An Overview of the Bible

By Royce Frederick

The Bible is a marvelous “library” of sixty-six books. God, its Author, delivered it to us through about 40 human writers during almost 1600 years. We can increase our understanding of it by studying its divisions and the chronological order (time order) of the events within it.


The Bible contains two major divisions or sections. The first, Genesis through Malachi (39 books), is called the Old Testament. A “testament” is a “covenant,” “contract,” or “will.” These books contain the Covenant which God made with the nation of Israel. Events in Genesis lead to this Covenant in Exodus. All the other Old Testament books except Job involve events during that Covenant.

The other major section, Matthew through Revelation (27 books), is called the New Testament. It tells of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. He began revealing His New Covenant while living on earth (see Matt. 5:21-22, 28-32). After returning to heaven, He finished revealing it through the Holy Spirit (Jn.16:12-13; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3).

When Jesus died on the cross, God removed the Old Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Col. 2:14-16; Gal. 3:24-25) and replaced it with the New Covenant of Christ (Heb. 9:16-17). The Bible calls these covenants “first” and “second” (Heb. 8:7), “old” and “new” (Heb. 8:8, 13; 2 Cor. 3:6, 14). The New Covenant is for all people of all nations (Matt. 28:18-19; Mk. 16:15-16; see Ps. 22:16-18, 27-28).

The 39 Old Testament books are grouped as: law (Genesis through Deuteronomy 5 books), history (Joshua through Esther 12 books), poetry (Job through Song of Solomon 5 books), and prophecy (Major Prophets: Isaiah through Daniel 5 books; and Minor Prophets: Hosea through Malachi 12 books). “Major” Prophets does not mean “more important.” It means they are longer than the “Minor” Prophets. Lamentations is the exception. It is relatively short, but is included in the Major Prophets after Jeremiah, because he wrote it.

The 27 New Testament books are grouped as: gospels (Matthew through John 4 books), history (Acts 1 book), letters (Romans through Jude 21 books), and prophecy (Revelation 1 book).


The Bible is not a book of myths. It tells of actual events which occurred during historical times. Therefore, it is helpful to study portions of the Bible in chronological (time) order. We cannot group the books in perfect chronological order because many of them tell of events which are also in other books. But we have prepared the following outlines to aid in studying the books in a generally chronological order. Please note that the dates are approximate dates, calculated by human historians, who sometimes disagree with each other.


Genesis 1-11. Creation, sin, worldwide flood, confusion of languages, ancestry of Abraham.
Job. Suffering of righteous Job. He lived about 200 years (1:1-5; 42:12-17), fitting Gen. 11:18-32.
Genesis 12-50. God calls Abraham (1921 B.C.), promises to make a nation from his descendants, Isaac, Jacob (“Israel”), 12 sons, Joseph, Jacob's family enters Egypt.
Exodus. Israelites multiply, slavery, Moses, departure from Egypt, Old Covenant given (1491 B.C.).
Leviticus. Laws for priests (from tribe of Levi) & laws for people.
Numbers. Counting 12 tribes of Israel, 40 years of wandering.
Deuteronomy. Review of wandering, review of law, Moses' farewell.
Joshua. Conquest of Canaan (1451-1427 B.C.).
Judges. Cycles of prosperity, sin, oppression, deliverance by “judges,” new prosperity (1427 B.C.-1120 B.C.).
Ruth. Story of great-grandmother of King David; during period of judges (1322-1312 B.C.).
1 Samuel. The judges Eli & Samuel, King Saul (reigned 1095-1055 B.C.), anointing of David, death of Samuel.
2 Samuel. King David (reigned 1055-1015 B.C.).
1 Kings1-2. Death of David.
1 Chronicles. Genealogy from Adam, Saul, death of David.
Psalms. Written by David & others.
1 Kings 3-11. Reign of King Solomon (1015-975 B.C.).
2 Chronicles 1-9. Reign of Solomon.
Proverbs. Words of wisdom, mostly from Solomon.
Ecclesiastes. By Solomon: life is vain without serving God.
Song of Solomon. A song of love by Solomon.
1 Kings 12 through 2 Kings 14. The kingdom divides into Northern Kingdom (“Israel” 10 tribes) & Southern Kingdom (“Judah” 2 tribes). Many kings, to the mention of the prophet Jonah (2 Kgs. 14:25).
Jonah. Prophesied about 860 B.C.
Joel. Prophesied about 800 B.C.
2 Chronicles 10-26. Divided kingdom (975 B.C.) to death of Uzziah.
Amos. Prophesied about 787 B.C., during King Uzziah's reign (1:1).
Hosea. Prophesied about 785-725 B.C., during reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, & Hezekiah (1:1).
Isaiah. Prophesied about 760-698 B.C., during reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, & Hezekiah (1:1).
Micah. Prophesied about 750-710 B.C., during reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, & Hezekiah (1:1).
2 Kings 15-23. Kings Uzziah (“Azariah”), Jotham, Ahaz, & Hezekiah in Judah. Northern Kingdom falls into Assyrian Captivity (721 B.C.). Judah continues; last kings before captivities.
2 Chronicles 27-35. Reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, & last kings of Judah before captivities.
Nahum. Prophesied about 713 B.C. Foretold fall of Nineveh, Assyrian capital.
Zephaniah. Prophesied about 630 B.C., during the reign of Josiah (1:1).
Habbakuk. Prophesied about 626 B.C.
Jeremiah. Prophesied about 629-586 B.C. during last kings, to the fall of Jerusalem (1:2-3).
2 Kings 24-25. Babylonian Empire takes captives from Judah (606 & 597 B.C.). Jerusalem falls, temple is destroyed, more captives taken (586 B.C.).
2 Chronicles 36. Babylonian Empire destroys Jerusalem. (Mentions the return of captives.)
Lamentations. Jeremiah weeps over the siege and fall of Jerusalem.
Obadiah. Prophesied about 586 B.C. Foretells return of the captives.
Ezekiel. Early captive who prophesied in captivity about 593-574 B.C.; foretold the return of the captives and rebuilding of the temple.
Daniel. Early captive who prophesied in captivity about 606-534 B.C.; foretold the everlasting kingdom of Christ.
Ezra 1-4. A group returns to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel (536 B.C.). They begin rebuilding the temple, but enemies stop the work.
Esther. A Jewish girl among the captives becomes wife of the King; saves lives of Jews (521-495 B.C.).
Haggai & Zechariah. Both prophesied in Jerusalem, Haggai about 520 & Zechariah about 520-487 B.C.; urge the people to resume building the temple.
Ezra 5-10. They finish the temple. A group returns to Jerusalem with Ezra (457 B.C.)
Nehemiah. He comes to Jerusalem (446 B.C.) and leads in rebuilding the city walls.
Malachi. Prophesied about 397 B.C. He rebukes the people for again breaking their Covenant with God. Foretells of their punishment, of the forerunner of Christ (John the Baptist), and of Christ and His Covenant.


Matthew through John. The “gospel” (good news) of Jesus Christ, Son of God. His birth (4 B.C., by our present Gregorian calendar), His life, His teachings, His miracles, His fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, His death for our sins, His victory over death, and His return to heaven (29 A.D.). Each book is for all people, but Matthew seems to be writing primarily to Jews, Mark to Romans, Luke to Gentiles, & John to all.
Acts 1-18. The eternal Kingdom of Christ begins (Acts 2; 29 A.D.). Acts tells the actions of the apostles & disciples preaching the gospel. Many sinners believe, repent, confess their faith, and are baptized in water for the forgiveness of their sins. Paul makes his 1st & 2nd preaching Journeys; begins his 3rd.
1 & 2 Thessalonians. From Paul in Corinth to Christians in Thessalonica, (between Acts 18:17 and 18), 2nd Journey, A.D. 53. The second letter was probably sent a month or two after the first letter.
Acts 19. Paul in Ephesus two years.
1 Corinthians. To Christians in Corinth from Paul in Ephesus (between Acts 19:20 and 21), 3rd Journey, A.D. 59.
Acts 20. 3rd Journey continues.
2 Corinthians. From Paul in Macedonia to Christians in Corinth, 3rd Journey, A.D. 60 (within Acts 20:2).
Galatians. From Paul in Corinth to Christians in Galatia, 3rd Journey, A.D. 60 (within Acts 20:3).
Romans. To Christians in Rome, from Corinth area (within Acts 20:3), 3rd Journey, A.D. 60.
Acts 21-28. End of 3rd Journey, imprisonments in Jerusalem, Caesarea, & Rome.
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. To Christians in Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae from Paul, during his 1st imprisonment in Rome, A.D. 64.
Philemon. To Philemon (a Christian at Colossae) who is the master of a runaway slave named Onesimus, from Paul, during his 1st imprisonment in Rome, A.D. 64.
Hebrews. To Jewish (Hebrew) Christians, probably from Paul, during his 1st imprisonment in Rome, A.D. 64.
1 Timothy. To Timothy at Ephesus, from Paul, A.D. 65, during a brief release from Roman prison.
Titus. To Titus on the island of Crete, from Paul, A.D. 65, during a brief release from Roman prison.
2 Timothy. To Timothy from Paul, A.D. 66, during his 2nd imprisonment in Rome, shortly before his death.
James. From James, possibly a brother of Jesus, to scattered Christians.
1 Peter. From the apostle Peter to scattered Christians, from “Babylon,” about A.D. 60.
2 Peter. From Peter to scattered Christians, about A.D. 66, shortly before his death.
1 John. From the apostle John to all Christians.
2 John. From the apostle John to a church or a Christian lady.
3 John. From the apostle John to Gaius.
Jude. From Jude, possibly a brother of Jesus, to all Christians.
Revelation. Revealed to the apostle John while exiled on the island of Patmos. Visions of severe trouble and final, eternal victory for faithful Christians!