Book Summaries

 

There are sixty-six (66) books in the Bible, which is divided into two (2) main sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament is comprised of 39 books and the New Testament contains 27 books (most of which are really letters).  Below is a list of the 66 books in the Bible. 

 

IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

 

GENESIS

Book Type: Book of Law (or Book of Moses); first book of the Old Testament; first book of the Bible; first book of the five-part Jewish collection known as the Torah.  Author: Moses is the traditional author of this book; Genesis is part of the “Law of Moses.”  Audience: Moses wrote Genesis to the Jewish people during their forty-year wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula.  Date: Written during the forty years in the wilderness, approximately 1440–1400 BC. Genesis means “beginning,” and this book describes the very first moments of God’s creation. This story then proceeds through the time when the nation of Israel came to live in Egypt. 

 

EXODUS

Book Type: Book of Law (or Book of Moses); second book of the Old Testament; second book of the Bible; second book of the five-part Jewish collection known as the Torah.  Author: Moses is the traditional author of this book; Exodus is part of the “Law of Moses.”  Audience: Moses wrote Exodus to the Jewish people during their 40-year wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula. Exodus records the history of Israel from the generation immediately following Joseph, until the time the Jews received the law of God in the wilderness. The word Exodus emphasizes the escape of the Jews under Egyptian slavery toward life as a people in a new land.  Date: Written during the 40 years in the wilderness, approximately 1440–1400 BC.  

 

LEVITICUS

Book Type: Book of Law (or Book of Moses); third book of the Old Testament; third book of the Bible; third book of the five-part Jewish collection known as the Torah.  Author: Moses is the traditional author of this book; Leviticus is part of the “Law of Moses.”  Audience: Moses wrote Leviticus to the Jewish people during their 40-year wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula. Leviticus provides details regarding priests, sacrifices, holy days, and laws the Jewish people were now required to follow as its own nation. The title Leviticus refers to the Levites, the tribe of priests who were responsible for overseeing the practices regarding the law for Israel.   Date: During the 40 years in the wilderness, approximately 1440–1400 BC.

 

NUMBERS

Book Type: Book of Law (or Book of Moses); fourth book of the Old Testament; fourth book of the Bible; fourth book of the five-part Jewish collection known as the Torah.   Author: Moses is the traditional author of this book; Numbers is part of the “Law of Moses.”   Audience: Moses wrote Numbers to the Jewish people during their 40-year wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula. Numbers addresses many issues which took place between the times the Jews received the law (the books of Exodus and Leviticus) and their preparation for entering the Promised Land (the book of Deuteronomy). The title Numbers is derived from its emphasis on counting the Jewish people in the early chapters of the book.   Date: During the 40 years in the wilderness, approximately 1440–1400 BC. 

 

DEUTERONOMY

Book Type: Book of Law (or Book of Moses); the fifth book of the Old Testament; the fifth book of the Bible; the fifth of the five-part Jewish collection known as the Torah.   Author: Moses is the traditional author of this book; Deuteronomy is part of the “Law of Moses.” He was 120 years old at the time of its writing.  Audience: The title Deuteronomy means “second law.” The book is Moses’ re-stating various laws and regulations given in the prior Scriptures. Moses wrote to the Jewish people during their 40-year wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula. This book was written during the final 40-day period before the Jews entered the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:3). It provides an account of God’s many works among the nation of Israel during their 40-year journey. This was especially important for the younger generation of Jews who were born during this time period.   Date: During the 40 years in the wilderness, approximately 1440—1400 BC. Some suggest a more exact date of 1406 BC. 

 

JOSHUA

Book Type: Book of history, the sixth book of the Old Testament and the Bible.   Author: Joshua, son of Nun. Joshua served as Israel’s leader following the death of Moses. He had previously served as the Moses’ aide, had explored the Promised Land with the 12 spies, and had led the Jews in military battle while in the wilderness.    Audience: Joshua is written to the Jewish people who first entered the land of Israel. These people experienced the initial fulfillment of God’s promises to provide a land and a nation to the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3). This book preserves the history of Israel following the death of Moses. In particular, Joshua notes preparations to cross the Jordan River, the conquest of the land, and the divisions of the land to the tribes of Israel.  Date: Likely written between 1400 and 1370 BC. 

 

JUDGES

Book Type: Book of history; the seventh book of the Old Testament; the seventh book of the Bible.   Author: Tradition considers the prophet Samuel as the author. The book itself does not name its author.   Audience: Following the deaths of Joshua and his generation, who served the Lord, the Jewish people followed a cycle of sin, oppression, repentance, and deliverance in the land of Israel. The book of Judges records Israel’s history between the time of Joshua and the first kings of Israel. The book also provides important theological insights regarding the results of disobedience to the Lord, as well as repentance and God’s deliverance of His people.   Date: Likely written between 1045 and 1000 BC.  

 

RUTH

Book Type: Book of History; the eighth book of the Old Testament; eighth book of the Bible.   Author: Tradition records the prophet Samuel as the author. The book itself does not name its writer.  Audience: The book of Ruth was written to the Jewish people, likely during the time of David’s reign as king. This audience was familiar with David, yet likely lacked the background of his family line beyond his father Jesse. The book of Ruth provides two benefits to that audience. First is a powerful relational account. Second is a theological narrative, connecting David with his ancestors in a manner reflecting God’s love and divine plan.   Date: Likely written between 1011 and 931 BC. 

 

1st SAMUEL

Book Type: Book of History; the ninth book of the Old Testament; the ninth book of the Bible.   Author: The book itself does not name its author. Tradition records Samuel as the primary author, but not the only one. It was likely completed by both Samuel and other godly leaders of Israel who served through the end of book’s events.   Audience: First and Second Samuel were originally completed as a single text, written to the Jewish people. The work serves both as a record of history and to emphasize the importance of faithfully following God. First Samuel records the transition of Israel’s leadership from judges to kings, beginning with the transition of leadership from the prophet Samuel to King Saul and then King David. First Samuel illustrates the blessing of those who remain obedient to the Lord (like Samuel) and the judgment that comes upon those who live in disobedience to the Lord (like Saul).   Date: Unknown. It was clearly written after the division of Israel and Judah in 931 BC, since these lands are often noted as separate kingdoms. Because its contents do not reflect the later events of the exile to Babylon, it was likely completed prior to this time, sometime between 931 and 722 BC.  

 

2nd SAMUEL

Book Type: Book of History; the tenth book of the Old Testament; the tenth book of the Bible.  Author: The book itself does not name its author, though tradition records Samuel as the primary writer. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally composed as one combined text. Neither 1 Samuel nor 2 Samuel seem to be in absolutely chronological order. This Scripture was likely completed by Samuel and other godly leaders of Israel who served through the end of the recorded events.  Audience: First and Second Samuel were originally completed as one book, written to the Jewish people. This text records history, and demonstrates the importance of faithfully following God’s commands. Starting in 1 Samuel, it explains the transition of Israel’s leadership from judges to kings, beginning with the progression of leadership from Samuel to King Saul and then King David.  Second Samuel reminds the Jewish people of David’s triumphs and troubles. This illustrates the many lessons involved with obedience and disobedience to the Lord, as well as the Lord’s mercy when David repents of his sin.  Date: Unknown. It was clearly written after the division of Israel and Judah in 931 BC since these lands are often noted as separate kingdoms. Because its contents do not reflect the later events of the exile to Babylon, it was likely written prior to this time, sometime between 931 and 722 BC. 

 

1st KINGS

Book Type: Book of History; the eleventh book of the Old Testament; the eleventh book of the Bible.  Author: The book itself does not name its author and remains anonymous. Jewish tradition states it was written by the prophet Jeremiah. However, at least some portion of the book was likely written by someone else. Jeremiah did not travel to Babylon, and the final section (2 Kings 25:27–30) is set in Babylon in 561 BC.  Audience: First and Second Kings were originally completed as one book, for the Jewish people who were most likely living in exile at the time. The text emphasizes the history of the kings of Judah and Israel. Those living under the judgment of exile could learn much from the judgments upon evil kings, as compared to God’s blessing upon the kings who served in the tradition of David, called a man after God’s own heart.  Date: Unknown. The final additions to the text would have been added after the final events of 2 Kings. This was probably written in Babylon during the exile, between approximately 561 and 538 BC.  

 

2nd KINGS

Book Type: Book of History; the twelfth book of the Old Testament; the twelfth book of the Bible.  Author: The book itself does not name its author and remains anonymous. Jewish tradition states that it was written by the prophet Jeremiah. However, at least some of the book was likely written by someone else. Jeremiah did not travel to Babylon, and the events of the final section (2 Kings 25:27–30) occurred in Babylon in 561 BC.  Audience: First and Second Kings were originally completed as one text, written for the Jewish people who were most likely living in exile when it was first completed. This Scripture emphasizes the history of the kings of Judah and Israel. Second Kings specifically continues the accounts of the kings of the divided kingdom and concludes with the deportations of Israel and Judah. Those living under the judgment of exile could learn much from the judgments upon evil kings and God’s blessing upon the kings who served in the tradition of David, called a man after God’s own heart.   Date: Unknown. It was clearly written after the final events of 2 Kings and was probably written in Babylon during the exile between approximately 561 and 538 BC.  

 

1st CHRONICLES

Book Type: Book of History; the thirteenth book of the Old Testament; the thirteenth book of the Bible.   Author: The book itself does not name its author and remains anonymous. Jewish tradition states it was written by the Jewish priest Ezra.   Audience: First and Second Chronicles were originally completed as one book, written to the Jewish people in Jerusalem surrounding regions following the return from Babylonian exile. Its words reminded them of their history, God’s promises, the consequences of sin, and God’s promised future hope for the Jewish people.   Date: Unknown, though it likely took place shortly after the concluding events of 2 Kings; between 450—-425 BC.  

 

2nd CHRONICLES

Book Type: Book of History; the fourteenth book of the Old Testament; the fourteenth book of the Bible.  Author: The book itself does not name its author and remains anonymous. Jewish tradition states it was written by the Jewish priest Ezra.  Audience: First and Second Chronicles were originally completed as one book, written to the Jewish people of Jerusalem and the surrounding region following the return from Babylonian exile. The audience reading 2 Chronicles would have noted the important contrast between the mostly godly reign of Solomon, versus the often ungodly reigns of the kings who followed. The failure of these kings of Judah ultimately led to Babylonian exile. The text also offers final words of hope, for a return to their Promised Land.   Date: Unknown, though it likely took place shortly after the concluding events of 2 Kings; between 450—425 BC. 

 

EZRA

Book Type: Book of History; the fifteenth book of the Old Testament; the fifteenth book of the Bible.  Author: Ezra, a Jewish priest, teacher, and scribe.   Audience: The books of Ezra and Nehemiah may have originally been written as a single text. This was written to the Jewish people who had recently returned to Jerusalem and the surrounding area following seventy years of exile in Babylonian captivity. These Jews would have been encouraged at God’s recent blessings upon their people, yet also needed both clear teaching and encouragement to live faithfully according to God’s ways within a surrounding pagan culture.  Date: Between 457 and 444 BC. 

 

NEHEMIAH

Book Type: Book of History; the sixteenth book of the Old Testament; the sixteenth book of the Bible.  Author: Ezra is the most likely author, as the book was originally probably written as a single text, following the passages contained in the book of Ezra.   Audience: Nehemiah was written to the Jewish people who had recently returned to Jerusalem and the surrounding area following seventy years of exile in Babylonian captivity. The book of Ezra emphasizes the spiritual aspects of God’s renewal, while the book of Nehemiah focuses more on renewal of the city and civil government. Even in the midst of Jerusalem’s renewal, the attention remains on God’s sovereign power to provide. He enables Nehemiah to lead people to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the city’s walls, and the ability to withstand opposition during times of difficulty.  Date: Between 457 and 444 BC.  

 

ESTHER 

Book Type: Book of Wisdom; the seventeenth book of the Old Testament; the seventeenth book of the Bible.   Author: The author is unknown. Mordecai, Ezra, or Nehemiah are the most common traditional possibilities.   Audience: Esther was written for the Jewish people, to display the providence of God, in relation to the Feast of Purim. This book was to be read by the Jewish people during this Feast as a remembrance of the great deliverance from their enemies, which God provided through Esther. Observant Jews continue to read the book of Esther during Purim, celebrated on Adar 14 on the Jewish calendar, and usually occurring in March.  Date: Most likely between 465 and 425 BC. 

 

JOB

Book Type: Book of Wisdom; the eighteenth book of the Old Testament; the eighteenth book of the Bible.  Author: The author is technically unknown. Some have suggested King Solomon, since the book closely reflects other writings attributed to Solomon. If so, Solomon wrote about the events concerning Job long after they historically occurred. Others have suggested Job himself recorded his story, or that Moses wrote it.   Audience: Conclusions regarding the audience are tentative since we are uncertain of the original author and original date of the book of Job. However, it was clearly written for the Jewish people to illustrate the importance of perseverance. The New Testament (James 5:11) refers to Job as a real account illustrating the steadfastness of Job as well as the Lord’s compassion and mercy.   Date: Uncertain, since the original author is technically unknown. If the book of Job was written by Solomon, the date would be approximately 950 BC.  

 

PSALMS

Book Type: The third book of Wisdom; nineteenth book of the Old Testament; nineteenth book of the Bible.   Author: Psalms is a book consisting of works by multiple authors. David’s name is connected with seventy-three of the 150 psalms. Solomon wrote Psalms 72 and 127; Moses wrote Psalm 90; the family of Asaph composed twelve psalms; the sons of Korah wrote eleven psalms; Heman wrote Psalm 88; Ethan the Ezrahite wrote Psalm 89. The remaining fifty psalms are anonymous.   Audience: Though each psalm had particular audiences at their original time of writing, the collection of the psalms was published for the benefit of all Israelites. These songs formed the musical collection of the nation, becoming of great importance during the reigns of David and Solomon when Levites often used them to lead the Jews in praise. Christians likewise find much beauty and theology in the Psalms that remain the foundation for many of the enduring songs of the church.  Date: Since the book of Psalms is a collection of songs by various authors, their dates vary greatly as well. Moses wrote the oldest psalm during his forty years in the wilderness, approximately 1440—1400 BC. Many of the psalms were written during the reigns of David and Solomon in approximately the tenth century BC. The latest psalms were completed shortly after the Jewish return from Babylon in about 537 BC. 

 

PROVERBS

Book Type: The fourth book of Wisdom; the twentieth book of the Old Testament; the twentieth book of the Bible.   Author: Proverbs is generally associated with its primary author, Solomon. However, he is only specifically listed as the author of Proverbs 1—22:16. Proverbs 22:17—24:34 were likely only compiled by Solomon, rather than being originally written by him. Proverbs 25—29 are attributed to Solomon but were recorded by King Hezekiah (Proverbs 25:1). Agur is noted as the author of chapter 30, while Lemuel is noted as author of chapter 31. Some argue Lemuel is another name associated with Solomon.   Audience: As a book of Jewish wisdom literature originally composed in Hebrew, Proverbs was composed for the education of Jewish readers. However, it was not collected in its final form until later, at least the time of King Hezekiah (726—697 BC.) and was therefore originally most likely compiled for the people of Judah during this time period.  Date: The proverbs were written from the time of Solomon (970—931 BC) through the time of King Hezekiah (726—697 BC). The final form of the book likely began to circulate late in the reign of King Hezekiah, perhaps around 700 BC.  

 

ECCLESIASTES

Book Type: The fifth book of Wisdom; the twenty-first book of the Old Testament; the twenty-first book of the Bible.  Author: Traditionally considered to be King Solomon.  Audience: Ecclesiastes was written as both self-reflection and to record wisdom to the Jewish people. Assuming that the words are those of Solomon, they were likely written toward the end of his reign. Here, he takes the role of a teacher or preacher speaking to students. He seeks to provide wise sayings that easily register with the readers without much additional explanation. The summary message is that God is the only source of true meaning, and the true purpose for our lives. This, the author has discovered through self-experiments and great cost. In Jewish tradition, Ecclesiastes was read on the day of Pentecost.  Date: If written by Solomon, Ecclesiastes was written during his reign between approximately 970—931 BC. Given its descriptions of hedonism, materialism, and frustration, it would have been penned near the end of Solomon’s life.  

 

SONG of SOLOMON

Book Type: The sixth book of Wisdom; the twenty-second book of the Old Testament; the twenty-second book of the Bible.  Author: King Solomon, specifically named seven times either as an author (Song of Solomon 1:1) or as the major character (Song of Solomon 1:5; 3:7, 9, 11; 8:11, 12).  Audience: Solomon’s original audience consisted of those living throughout Israel during his reign. This book was clearly written to adult men and women who recognized the emotional aspects of love and romance. Solomon notes the mutual interest which may exist between a couple prior to marriage. However, sexual intimacy is not discussed until the narrative’s central pair share their wedding night.  Date: Song of Solomon was written during Solomon’s reign between approximately 970—931 BC.

 

ISAIAH

Book Type: The first book of the Major Prophets; the twenty-third book of the Old Testament; the twenty-third book of the Bible.  Author: The prophet Isaiah, specifically noted in the first verse.  Audience: Isaiah the prophet wrote to those in Judah and Jerusalem “in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Isaiah 1:1). His audience consisted of Jews who served under the reigns of these four kings. Uzziah reigned for 52 years and did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Chronicles 26:4), as did Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:2), as did Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:2). However, King Ahaz was an evil king who “walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree” (2 Kings 16:3–4).  Date: Jewish tradition states Isaiah died at the hands of King Manasseh by being cut in two with a saw. Since Manasseh reigned in approximately 695—642 BC, the book of Isaiah would have been completed absolutely no later than 642 BC. Alternatively, the last king mentioned by Isaiah ended his reign in 686 BC, and so Isaiah’s writing may have been completed around this time.

 

JEREMIAH 

Book Type: The second book of the Major Prophets; the twenty-fourth book of the Old Testament; the twenty-fourth book of the Bible.  Author: Jeremiah, specifically named in Jeremiah 1:1. Jeremiah may have written with the assistance of his servant, Baruch.  Audience: The book of Jeremiah is written to the people of the nation of Judah. Some of the writing applies to the people during the reign of King Josiah. Other of the writing is directed to Judah during the rise of Nebuchadnezzar and the deportation of the Jewish people. Jeremiah’s many warnings about judgment were intended for God’s chosen people, who had turned away from God, and would suffer the consequences. After mercifully saving Judah, despite her idolatry, God would finally allow the people to suffer the natural results of their own choices.  Date: Jeremiah 1:1–5 defines the timeframe of Jeremiah’s writings. They began in 630 and ended in approximately 580 BC. This also means the various segments of this book are not necessarily in chronological order. 

 

LAMENTATIONS 

Book Type: The third book of the Major Prophets; the twenty-fifth book of the Old Testament; the twenty-fifth book of the Bible.  Author: Jeremiah is the traditional author, though the book does not specifically note who wrote it. As with Jeremiah, it may have been written in part with the help of his servant Baruch.  Audience: The original readers and hearers of Lamentations included the survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem. Shocked and saddened at the loss of their capital city, friends, and family members, Lamentations identified with the people’s grief while looking forward to a future hope.  Date: Approximately 586 BC, shortly after the fall of Jerusalem. 

 

EZEKIEL 

Book Type: The fourth book of the Major Prophets; the twenty-sixth book of the Old Testament; the twenty-sixth book of the Bible.  Author: Ezekiel, as specifically named in Ezekiel 1:3 and Ezekiel 24:24.  Audience: Ezekiel was written for Jewish people living in exile in Babylon. Many of these people continued to live in rebellion against God, despite the judgment that took place through the destruction of Jerusalem. Others desired to see God work in power again as the stories from their past. Ezekiel was written to condemn their sinful ways and call them to holy living, emphasizing a future plan for the Jewish people as well as the city of Jerusalem and land of Israel.  Date: The last fulfilled prophecy spoken by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 29:17–21) occurred in approximately 570 BC, indicating the book was likely collected into its final form around this time. Other prophecies in the book involve the end times, and have yet to be fulfilled.   

 

DANIEL  

Book Type: The fifth book of the Major Prophets; the twenty-seventh book of the Old Testament; the twenty-seventh book of the Bible.  Author: Daniel, noted specifically in Daniel 8:15.   Audience: Daniel was written to record events during Daniel’s lifetime in exile in Babylon as well as to provide exiled Jews hope regarding God’s plan for the future. The example of Daniel and his three friends offered a positive role model for Jews living in a pagan culture, while his prophecies encouraged readers and hearers of God’s future hope for His people.  Date: The last event recorded by Daniel (Daniel 10:1) occurred in about 536 BC. The book of Daniel was likely completed around this time or shortly afterwards.   

 

HOSEA   

Book Type: The first book of the Minor Prophets; the twenty-eighth book of the Old Testament; the twenty-eighth book of the Bible.   Author: Hosea, specifically noted in Hosea 1:1.   Audience: Hosea wrote to Jewish people in the northern kingdom of Israel. These people generally lived in rebellion to God’s ways and were known for idol worship and ungodly living. Hosea’s example and ministry focused on showing his hearers and readers God’s unconditional love for them despite their sin. They were called to repent and return to the Lord in response, showing faithfulness to their God.   Date: Hosea ministered during the reigns of six kings of Israel, starting in 755 BC. His book was likely completed near the end of this time period, no later than 710 BC.  

 

JOEL 

Book Type: The second book of the Minor Prophets; the twenty-ninth book of the Old Testament; the twenty-ninth book of the Bible.  Author: Joel, specifically named in Joel 1:1.  Audience: Though little is known about the specific context of Joel’s writing, he most likely wrote to Jewish people living throughout Judah during the reign of King Joash. They had witnessed the ungodliness of their leaders and neighbors, the military conquests of northern enemies, as well as God’s judgments through natural means such as locusts. Joel referred to many of these events, using them to call people to repent and return to the Lord and His ways.  Date: Most likely during the reign of King Joash, approximately 835 to 796 BC.  

 

AMOS  

Book Type: The third book of the Minor Prophets; the thirtieth book of the Old Testament; the thirtieth book of the Bible.   Author: Amos, specifically named in the first verse.   Audience: Though Amos was from Judea, he was called to minister to Jews in the northern kingdom of Israel who lived during the reign of Jeroboam II. This king did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kings 14:24) and lived during the same time as the prophet Jonah (2 Kings 14:25). Despite the evil of the time, the Lord saved Israel by the hand of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:27). Those living in this area and time experienced an evil ruler, yet God was still at work in their land. Amos called the people to repentance during this difficult time.   Date: Amos wrote during the reigns of Uzziah and Jeroboam II, with this book written two years before a significant earthquake in the area believed to have occurred approximately 760 BC, indicating a date of around 762 BC.  

 

OBADIAH  

Book Type: The fourth book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-first book of the Old Testament; the thirty-first book of the Bible.   Author: Obadiah, as noted in Obadiah 1:1.   Audience: Obadiah was written concerning the Edomites living in the nation of Edom. These people were descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau and had been in conflict with Israel for centuries. The Lord sent this letter through Obadiah to warn Edom that their prideful sin would soon lead to their destruction. The Edomites lived in what is now known as Petra, a city in a high, rocky mountain range. Though they thought their cities were impenetrable, the Lord accurately predicted they would soon be destroyed.   Date: Uncertain, though most likely between 848 and 840 BC. 

 

JONAH  

Book Type: The fifth book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-second book of the Old Testament; the thirty-second book of the Bible.   Author: Jonah, named directly in the first verse. Jonah is a unique prophet: he goes to great lengths trying to avoid God’s call. Jonah also responds to the repentance of Nineveh with anger, since he would rather have seen them destroyed.   Audience: Jonah was written both to the Gentile people of Nineveh as well as for the education of the Jewish people. God sent Jonah to preach to the wicked people of Nineveh regarding His upcoming judgment. However, Jonah instead ran from God and experienced his own judgment through being swallowed by a great fish. Jonah prayed and was rescued. He then obeyed the Lord and preached to the people of Nineveh. The people repented and God saved the city from His judgment. Jonah was angry at the Lord’s mercy, yet the Lord reminded him of the importance of the many people in the city who repented. The book also presents repentance by both Jews (Jonah) and Gentiles, revealing God’s compassion on all who repent and turn to Him.   Date: Between approximately 793 and 758 BC.   

 

MICAH 

Book Type: The sixth book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-third book of the Old Testament; the thirty-third book of the Bible.   Author: Micah, noted in Micah 1:1.   Audience: Micah wrote to Jewish people in Judea during the reigns of three kings: Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. The prosperity that existed under Judah’s previous kings was declining, with idol worship on the rise. Many Samaritans had migrated to Judah following the destruction of Samaria, bringing their system of false worship with them. Micah warned against worship of other gods, predicting distant Babylon would one day defeat Judah as part of God’s judgment.   Date: Between approximately 735 and 700 BC.  

 

NAHUM  

Book Type: The seventh book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-fourth book of the Old Testament; the thirty-fourth book of the Bible.   Author: Nahum, as noted in Nahum 1:1.   Audience: Unlike most of the Minor Prophets, who wrote to people living in Judah and Israel, Nahum was written to the Gentiles of Nineveh. This is the same people to whom God sent the prophet Jonah. This message comes approximately a century after Jonah’s message, with a much different situation for the people of the city. Their repentance did not last long, as they are now condemned for their sinful ways.   Date: Between approximately 663 and 612 BC.  

 

HABAKKUK  

Book Type: The eighth book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-fifth book of the Old Testament; the thirty-fifth book of the Bible.   Author: Habakkuk, as noted in Habakkuk 1:1.   Audience: Habakkuk wrote for the Jews living in Judah prior to the Jewish exile to Babylon. Justice seems to have been forgotten in the land, as Assyrian and Babylonian powers continue to grow in strength and conquer kingdoms, threatening God’s people. Habakkuk shared his concerns, likely representative of other godly people in his time, and offered prayers for God’s mercy upon their people.   Date: Between approximately 610 and 605 BC.  

 

ZEPHANIAH  

Book Type: The ninth book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-sixth book of the Old Testament; the thirty-sixth book of the Bible.  Author: Zephaniah, named in Zephaniah 1:1.   Audience: Zephaniah wrote for Jews living in Judah, during the reign of the godly king Josiah. Because of Josiah’s influence, Zephaniah’s message fell upon ears open to the message of the Lord. This occurred during a brief period of revival prior to Judah’s apostasy and Jerusalem’s fall. Zephaniah would declare to the people that the day of the Lord was near. In this context, this meant the coming judgment through Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom of Babylon. Even so, the impending struggles of Israel would be overcome later, by the future salvation of the Lord for His people.   Date: Between approximately 635 and 625 BC. 

 

HAGGAI  

Book Type: The tenth book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-seventh book of the Old Testament; the thirty-seventh book of the Bible.   Author: Haggai, as noted in Haggai 1:1.   Audience: Haggai wrote for Jews who were rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, following the exile. His message was largely positive, encouraging his hearers to not be concerned that the temple was not as decorative as the original temple under Solomon. Haggai 2:3 indicates the author may have seen the temple prior to its destruction, meaning Haggai may have been over seventy years old. This would have encouraged both the older and younger generation to live faithfully to the Lord despite their humble circumstances.   Date: Unlike many Old Testament books, each of Haggai’s four prophecies is noted by specific dates (Haggai 1:1; 2:1, 10, 20) over a four-month period in approximately 520 BC. 

 

ZECHARIAH  

Book Type: The eleventh book of the Minor Prophets; the thirty-eighth book of the Old Testament; the thirty-eighth book of the Bible.  Author: Zechariah, as noted in Zechariah 1:1.   Audience: Zechariah was a priest and prophet born during the exile in Babylon. He later came to Jerusalem under the first return with Zerubbabel and Joshua. Zechariah, like Haggai, encouraged the people to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Ezra 6:14–15 notes this project soon began and was completed four years later.   Date: Zechariah consists of two major segments taking place between approximately 520 and 470 BC. 

 

MALACHI 

Book Type: Prophecy; 39th book of the Old Testament.  Author: Malachi, literally Mal’akiy, meaning “My Messenger.” Malachi 1:1 is the only place in all of Scripture where this name appears. Therefore, this might be a title, rather than the name of a specific person.  Audience: The nation of Israel. Unlike most other Old Testament prophets, Malachi does not include any particular warning to nations other than Israel.  Date: Somewhere between 500 and 400 BC. Most likely just before the return of Ezra (460 BC), or possibly around the beginning of Nehemiah’s second term as governor (435 BC).  

 

 

IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

 

MATTHEW 

Book Type: The first book of the four gospels; the first book of the New Testament; the fortieth book of the Bible.  Author: The disciple Matthew, based on both internal evidence and traditions. The Gospel of Matthew mentions coins and accounting more often than the other Gospels (Matthew 17:24; 17:27; 18:24), and constantly refers to Matthew as “Matthew the tax collector,” which was not a badge of honor in that time. Early church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Origen, and Polycarp credited this book to Matthew.  Audience: Though Matthew’s Gospel was written for all people, its focus is highly Jewish. It opens with a genealogy specific to Abraham and David as Jewish leaders, identifying Jesus as descended from the tribe of Judah. He also quotes from the Old Testament more than sixty times, emphasizing Jesus as the Messiah who fulfilled the Jewish prophesies.   Date: Many dates have been suggested for Matthew. However, the most likely date falls after the writing of Mark (early- to mid-AD 60s) yet prior to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. That catastrophe is spoken of as a future event in Matthew, making the most likely time period approximately AD 62—69.  

MARK 

Book Type: The second book of the four gospels; the second book of the New Testament; the forty-first book of the Bible.  Author: Mark has unanimously been noted as the author since its earliest quotations in the second century. However, his name is not specifically mentioned in the book.  John Mark was the son of Mary and lived in Jerusalem during the time the church began (Acts 12:12). He was a cousin of Barnabas and traveled with Paul on Paul’s first missionary journey. Mark left the trip early to return to Jerusalem, so Paul refused to take Mark on his second trip. Barnabas and Mark then ministered in Cyprus (Acts 15:38–40). Paul and Mark reconciled prior to Paul’s first Roman imprisonment (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24) and Mark’s presence was requested at the end of Paul’s life (2 Timothy 4:11). He served both Peter and Paul and was known as the founder of multiple churches in North Africa, particularly Alexandria until his death in AD 68.  Audience: The specific audience of Mark is not mentioned in the book itself. However, both external and internal evidence helps to provide information in this area. Externally, the earliest traditions associate Mark as being written based on the teachings of Peter while in Rome. This would indicate the audience included people in Rome interested in knowing more about the teachings of Jesus.  Since there is little emphasis on Jewish traditions and less citations of Old Testament passages, it is also likely the book was primarily written for a Gentile (non-Jewish) audience in Rome. Further, many Aramaic expressions are translated, and some Latin terms are included. The book also provides several teachings in the forms of sayings or short stories with abrupt transitions from one section to the next. This further supports the view that the Gospel of Mark is most based on Peter’s teachings to Mark.  The audience of Mark would quickly grow beyond Rome, however, as church history indicates Mark took his Gospel to North Africa. His work also likely influenced the other Gospels, especially Matthew and Luke, that both appear to use Mark’s writing as part of their own sources for their Gospels.  Date: Mark was most likely written in the early AD 60s when both Peter and Mark were ministering in the city of Rome. It was written no later than Mark’s death in AD 68. Some suggest an even earlier date in the AD 40s or 50s. In any case, Mark is most likely the earliest of the four Gospels.  

LUKE  

Book Type: The third book of the four gospels; the third book of the New Testament; the forty-second book of the Bible.  Author: Luke’s methods are noted in Luke 1:1¬–4, but his name is not explicitly used as the author of the book. However, the New Testament figure of Luke is mentioned in Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 1:24. Early church traditions universally credit both this Gospel and the book of Acts to Luke.  The biblical Luke is described as a Gentile, as well as a doctor. These traits seem to influence the writing of the Gospel of Luke, which prominently features healings, the plight of women and children, a scholarly style, and a consistently non-Jewish perspective on places and events.  Audience: Luke is most likely the only Gentile (non-Jewish) author of New Testament writing, emphasizing God’s plan for all people. He wrote to Theophilus (Luke 1:1¬–4), likely an early Christian who supported Luke’s written work. As a Gentile as well as a doctor prior to becoming a Christian missionary, Luke’s writing is very detailed, based on many eyewitness accounts, with a particular emphasis on healings and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Date: Many dates have been suggested for Luke. Luke is part of a two-part work with the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–5), which ends with Paul in Rome in approximately AD 62. This suggests it was completed anytime after that. Likewise, since it makes no mention of Paul’s death in the mid-AD 60s, it was complete before that time. A date between AD 60—65 is most likely. 

 

JOHN

Book Type: The fourth book of the four gospels; the fourth book of the New Testament; the forty-third book of the Bible.  Author: As with the other Gospels, this book does not specifically name its author. However, internal evidence and early church tradition attribute it to the disciple John, also the author of the book of Revelation and the letters 1, 2, and 3 John. Among the advocates of this view was the early church father Polycarp, who actually knew John personally.  Audience: The Gospel of John was written after the other three, and was one of the last books of the Bible to be written. It seems to be written to those who are already familiar with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Rather than cover the exact same material, John adds additional details.  In particular, John is focused on proving that Jesus Christ is, in fact, God, and that people ought to believe in Him (John 20:31).  Date: Most likely, the Gospel of John was written between AD 85 and 90. Early church fathers always referred to it as “the fourth Gospel,” and it is clearly written by someone who already knows the details given in the other three. Tradition also holds that John wrote this book around the same time as the book of Revelation, when he was already a very old man.

 

ACTS

Book Type: A book of history, sometimes grouped with the Gospels, sometimes treated as a unique work; the fifth book of the New Testament; the forty-fourth book of the Bible.  Author: The book of Acts is the second of a two-part work, both traditionally attributed to Luke. The introduction to Luke (Luke 1:1–4) also explains the purpose of the book of Acts: to create an orderly record. Luke travelled with Paul (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24), and the writer of Acts uses the terms “we” or “us” in several instances (Acts 16:10–17; 20:5; 27:1). This further supports the view that Luke was indeed the author.  Audience: Luke is most likely the only Gentile (non-Jewish) author of New Testament writing, emphasizing God’s plan for all people. He also wrote the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:1–4) as the first segment of a two-part work. In Acts, Luke picks up where his Gospel ends, starting with the ascension of Jesus and continuing to the end of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment in approximately AD 62.  Date: Many dates have been suggested for Acts. The Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are two parts of a single overall narrative. Acts ends with Paul in Rome in approximately AD 62, but does not mention Paul’s death in the mid-AD 60s. Therefore, a date between AD 62 and 65 is likely.

 

ROMANS

Book Type: The first Pauline Epistle; the sixth book of the New Testament; the forty-fifth book of the Bible.  Author: Paul, specifically named in Romans 1:1.  Audience: Paul wrote to Christians living in Rome who were primarily Gentiles. They met in house churches, practicing their faith as a minority in a pagan culture of many deities as well as the cult of emperor worship. These believers were likely well educated, in comparison with some of Paul’s other letter recipients. The contents of Romans, especially chapters 1—11, feature some of the most complex writing Paul provides in the New Testament.  Date: Romans was written in approximately AD 56—58, most likely at the end of Paul’s third missionary journey in AD 56. 

 

1st CORINTHIANS

Book Type: The New Testament’s second Pauline Epistle; the seventh book of the New Testament; the forty-sixth book of the Bible.  Author: Paul, along with Sosthenes, as noted in 1 Corinthians 1:1. Sosthenes was most likely acting as Paul’s secretary (also called an amanuensis), writing down Paul’s words. This may also be the same person mentioned in Acts 18:17.  Audience: Paul wrote to Gentile Christians living in Corinth. This letter was sent a few years after he personally founded the church in that city. These believers were condemned for pride, sexual immorality, misuse of spiritual gifts, and misunderstanding various Christian beliefs such as the Lord’s Supper.  Date: AD 55, perhaps in the first half of the year while Paul was still in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8–9). 

 

2nd CORINTHIANS

Book Type: The New Testament’s third Pauline Epistle; the eighth book of the New Testament; the forty-seventh book of the Bible.  Author: Paul, along with Timothy, as noted in 2 Corinthians 1:1. Timothy may have been serving as Paul’s amanuensis, writing down words in a manner similar to that of a secretary.  Audience: Paul wrote to Gentile Christians living in Corinth, sending this letter a few years after personally founding the church in that city. Paul had also written at least one other known previous letter to this church: the epistle of 1 Corinthians. It is also possible that Paul wrote at least one other letter to this church, which is no longer in existence (1 Corinthians 5:9). These believers had responded positively to Paul’s previous writing, yet appeared to continue to have some problems, particularly in the area of false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13).  Date: AD 55—56, within a year of the completion of 1 Corinthians.  

 

GALATIANS 

Book Type: The New Testament’s fourth Pauline Epistle; the ninth book of the New Testament; the forty-eighth book of the Bible.  Author: Paul, directly stated in Galatians 1:1.  Audience: Paul wrote to the churches in southern Galatia, which consisted of both Jewish and Gentile believers. He wrote strong words to defend against the rise of false teaching in these congregations. In particular, this was regarding those who insisted Christians must keep the Mosaic Law. This included circumcision, with people dividing over whether to fellowship with believers who were not circumcised. Paul countered this false teaching with a focus on salvation by faith apart from works.  Date: Approximately AD 49; Galatians is perhaps the first of Paul’s New Testament epistles to be written.  

 

EPHESIANS 

Book Type: Pauline Epistle. One of four Prison Epistles, along with Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. One of the apostle Paul’s 13 books, 10th book of the New Testament.  Author: Paul is named as the author in Ephesians 1:1.  Audience: Ephesians is written to a group of believers whom Paul served alongside Aquila and Priscilla. This was during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18–19). During his third missionary journey he ministered in this city for about at least two years, with the gospel spreading throughout the area (Acts 19:10). After Paul, Timothy led the church in Ephesus for a period of time (1 Timothy 1:3). The apostle John also served in this city. The letter was likely intended not only for the Ephesian Christians, but to be read at multiple churches in the area. For example, some early manuscripts do not include “at Ephesus” in 1:1. In addition, this letter does not deal with particular controversy related to a particular church like many of Paul’s other letters. There is also a lack of references to personal friends, something Paul often included in other letters. This letter likely first came to Ephesus with Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21–22) and may be the same letter referred to in Colossians 4:16.  Date: Approximately AD 60–62, during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. 

 

PHILIPPIANS 

Book Type: Pauline Epistles, also one of four Prison Epistles, 11th book of the New Testament.  Author: Paul and Timothy are named as the authors in Philippians 1:1. Paul is traditionally considered the primary author.  Audience: Philippians is written to a group of believers with whom Paul founded a church, during his second missionary journey in approximately AD 49 (Acts 16). Philippi was a Roman colony, with believers consisting primarily of Gentiles.  This group had donated support to Paul, financially and otherwise, at least three times prior to this letter (Philippians 4:16). They had also delivered another gift through Epaphroditus. This letter, written about 12 years after the founding of the Philippian church, is largely a thank you letter to the Philippians, and as a result is mostly positive. However, because Paul wrote this letter during a time of house arrest in Rome, it includes the major theme of rejoicing during suffering.  Paul personally identified with those who suffer. He had sympathy for the suffering of Philippian believers, and gives much encouragement to help them during times of hardship. Paul also speaks against those who preached out of personal ambition (Philippians 2:3–4; Philippians 1:15–18) and various false teachers (Philippians 3).  Date: Approximately AD 60–62, during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. 

 

COLOSSIANS 

Book Type: Pauline Epistle, also one of Paul’s Prison Epistles, 12th book of the New Testament.  Author: The apostle Paul and Timothy (directly named in Colossians 1:1)  Audience: Colossians is one of four Prison Epistles written by the apostle Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. This was a period of house arrest around AD 60–62. During this time, Paul also wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. The city of Colossae was about 100 miles east of Ephesus in modern-day Turkey. Christianity may have reached this city during Paul’s mission work in Ephesus (Acts 19:10). However, Epaphras was the person noted for the major growth of the church in the city. Paul knew some of the Christians in the area (Colossians 2:1), but it was his connection with Epaphras that let him know the condition of the church (Philemon 1:23).  Multiple themes are packed in the short letter of Colossians.  False teachings such as Jewish legalism, blending of religions, Greek philosophy, and mysticism are decried by Paul. He mentions food, special days (Colossians 2:16), those who worshiped angels (Colossians 2:18), and ascetic practices.  Paul speaks against such false teachings in this letter, affirming that Christ alone is sufficient as the basis for the believer’s faith and life.  Date: Approximately AD 60–62, during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment (Colossians 4:18).  

 

1st THESSALONIANS 

Book Type: The New Testament’s eighth Pauline Epistle; the thirteenth book of the New Testament; the fifty-second book of the Bible.  Author: Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy, named directly in 1 Thessalonians 1:1.  Audience: Paul wrote to the church he founded in the city of Thessalonica during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1–9). Though he lived among these people only a short time, he shows great love for these Gentile believers in this, his first of two letters to them. The Thessalonians likely faced severe persecution, and had sent many questions to Paul, which he addresses throughout the letter.  Date: Approximately AD 51.  

 

2nd THESSALONIANS 

Book Type: The New Testament’s ninth Pauline Epistle; the fourteenth book of the New Testament; the fifty-third book of the Bible.  Author: Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy, as noted in 2 Thessalonians 1:1.  Audience: Paul wrote this second letter to the church he founded in the city of Thessalonica during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1–9). Though he lived among these people only a short time, he had already written one letter to them and follows up with a second letter to clear up concerns regarding the day of the Lord as well as dealing with Christian persecution.  Date: Approximately AD 51—52.  

 

1st TIMOTHY 

Book Type: Pastoral Epistle, 15th book of the New Testament.  Author: The apostle Paul, as directly named in 1 Timothy 1:1.  Audience: First Timothy was one of only four letters in the New Testament written by Paul to individuals. The others are 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Timothy was the only person to receive two individual letters from Paul in the New Testament. Timothy was from Lystra, in modern-day Turkey, the son of a Greek father and Jewish mother. Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were also believers (2 Timothy 1:5). They had raised him to know the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:15). He was converted to Christianity by Paul (1 Timothy 1:2). In Acts 16:1–5, we learn that believers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. Paul wanted to take him on his missionary journey, but Timothy was not circumcised. Paul circumcised him and they traveled together on Paul’s second missionary journey.  Timothy would be with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. When 1 Timothy was written, however, Timothy was in Ephesus, serving as a leader among the various house churches that existed then. His work included evangelism, teaching, reading Scripture, appointing elders and deacons, and standing against false teachings. Paul wrote to him, likely from Macedonia, to encourage his faithful service to Christ. Timothy served some time in jail for his faith, and was later released (Hebrews 13:23).  Date: Approximately AD 63—66, prior to Paul’s second Roman imprisonment, mentioned in 2 Timothy. 

 

2nd TIMOTHY 

Book Type: Pastoral Epistle, 16th book of the New Testament.  Author: The apostle Paul, directly named in 2 Timothy 1:1.  Audience: Second Timothy is one of only four letters in the New Testament written by Paul to specific individuals. The others are 1 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Timothy is the only individual to receive two individual letters from Paul in the New Testament. Second Timothy is traditionally accepted as Paul’s final New Testament letter, since it refers to his impending death.  Timothy was from Lystra, in modern-day Turkey. He had a Greek father and Jewish mother. Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were also believers (2 Timothy 1:5), and had raised him to know the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:15). He was converted to Christianity by Paul (1 Timothy 1:2). In Acts 16:1–5, we learn that the believers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. Paul wanted to take Timothy along on his missionary journey, but Timothy was not circumcised. In order to smooth over his participation in these travels, Paul circumcised him, and they traveled together.  Timothy is also mentioned as being with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment (Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1:1, 22–25). In 1 Timothy, Paul wrote to Timothy in Ephesus, where he had left him to serve as leader among the house churches which existed by the mid-AD 60s. In 2 Timothy, Paul wanted Timothy to come to him, meaning leaving Ephesus and coming to Paul in Rome. It is unknown whether Timothy ever made this visit. However, Timothy also served at least some time in jail for his faith and was later released, though the timing of this event is uncertain (Hebrews 13:23).  Date: Approximately AD 65—67, just prior to Paul’s death under the Roman emperor Nero. This letter was written sometime after Christians were blamed for the fires at Rome in the summer of AD 64. This was shortly before Nero’s death in the spring of AD 68. 

 

TITUS 

Book Type: Pastoral Epistle, 17th book of the New Testament.  Author: The apostle Paul (Titus 1:1).  Audience: Titus, a church leader on the island of Crete. Titus was a prominent figure in the early church. He traveled with Paul from Antioch to Jerusalem for the Jerusalem Council (see Acts 15 and Galatians 2). Titus worked with Paul in Ephesus during his third missionary journey and may have delivered a letter to the Corinthian church from Paul (2 Corinthians 2:12–13). He also delivered 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:23) and was responsible for making arrangements for a financial offering for Paul in Corinth (2 Corinthians 8:6, 16–17).  Date: Approximately AD 64, after Paul’s house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30–31) and before his second Roman imprisonment, as discussed in 2 Timothy.

 

PHILEMON 

Book Type: Prison Epistle, 18th book of the New Testament.  Author: The apostle Paul and Timothy (directly named in Philemon 1:1). Paul is considered the main author.  Audience: Written to Philemon, an affluent Christian in the city of Colossae, located in modern-day southwestern Turkey. This man was a member of the Colossian church that met in his own home. Mentioned in the book’s second verse, Apphia was likely Philemon’s wife, while Archippus was his son (he is also mentioned in Colossian 4:17). Both are described in ways which suggest all three family members had become believers.  Philemon was wealthy enough to own a home large enough for church meetings, as well as at least one slave named Onesimus. This slave is the main concern in the letter. He and the church members in Colossae knew Luke (writer of Luke and Acts, see Colossians 4:14), as well as Epaphras, who was apparently from Colossae (Colossians 4:12). The church also had close connections with churches in Laodicea and a church led by Nympha (Colossians 4:15–16). They also appear to have known, at least by name, Aristarchus, Mark, Barnabas, and Jesus called Justus (Colossians 4:10), as well as Timothy (Philemon 1:1).  Date: Approximately AD 60—62, during Paul’s house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30–31). Based on information from Colossians and Philemon 1:22, this letter was probably written near the end of this arrest, closer to AD 62. 

 

HEBREWS 

Book Type: Sometimes labeled as a General Epistle, alternatively treated as a separate letter; the nineteenth book of the New Testament; the fifty-eighth book of the Bible.  Author: The author of this book is unknown. Suggested authors have included Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Silas, Apollos, and others. The most common opinion is that the letter was written by Paul.  Audience: Much is unknown about the audience of Hebrews. Though it is addressed to both Jewish and Gentile Christians (since it mentions the Gentile Christian leader Timothy), much of the book emphasizes Christianity in relationship to Jewish teachings. The theme of persecution is strong, and the temple sacrificial system appears to still be in practice, indicating a time before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. A likely audience was Jewish converts to Christianity, in Rome, during Nero’s persecution of Christians between AD 64 and 68. The most likely date is around AD 67 when some of the persecution had passed and Timothy had been released from prison.  Date: Likely between AD 64—68 during Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome, and during the lifetime of Timothy. Most likely around AD 67, after Timothy had been released from prison. 

 

JAMES

Book Type: One of the New Testament’s General Epistles; the twentieth book of the New Testament; the fifty-ninth book of the Bible.  Author: James, the half-brother of Jesus, as identified in James 1:1. James was known as a pillar of the faith (Galatians 2:9). James was the also the brother of Jude, the author of the book of Jude (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). The speech given by James in Acts 15 is similar to the points made in this letter. Additional church traditions credit this book to the half-brother of Jesus Christ. Tradition says James died in AD 62 as a martyr for the faith.  Audience: As a General Epistle, James was written “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (James 1:1). The context indicates the audience was Jewish Christians throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. These believers would be encouraged by a letter from the leader of the Jerusalem church and half-brother of Jesus Christ. These believers faced various trials (James 1:2) and needed encouragement to live out the full expression of the gospel (James 1:22).  Date: The book of James would have been written prior to his death in AD 62. This letter makes no mention of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) which occurred around AD 49. As a result, many believe James was written between AD 44 and 49. However, any time between the AD 40s and AD 62 is possible. This opens the possibility for James to be the earliest-written book of the New Testament. 

 

1st PETER 

Book Type: One of the New Testament’s General Epistles; the twenty-first book of the New Testament; the sixtieth book of the Bible.  Author: Simon Peter, known as a leader among the twelve apostles. Though he denied Jesus three times the night He was betrayed, Jesus restored Peter to leadership. Peter was the main speaker at Pentecost (Acts 2), suffered for his faith, and fled Jerusalem after a miraculous escape from Herod around AD 42 (Acts 12). Little is known of his ministry after this time, though he was at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and in Antioch with Paul near this time (Galatians 2:11–14). Peter likely ministered among the areas mentioned in the first verse. Tradition notes that Peter died as a martyr under Nero in Rome around AD 65.   Audience: General Epistles are also known as “catholic epistles,” meaning they are written to a general audience, rather than to a specific person or church. Peter was written to “those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). These probably included both Gentile and Jewish believers, though Peter’s ministry focused primarily on Jews. Peter had probably traveled to at least some of these locations and was now writing to encourage and instruct the believers there who faced various challenges and persecutions.  Date: Tradition teaches that Peter ministered in Rome during the AD 60s. In addition, the theme of suffering is strong, indicating the letter may have been written from Rome under Nero’s persecution in AD 64 or 65. Since Peter died during this persecution around AD 65, the letter was written by this time.  

 

2nd PETER 

Book Type: One of the New Testament’s General Epistles; the twenty-second book of the New Testament; the sixty-first book of the Bible.  Author: Simon Peter, one of the leaders among the twelve apostles. Peter was the main speaker at Pentecost (Acts 2), and fled Jerusalem after a miraculous escape from Herod around AD 42 (Acts 12). Little is known of his ministry after this time. Peter was at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and in Antioch around the same time as Paul (Galatians 2:11–14). Tradition notes that Peter died as a martyr under Nero in Rome around AD 65.  Authorship of this letter was somewhat controversial in early church history. The weight of evidence strongly supports the letter of 2 Peter being written by the same author as 1 Peter (1 Peter 1:1; 2 Peter 3:1), but subtle differences in style between the two have led to doubts. The consensus view is that this is Peter’s letter.  Audience: General Epistles are also known as “catholic epistles,” meaning they are written to a general audience, rather than to a specific person or church. Second Peter is most likely written to the same audience as that of 1 Peter (2 Peter 3:1). This included Gentile and Jewish believers, even though Peter’s ministry was focused primarily on Jews.  Date: Tradition teaches that Peter ministered in Rome during the AD 60s. Since Peter likely died during Nero’s persecution around AD 65, the letter was written prior to this time.   

 

1st JOHN

Book Type: General letter, also called a “catholic epistle,” meaning a general letter. One of the apostle John’s five books. 23rd book of the New Testament.  Author: The apostle John is the traditional author of this book, though the text does not specifically name the author. The author notes an eyewitness relationship with Jesus (1 John 1:1–4). External evidence is found in many early sources. This includes Irenaeus (AD 140–203), Clement of Alexandria (AD 150–215), Tertullian (AD 155–222), and Origen (AD 185–253).  Audience: First John is one of five New Testament books written by the apostle John. The others are the Gospel of John, 2 John, 3 John, and the book of Revelation. This is the first of his three letters in the New Testament. Its recipients were clearly believers, but no specific audience is mentioned. Since John traditionally ministered among churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) in his later years, this letter was most likely written to one or more of these congregations.  This letter’s audience was clearly dealing with problems related to false teachers. John warns against them throughout this entire writing. John also develops themes of fellowship, Christ-like love, forgiveness of sins, and assurance of salvation. It has been suggested that John’s audience was already well aware of the basics of the gospel message, since these are not included in this letter. Instead, John focuses on specific needs related to the congregation.  There are many connections between 1 John and the Gospel of John, which are mentioned in verse commentary.   Date: Unknown. Most likely written around the same time as the Gospel of John and the letters 2 and 3 John; between AD 80–95. 

 

2nd JOHN

Book Type: General Letter, also called a “catholic epistle,” meaning a general letter. One of the apostle John’s five books, 24th book of the New Testament.  Author: The apostle John is the traditional author of this book, though the text does not specifically name him, except for calling him “the elder” (2 John 1:1).  Audience: Second John is one of five New Testament books written by the apostle John. The others are the Gospel of John, 1 John, 3 John, and Revelation. This letter is phrased as if addressed to a woman (2 John 1:1), though the content seems to be addressed to an entire church. The letter uses the terms “lady” and “children,” so this may be addressed to a literal woman and her family. More likely, based on the full context of the letter, John is writing to a church. This may be a church meeting in a particular woman’s home, a local church, or the church in general. The reference to the woman and her children is probably the church and those impacted by it, likely other local churches.  Several themes are included in this short letter. John urges his readers to watch out for deceivers who taught that Jesus rose spiritually but not physically. Christians were to have nothing to do with such false teachers. John also focuses on the themes of truth, mentioned five times, and love, mentioned four times.  Date: Unknown, though it was likely written around the same time as John’s Gospel and the letters 1 and 3 John, AD 80–95. 

 

3rd JOHN

Book Type: General letter, also called a Catholic Epistle (meaning the same thing). One of the apostle John’s five books, and the 25th book of the New Testament.  Author: The apostle John is the traditional author of this book. The letter does not specifically identify its author, other than calling him “the elder” (3 John 1:1).  Audience: Third John was one of five New Testament books written by the apostle John, along with the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, and Revelation. This is the last of his three letters in the New Testament. It was written to a man called “the beloved Gaius,” an unknown believer who was an early church leader (3 John 1:1).  Several themes are included in this brief letter. John encourages Gaius in his hospitality towards teachers traveling to share the gospel. In addition, he speaks against Diotrephes, a prideful leader of one of the churches in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Third, John speaks positively of Demetrius and his good testimony.  Date: Unknown, though probably written around the same time as John’s Gospel and the letters 1 John and 2 John. Likely composed between AD 80 and AD 95. 

 

JUDE

Book Type: General letter, sometimes referred to using the term catholic epistle. The last of the epistles in the New Testament. The twenty-sixth book of the New Testament, and the sixty-fifth book of the Bible.  Author: Jude, the brother of James. Most likely, this is the half-brother of Jesus (Jude 1:1; Matthew 13:55).  Audience: Jude is written to a general audience, rather than to a specific congregation or person. According to the text itself, concern over apostasy changed the writer’s intent. Rather than writing about common salvation, he felt led to warn fellow believers about false teachers and ungodly doctrines. The reliance on references to Old Testament ideas suggests that Jude wrote to Jewish Christians, or to well-informed Gentile believers.  Date: Somewhere between AD 67 and 80. Jude and 2 Peter share common themes, so scholars are split on which came earlier, and whether or not one drew inspiration from the other. Peter refers to widespread apostasy as something which “would” happen, while Jude describes it as something which “is” happening. For that reason, most believe it was written later.  

 

REVELATION 

Book Type: The New Testament’s only book of prophecy; the twenty-seventh book of the New Testament; the sixty-sixth book of the Bible.  Author: The apostle John, mentioned in verse 1.  Audience: Revelation was written for all believers (Revelation 1:3), but especially for the believers in the seven churches addressed in chapters 2—3. These churches were all located in modern Turkey, consisting largely of Gentile believers, meeting in house churches, who faced much persecution. Each church was given specific information in addition to the overall vision shared to all believers.  Date: John was on the island of Patmos, off the coast of modern Turkey, during the last part of the first century as punishment for his Christian faith. This book contains the final words of the New Testament, written in approximately AD 95—96. Some argue for an earlier date in the 60s, though John would not have been on Patmos at this time.  

 

 

 

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