13 Oct The first step to REALLY understanding the Bible
The first time I heard a teaching on the Table of Contents, my mind was blown. Everything finally started to make sense.
At first, I was skeptical… the table of contents?
Stay with me, friend!
I remember hearing my pastor say, “For today’s reading I want you to turn allll the way to the front of your Bible. That’s right, we’re looking at the Table of Contents.”
I was so confused.
If we don’t understand how the Bible is laid out, when we start to read a book of the Bible at random, it’s almost as if we are dropped into the middle of a maze. We have no idea where we are. We have no idea where this fits contextually. It’s that “clear as mud” feeling.
When we understand where each individual book of the Bible fits in the overview of Scripture, we have the map to understand the context of, “You are here.”
So to start this off, I want to start by teaching you a little chant I learned from one of my favorite seminary professors. You’re going to love this!
Start by clapping to a beat. Clap, clap, clap, clap…. Get a good rhythm going.
Now, I want you to keep clapping and start chanting this:
“5 – 12 – 5 – 5 – 12”
Keep going with that. Try that a few times until you get a good feel for it.
Now, add on this:
“4 – 1 – 21 – 1”
Chant this one out a few times, too.
Now put it all together!
“5 – 12 – 5 – 5 -12….. 4 – 1 – 21 – 1”
Chant it at least three times until you’ve got this memorized.
Here we go! Turn with me to the Table of Contents in your Bible. A real, physical Bible. And grab a pen!
- Above Genesis, I want you to write, “Anticipation”. We’re going to get back to why here soon.
- Put a line under the fifth book in the Bible, Deuteronomy. Label these first five books “The Law”.
- Write a line under Esther. Label the section from Joshua to Esther “History”.
- Draw a line under Song of Solomon. It might be called Song of Songs in your Bible. Label the section from Job to Song of Solomon “Poetry”.
- Add a line under Daniel. Label the section from Isaiah to Daniel the “Major Prophets”.
- Label the final section in your Old Testament from Hosea through Malachi the “Minor Prophets”.
- Draw a line under John. Label the section from Matthew through John “The Gospels” as well as “Manifestation”.
- Next, put a line under Acts. The book of Acts is considered a history book. Label the book of Acts with both the words “History” and “Proclamation”.
- The last line we will be drawing is under the book of Jude. Romans through Jude are known as “Letters”. Sometimes you’ll hear this referred to as “Epistles”. Label this section “Letters” and “Explanation”.
- Finally, label the book of Revelation “Prophecy” and “Consummation”.
So let’s break all that down!
The Law (sometimes referred to as the Pentateuch) are the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses. This is what governed the people of Israel.
The next 12 books of the Bible are the history of Israel from the point of entering the Promised Land through their exile to Babylon.
**Note here- this is where things are not necessarily chronological in the Old Testament.
The next five poetry books imply that you will see a lot of emotion. As you read these books you will notice they read differently than the previous books you just read.
The major prophets are called this simply because the length of each book is longer than the length of the minor prophets. It doesn’t mean that the major prophets are more important (author or text) than the minor prophets.
So you might guess that the minor prophets are called this because the length of each book is shorter than the books in the major prophets.
All of the Old Testament is anticipating the arrival of the promised Messiah.
On to the New Testament!
The first four books are referred to collectively as “The Gospels”. These are four accounts of the same story- the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is why I had you jot down “Manifestation”. The promised Messiah whom we have been anticipating has come. He has manifested.
The next book, Acts, is considered church history. We start the book with Jesus ascending into Heaven and the promised Holy Spirit arriving to indwell believers. The church, while it starts in Jerusalem, is soon scattered throughout the region. Acts 1:8 says, “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This proclamation (that we see begin in Acts) is how you and I are here today as believers! How cool is that?!
The next section of 21 letters are referred to as explanation because the early church is starting to really live out this Christian life, and of course questions come up. Much of the purpose of the letters are to answer these questions of how to actually live out the Christian faith. We call this section “Letters” because they are literally letters that were written by various apostles.
The final chapter, Revelation, is both prophecy and consummation. It is prophetic in that we were given a glimpse of what is to come. It is consummation in the sense that the church as the bride of Christ and Christ are finally together in the marriage supper of the lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). Just as the Lord was faithful to fulfill the prophecies we see in the Old Testament, he will be faithful to come again soon and fulfill what we see in Revelation.
Whew! That was a lot!
Now take a second look at your Table of Contents… Are you starting to get a high-level view of the story of Scripture? I sure hope so!
Now when you hear your pastor say, “Turn to xyz in the Bible,” you’ll notice things are starting to make sense!
I hope this helped, friend.
Love you dearly,