What the Book Contains
1. What does the Bible tell us about life? (Proverbs 21:21)
WHEN you pick up a Bible, what is your impression? Do you say, ‘What a large book!” or ‘It looks too difficult for me‘? True, it is large. But a large book is needed to set out all of our Creator’s loving purpose for mankind. The Bible deals with the lives of people—people like us. It shows life as it really is, with its joys and sorrows, its successes and mistakes. It tells us how to avoid problems or to solve them, and how to have a real purpose in living. When you get absorbed in its contents, you will find it—no, not difficult, but a thrilling explanation of how to “get a firm hold on the real life” that is in store for mankind.—1 Timothy 6:19.
THE FIRST FIVE BOOKS
2. (a) What are the first five Bible books? (b) Who wrote them, in what language, and when?
2 Let us look first at the five opening “little books” of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These are often called the Pentateuch, meaning “Five Rolls,” as they were apparently written originally on separate animal-skin scrolls. The prophet Moses wrote all these books in the Hebrew language more than 3,400 years ago! It is of great value for us to learn what these books contain.
3. (a) What does Genesis tell about early history? (b) What does it indicate concerning the Deliverer?
3 The first of these five books, Genesis, gives the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth, of things on the earth, and of man. It describes how wickedness got its start on earth, when the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, disobeyed their Creator, and how God promised a Deliverer, the “seed.” It calls attention to the faithfulness of a few men, such as Noah, and tells of the annihilation of the corrupt world by a global flood. It gives the origin of present-day nations and their languages, and shows that the Deliverer, the “seed,” would come through the family line of faithful Abraham. (Genesis 3:15; 12:3; 22:17, 18) Genesis also describes in detail events in the lives of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Jacob was also called Israel, hence his descendants were called Israelites. This thrilling history helps us to get a long-range view of God’s purposes.
4. (a) What do the books from Exodus to Deuteronomy contain, and with what value to us today? (Deuteronomy 32:46, 47) (b) What laws are contained in these books, and how have they affected mankind?
4 The last four books of the Pentateuch describe events of Moses’ lifetime, including the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites at the Red Sea, and the people’s behavior under various trials, this being recorded as a warning for us today. These books also include the Ten Commandments and other laws that have greatly benefited mankind, many of the laws being repeated and amplified by Moses in Deuteronomy.
LATER HISTORICAL BOOKS
5. What events are related in the next twelve Bible books?
5 There follow a series of twelve “little books,” from Joshua to Esther, that make up more than one quarter of the Bible record. This is the history of God’s chosen nation, Israel, covering more than a thousand years, from 1473 B.C.E., when Moses’ successor, Joshua, led them across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, to about 443 B.C.E. The real-life events related in these pages make exciting and instructive reading. As we observe how God dealt with people in Bible times, we can learn how we may be pleasing to him today, so as to enjoy his blessing on our lives.
6 The books Joshua, Judges and Ruth cover this period up to 1107 B.C.E. and give a candid picture of the blessings and disasters experienced by the nation of Israel, according to how they obeyed or disobeyed their God.
7. (a) What do the books from First Samuel to Esther describe? (b) Why are they more than just history? (Romans 15:4)
7 The history in First Samuel through to Second Kings includes the establishing of the kingdom in Israel in 1117 B.C.E. and the glorious reigns of Kings David and Solomon during the next century. Then it describes the splitting of the nation into the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah in 997 B.C.E., and also events leading to the desolation of Israel by Assyria in 740 B.C.E., and of Judah by Babylon in 607 B.C.E. The two books of Chronicles set out early family lists, and repeat the histories of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, as written by a skilled copyist and priest, Ezra. The books Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther trace events in Jewish history from the decree of King Cyrus of Persia, which restored the Jews from Babylonian captivity in 537, down to about 443 B.C.E. All these books are much more than just history. They contain valuable admonition for all who love righteousness, and point forward to the promised Deliverer of mankind.
8. Who wrote the book of Job, and why is this book important to us? (Job 2:4, 5)
8 The next five “little books,” the poetic books, were written at various times during Israel’s history. The book of Job was evidently written by Moses, about the same time as the Pentateuch. It shows God’s chief adversary to be Satan, a spirit person; it indicates why God has permitted Satan’s wicked domination of earth’s affairs for so long, and makes known that God rewards those who keep integrity to him in the face of reproaches and persecutions from Satan.
9. (a) Who wrote many of the Psalms, and what do they contain? (b) Who wrote the other poetic books, and how are they valuable to us? (Proverbs 3:5, 6) (c) When were these books written?
9 The Psalms, of which about half were written by King David, feature prayers of praise and of thankfulness for the loving-kindnesses of God. They also give many prophecies concerning the promised Deliverer. The books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon were written almost entirely by David’s son Solomon. They express much practical wisdom that is especially valuable in helping us to meet the problems of life today. For the most part, these poetic books were written in the eleventh century B.C.E. They are of special interest in that they point the way to true happiness. In all, the Hebrew word describing “happiness” appears dozens of times in them.
10. (a) What do the prophetic books contain, and why are they of interest to us today? (Isaiah 2:2) (b) During what period of time were the prophetic books of the Bible written?
10 Would you not like to know what the future holds for you? Well, you can know. The seventeen “little books” from Isaiah to Malachi, nearly all of which bear the name of their writer, contain prophecies that have had remarkable fulfillments in past ages. They also foretell events of our own day, such as the power struggle between the Democratic and Communistic nations, which now nears its climax, and the deliverance of God’s own people in the world’s greatest “time of distress.” (Daniel 11:40–12:1) They speak of judgments from God and of a glorious paradise that may be enjoyed by all persons who love him. These prophetic books were all written during the period of the later historical books previously described, starting with the book of the prophet Jonah about 844, and ending with Malachi’s prophecy about 443 B.C.E.
THE FOUR GOSPELS
11 At last, in the year 29 C.E., the promised “seed” and Deliverer appears! He is Jesus Christ, his name “Jesus” meaning “Salvation of Jehovah,” and his title “Christ” meaning “Anointed One.” Jehovah God commissions Jesus as Deliverer by anointing him—not with a fragrant oil, as was the custom in installing kings in ancient times, but with His own empowering holy spirit. This is the same active force of God that empowered the Bible writers to record His “word.” The “little books” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John describe from various standpoints Jesus’ works and preaching, his martyrdom and resurrection, and his fulfilling many prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures that identify him as the Deliverer.
12. (a) When, and in what languages, were the Gospels written? (b) Why should we humans be thankful for this “good news”? (2 Corinthians 9:15)
12 Matthew wrote his account of the life of Jesus in Hebrew about 41 C.E. and later translated this into Greek. Mark and Luke also wrote their accounts prior to the second destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. John wrote his account about 98 C.E. These Gospels, all written in common Greek, the universal language of that day, contain the “good news” of Jesus’ Kingdom rule under which we humans may come to enjoy “life . . . in abundance”! (Matthew 9:35; John 10:10) We should thank God for this marvelous provision.
ACTS AND THE LETTERS
13. (a) What is described in the “Acts of Apostles”? (b) Who wrote Acts, and what period does it embrace?
13 The “little book” entitled “Acts of Apostles” describes first the ascension of the resurrected Jesus to heaven and his organizing the congregation of Christians, whom God also anoints and empowers by his spirit. Then it tells of the zeal of these early Christians in proclaiming the good news throughout the world of that time, describing particularly the preaching activity of the apostles Peter and Paul. This vivid account was compiled by Paul’s traveling companion Luke, a doctor, and embraces the period of 33 to about 61 C.E.
14. (a) Who wrote the twenty-one letters of the Greek Scriptures? (b) What do they contain, and why should this interest us today? (1 Timothy 4:15, 16)
14 From Romans through to Jude, there follow twenty-one letters of admonition and encouragement, the first fourteen written by Paul and the remainder by other apostles and disciples of Jesus Christ. These “little books” speak confidently of the resurrection hope, and encourage those who love God to right works and zeal in doing his will. They also call attention to the fulfillment of many prophecies. Paul’s letters carry the names of the congregations or persons to whom he wrote. Then, from James onward, the letters are identified by the name of the writer.
15. (a) Who wrote “A Revelation,” where and when, and what does it contain? (Revelation 1:1-3) (b) What does it say about the present “woe,” and about future events?
15 This final prophetic book, written by John while in exile on the isle of Patmos, about 96 C.E., records a series of visions given from heaven by God through the glorified Jesus. It is written in highly symbolic language, and sets forth God’s judgment messages. It tells why the people of earth suffer so much “woe” and how God and his Christ will deliver mankind from all enemies—religious, political, military and demonic—preparatory to Christ’s thousand-year reign of peace over the earth.—Revelation 12:12.
16. How does this last “little book” of the Bible show the glorious fulfillment of Genesis 3:15?
16 The Bible’s last “little book” thus shows how God’s promise of a Deliverer for mankind, described in the first book, Genesis, is brought to glorious fulfillment, and how “God himself . . . will wipe out every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 21:3, 4) Truly, this is “good news” for all of us today!
[Chart on page 21]
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FIRST 4,000 YEARS OF MANKIND’S HISTORY
(Based principally on Bible record; parentheses indicate approximate date only)
LIVES OF MEN YEAR EVENTS
Adam created 4026 Rebellion; God promises “seed”
God ‘takes’ Enoch 3039 Enoch prophesied of judgment
Noah’s 600th year 2370 Global flood begins
(2189) Tongues confused at Babel
Abraham is born 2018
1943 God’s promise regarding Abraham’s
Isaac is born 1918
1913 “Seed” promised through Isaac
Jacob is born 1858
1781 “Seed” promised through Jacob
Joseph is born 1767
Death of Jacob 1711 Jacob prophesies “seed” to come from
tribe of Judah
Job keeps integrity (1613) God turns back Satan’s challenge
Moses starts Bible 1513 God delivers Israel from Egypt
Death of Moses 1473 Joshua leads Israel into “Land”
David becomes king 1077 [“Seed” promised through King David
Solomon becomes 1037
Death of Solomon 997 Kingdom split: Israel and Judah
Isaiah prophesies (778)
Hezekiah king 745
740 Assyria destroys 10-tribe Israel
Jeremiah prophesies 647
Ezekiel prophesies 613
607 Babylon desolates Judah
Daniel prophesies 605
537 Cyrus of Persia restores Jews to
Malachi ends (443) Hebrew Scriptures now complete
332 Greece rules over Judea
63 Rome begins to rule Jerusalem
[Chart on page 26]
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EVENTS OF HISTORY, PAST AND PENDING
(Based on Bible and secular records and prophecy that is in the course of fulfillment; parentheses indicate approximate date only)
Jesus born 2 From line of Abraham, David
Jesus anointed 29 Jesus becomes Messianic “seed”
Martyrdom of Jesus 33 Disciples scattered
Jesus resurrected 33 Christian congregation formed
Paul converted (34)
Cornelius converted 36
Matthew writes (41)
Paul’s first tour (47-48)
Paul’s second tour (49-52)
Paul’s third tour (52-56)
Luke writes Gospel (56-58)
Mark writes Gospel (60-65)
66 Romans besiege Jerusalem, withdraw.
Christians flee city
70 Romans destroy Jerusalem, temple
John pens (96)
John writes Gospel (98)
Death of apostle (100) No restraint now to apostasy
325 Constantine founds Christendom
Christ becomes King 1914 Christendom starts World War I
Kingdom preaching 1919 Christendom sponsors League
1939 Christendom starts World War II
1945-1975 ‘Cold war’; hot wars (Korea, Vietnam,
Man ends 6,000 years 1975
of history on earth
— U.N. “horns” devastate
“Great crowd” — Christ destroys nations at
Christ abysses Devil — 1,000-year reign starts
[Picture on page 23]
Like King David, we should thank God for his loving-kindness
[Picture on page 25]
God empowered Jesus to be the Deliverer
[Picture on page 28]
God’s promised Deliverer will restore happiness to all races of mankind