Bible Overview

Jessica Lowery


This paper is designed to give a young disciple a brief overview of the Bible, in the hopes that a big picture understanding will propel them into better personal Bible studies. This paper is ideal for someone who knows nothing about the story of the Bible. Also, many people are familiar with the New Testament, but not the Old. In that case, the Old Testament section can be studied without the New Testament section. Use the ideas below to set up a seven to nine week cooperative study with the person you are discipling.

Old Testament Overview

Why read the Old Testament

  • It gives full meaning to the life and death of Christ
  • It shows God’s character and plan of reconciliation unfolding
  • Key truths about God and humankind are highlighted
  • Truths are often seen in memorable stories or poetry
  • We learn about God’s past, present, and future plan with Israel
  • The origin stories (creation, fall, etc.) are essential to our understanding of the Christian worldview
  • The New Testament quotes and uses Old Testament truths. To understand the New Testament fully, we need to understand the Old Testament

Differences and Similarities between the Testaments

Old Testament

New Testament

1. Holy Spirit – filling (temporary)

1. Holy Spirit – indwelling (permanent)

2. Emphasis on Law (Duet. 28; Gal. 3:22-25)

2. Emphasis on Grace (Rom. 7:6)

a. Circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14; Duet. 10:16; Jer. 4:4)

a. Circumcision of the heart (Duet. 30:6)

b. Holy Days – Sabbath and festivals (Col. 2:16-17)

b. Every day is holy (Rom. 14:1-5; Gal. 4:1-4)

c. Sacred space – Temple and Tabernacle

c. Indwelt by God (1 Cor. 3:16 ; Eph. 2:20 -22; 1 Pet. 2:4-5)

d. Ritualistic Worship Service (Heb. 8:5; 13)

d. New worship = giving of self ( Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 13:15 -16)

3. God’s Ministers

3. God’s Ministers

a. Priesthood (Heb. 3:1; 4:14 )

a. Jesus is our Priest (Heb. 10; 1 Pet. 2:9)

b. National Election – Israel are God’s “Chosen People”

b. Spiritual Israel = “all who have faith” (Gal. 3; Rom. 4)

c. Political leaders – Theocracy

c. Separation of Church and State ( Rom. 13:1)

d. Centripetal “Fortress” Evangelism (Duet 28; 1 Ki. 4)

d. Centrifugal “go out” Evangelism (Mat. 28:18; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 9:19 -23)


  • God
  • Human Nature/Sin
  • Salvation by Faith

Ideas for your Studies

Week 1 - Beginnings

God creates the world and humans in his image. Humans rebel against God, causing a separation between them and God. God calls Abraham and begins to work with him and his descendants: Isaac (Gen 22), Jacob (Gen. 27-28), and the twelve tribes (Gen. 35:22-29; 49:1-28).

Read: Gen. 1-3; 12:1-3


  • What were people like before the fall? See how many features of unfallen humans you can find in Chapter 2.
  • Why did humans fall? What tempted them?
  • How is God foreshadowing his plan of reconciliation?
  • What role does the chosen nation of Israel play in God’s plan?
Week 2 - Exodus

History: God provides for the Israeli people by bringing them into the land of Goshen , in Egypt . Here they have a place of their own with plenty of food. Later, the Egyptians enslave them, and God raises up Moses to lead them out of slavery. God performs amazing miracles and gives the people his moral law (Ex.19-20).

Read: Gen. 45:4-11; Ex. 13:17-14:31; Deut. 8.


  • How is God providing for his people?
  • What temptations are the people succumbing to?
Week 3 - Conquest

History: The Israelites are afraid to enter God’s Promised Land, and subsequently wander the desert for 40 years. After Moses’ death, Joshua leads the people into the land.

Read: Num. 13-14; Josh. 1-5


  • What lessons about leadership can be learned from Joshua?
  • What lessons can we learn about trusting God?
Week 4 - Judges

History: Israel is a theocracy: run by God and his appointed judges as opposed to human government. Israel goes through many cycles where they rebel, God removes his protection, a neighboring nation invades, they cry out to God, God raises up a judge to restore them, they rebel again, on and on.

Read: Judges 6-8; 13:24-16:31


  • What lessons about faith and prayer can be learned by Gideon?
  • What lessons can be learned by the life of Samson?
Week 5 - Monarchy

History: Israel asks for a king and God grants their request, giving them Saul as their first king. Saul is succeeded by David, a man “after God’s own heart”. David’s son Solomon builds the first Temple .

Read: 1 Sam. 15-16; 2 Sam.7


  • How were Saul and David different?
  • What promises does God make to David and what do they mean?
Week 6 - Exile

History: The Israeli nation is split in two with 10 tribes to the north (Israel), and 2 tribes to the south (Judah). After rejecting God, they are overthrown and exiled into other lands (Israel is conquered by Assyria in 722B.C.E., and Judah by Babylon in 586B.C.E.).

Read: Daniel 1-4:3


  • How did Daniel and his friends interact with their new culture?
  • How was God helping them?
  • What did their choices show those around them?
Week 7 - Rebuilding

History: Ezra, Nehemiah, and others get permission to return home and rebuild their lost city wall and temple.

Read: Neh. 1-5


  • How was Nehemiah’s prayer answered (ch.1-2)?
  • What can we learn about leadership from Nehemiah’s example?
  • What can we learn about overcoming discouragement and opposition?

New Testament

Historical Setting

The Greeks become a superpower under the leadership of Alexander the great. During the Greek era, Greek culture and language became widespread in Palestine . When the Romans came to power they built paved roads, allowed Jewish local leaders, and created a common Roman citizenship. These were the conditions Jesus was born into, allowing news of Him to spread easily. Jewish religious fluctuation created the desire to worship at the central sanctuary of the Temple – causing all devout Jews to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem . Jews of many different countries could take the news about Christ home with them. The paved roads and common Greek language allowed early missionaries like Paul to travel and communicate with relative ease. Jewish synagogues, which had been introduced during the Greek era, were perfect places for missionaries to begin their ministries in when they came to a new city.

Important Definitions in the New Testament

Jewish Religious Groups

Pharisees: This was a group of religious zealots that began in response to the Hellenization that was happening during the Greek era. They had no political power, but were respected. They sought to interpret and follow the Law and traditions of Rabbis carefully.

Rabbi: A rabbi was a Jewish teacher and mentor.

Sadducees: This group was descended from the Maccabean aristocracy and believed that there were no spirits and no resurrection from the dead.

Scribes: Ezra was the first scribe. Scribes were law experts, or lawyers, and often taught children the Law.

Sanhedrin: 70 of the top Jews of the day were given the right to exercise authority in judging certain matters

Jewish Religious Places

Synagogues: Assembly places used by the Jewish people for prayer, scripture reading, and community meetings.

Temple: Found in Jerusalem , this was the main worship center for the Jews

Political Groups

Zealots: Jewish revolutionaries who wanted to throw off the rule of Rome .

Jewish Under lords: “Kings” in Israel , like Herod, were not really kings. They had some power, but were under Roman authority.

Roman prefects: Roman prefects, like Pilate, were like governors of Israel

Praetorians: The Praetorian guard were high-ranking Roman soldiers who guarded the Emperor and watched Paul during his house arrest. They retired early and lived on large inherited plots of land in different countries.

Other Important People Groups

Gentile: A non-Jew.

Samaritans: A people group of mixed Jewish and Gentile ancestry. Hated and rejected by the Jews, they continued to worship God at a new worship site at Mount Gerizim .

Tax-gatherers: Tax-gatherers, like Matthew, were Jews who defected from Judaism and worked for the Romans – collecting taxes from their neighbors with the help of Roman guards.

Apostle: A commissioned messenger and overseer.

Judaisers: Some early Jewish Christians falsely taught that Christians needed to be circumcised and adhere to the Jewish Law.

Gnostics: This complicated heresy began during the early-church era and believed that the physical body was evil, while the spirit was good. Some began beating and depriving their bodies, some began indulging in any physical activity they wanted to.

Books of the New Testament

Types of Books


Gospels – these tell the story of Jesus: His life, death, and commissioning to his followers

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Historical – This tells the story of the early Church and early missionaries


Epistles – These letters were written to early Churches describing spirituality


Apocalyptic – This tells of the future fate of the world, humankind, and Satan