paul writes, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” ¹¹
For more details on the Bible, go to “Bible as a Whole” Menu
For reasons why the Bible is dependable, go to Bible Evidence
To read the Bible on your own, I recommend starting with the Gospel written by Mark, using this Book of Mark guide.
To see what has happened in the 2000 years since the New Testament, scroll down the contents of the church history site.
1) quoted from Romans chapter 1 verse 4. 2) prophesied in Isaiah chapter 53 verse 6. 3) quoted from John chapter 20 verse 31. 11) Romans 6:23