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I am trying to find out how to navigate the bible as a big book, and so I was wondering how the content of the book is organized?

  • Only parts have titles, while chapters and sections don't. If all of them are titled, by looking at the table of content would help me grasp the gist of the big book. Has anyone tried to name the chapters and sections, or write synopsis for them? I'd be interested to read such high level summaries.

  • Is it correct that most of the book are stories, and principles are only a small part (in parts such as Psalms, and Proverbs)? Does it rely on readers to figure principles out from the stories?

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    The best way to navigate the bible is to read it oneself. I started at Genesis and at Matthew (over fifty years ago) and just kept plodding on until I began to find my way. Paul says to Timothy 'give thyself to reading'. Which I have found to be good advice. Up-voted +1 as I don't think you deserved the down-vote. The Bible is a collection of authors who devoted their lives to God and who wrote down what they had discovered, historically or personally or by instruction or by vision. Every word is precious. Therefore, read every word. To him that hath, shall be given. He that hath not, not so.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 22, 2023 at 11:30
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    many people have written summaries about various sections of the bible. Have you tried searching for any of them (here is one)?
    – depperm
    Sep 22, 2023 at 14:02

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The highest level summary is this - The Old Testament shows us what we lost, and how lost we are, and that we need a savior. Strength, wealth, height, wisdom, cunning, military prowess, even devotion to God - none of these will save us. The New Testament shows us that Christ is the answer, he alone is worthy of all praise and glory and honor. It tells us of how He being God became a man, lived a sinless life, followed the Law perfectly, died -covering our sin with His blood for all eternity, and rose again to prove to us that the salvation He gives is real and complete, and then He gives instructions on how we are to live and share Him with the rest of the lost world.

There are topical guides that will outline which passages address the topics.

There are Concordances that have been crafted for many of the translations that for its paired translation will give you every occurrence of "non-trivial" words ("trivial words meaning here things like "a", "and", "the" - which would be too numerous to count and don't provide value as a "word study" nor help you find things on specific topics).

Just a Short outline: Genesis - the book of the beginning. The first few chapters are about the creation of the world and of everything in it, and then the fall of man. Then up to chapter 10 is intermixed lineage and the ways of man post fall and how rapidly we descended away from the things of God, and God's wrath and salvation played out with the flood and salvation of Noah's family.

Then the cycle repeats. Just a short time after the flood civilization rebelled against God, and he deals with them through the Tower of Babel and the scattering of the people. Then he selects a man from among all of them to grant a special blessing: Abram. So there is a lineage connecting Noah to Abram, and in chapter 12 Abram is selected. From 12 through the end of Genesis it follows Abram (who becomes Abraham) and his descendants until they enter Egypt as highly welcomed guests. Exodus starts with a new king of Egypt who forgot how Joseph (great grandson of Abraham) saved Egypt and the "known" world from a severe famine. And how this new king imprisoned and oppressed Abraham's grandson's descendants (Jacob is the grandson also named Israel, hence the people called Israelites). The rest of Exodus is the story of how God worked with Moses to free the Israelites and to make them a nation independent of other nations and dependent only on God. Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy deal with the giving of the law and the successes and failures of the people to obey their God and savior, and even of the failure of the leadership to stay united under God with each other. Here there many great lessons on delegation, leadership, trust, and obedience. And the Law - the written perfect will of God for His Chosen people, the nation of Israel, and the evidence that we are incapable of fulfilling the law abounds throughout, and beyond.

The rest of the Old Testament consists of prophesies, examples of faithfulness (of God to man, and some examples of man to God), praise and worship (Job and Psalms - and through out the whole of scripture), and histories.

Joshua, Judges show the faithfulness and fiathlessness of God's people, their inadequacy, and establish solid historical connections to physical places and people groups verified by archeology.

Ruth shows us that even those we deem out side of God's will can be faithful to God, so we must show grace to all. And it shows us an example of God's love for us in Boaz redeeming Ruth.

1 & 2 Samuel shows that even the priests failed before God and shows the dangers of witchcraft, pride, failing to stay in the will of God for our lives and roles, and further links the Bible to history through the various wars and conquests and the establishment of a mortal king over Israel.

1&2 Kings continues the historical anchor as well as many examples of the valor of those who trusted in God, and the deceit of those who did not, and the failure of all, to include the "man after God's own heart".

1&2 Chronicles tell much of the same from a different perspective and books of of the kings and the priests chronicles tell up to the point of Israel and Judah's captivity.

Both show how David (Man after God's own heart) and Solomon (wisest mortal to ever have lived) each failed when relying on their own understanding and power.

Ezra, Nehemiah, Ester each show the faithfulness of God even though we have failed Him numerous times, and show the re-establishment of Jerusalem - beginning to set the stage for Christ's first coming.

Proverbs is the book of wisdom written mostly by Solomon and is a good thing to read a portion of it everyday (31 chapters - read through it each month. You'll find something new every time).

Ecclesiastes is an excellent outline of how everything in life is worthless and meaningless without God.

Song of Solomon is a display of righteous and holy passion, and an example of how a husband and wife should love one another. (Again something new every time you read it).

Isaiah through the end of the Old Testament are the books of the prophets. Daniel is an easier read. Jeremiah and Ezekiel can be hard to understand - again you'll learn something new each time.

These are where the bulk of the foretelling of Christ are - but the whole of the Old Testament points to Him and our need for Him.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the telling of the life and ministry of Jesus from different perspectives with focus on different aspects of his deity, manhood, and ministry.

Acts tells of the early church - the faithfulness of the saints, and the failure of those who were obedient to Christ. Many, many lessons to be derived. some plainly seen, others revealed as you mature in Christ and the scripture.

Then the letters tell us how to govern ourselves, defend the faith, live for Christ and others, organize the church, settle disputes, deal with hardships. This is less story and more directly applicational.

Revelation follows some of the pattern of the other letters, but also shows us what is to come, and the hardships we must ensure and the ultimate victory we will have in Christ, but only if we are in Him.

I hope this is a sufficient start. May Jesus Christ our Lord bless you abundantly for asking and seeking.

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It is important to realize that the Bible is not an ordinary book that reads smoothly from cover to cover. It is actually a library, or collection, of books written by different authors in several languages over 1,500 years.

Before dealing with your main question (how to navigate the Bible), please be aware that the Old Testament is a factual history of God’s dealings with His chosen people. It starts with the creation and stops before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth and the start of Christianity.

Apart from historical books, the Old Testament contains books of wisdom and poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) followed by the prophetic books. Everything points forward in time to the coming Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God.

The New Testament contains the gospel accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus and then the Acts of the Apostles describes how Christianity explodes onto the world scene. Following that are numerous letters written by the apostles and followers of Christ Jesus to the new Christians on how to conduct themselves and warnings against false prophets who seek to infiltrate the Church and introduce false teachings.

The last book of the New Testament is the revelation of Christ Jesus given to the apostle John. It describes the coming day of the Lord with judgement on the enemies of God and an inspiring vision of the new heaven and earth where there will be no more suffering or death, and God will dwell with His people into eternity.

You’ve already had good answers giving an overview of what the 66 books of the Bible are about, and you can see more in the article What is the Bible about?.

I struggle with books that jump around and go back and forward in time, probably because I take a linear view of time and prefer to deal with events in chronological order. Recently a friend gave me a New Testament with a difference. It is based on the New International Version and is the story of Jesus, his church and the world he came to save. The book is entitled “Love Death & Resurrection” and costs £6 sterling.

Rather than try to read the entire Bible from start to finish, I heartily recommend that you start your study of the Bible with Luke’s gospel then go straight onto the Acts of the Apostles, which is a seamless continuation from where Luke ends. God bless you in your quest for knowledge of God.

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The Bible is not “a big book”, it is a library of books from ages of the people of Israel (old Testament) and of the early Christian church (new Testament).

There is a lot te learn, to understand, to interpret, to enjoy. You could look for Bible-studies online or in your neighbourhood.

It is almost impossible to give a short, complete answer to your question. Just start reading, find some guidance, and embark on a lifetime journey :)

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Bible Survey With the increase of printing today, here is an abundance of books available that are helps and aids to understanding the Bible. Because the Bible is a collection of smaller books that are not in chronological order, it can be a struggle to navigate around the Bible.

Basically the Holy Bible is composed of two major sections: the Old Testament (B.C. or B.C.E.), and the New Testament (A.D. or C.E.). And the books within these sections are arraigned in topical groupings. The Old Testament contains:

  1. The torah (Mosaic Law. and Patriarch history)
  2. History books
  3. Wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes)
  4. Major prophets (large books, like Isaiah and Jeremiah)
  5. Minor prophets (twelve smaller books including Jonah)

The New Testament section contains:

  1. Four Gospels (Biographies of Jesus)
  2. Church history
  3. Epistles of the Apostles
  4. Book of Revelation

When you buy a regular, simple Holy Bible, you will be given just chapter headings to tell what is in each chapter; maybe a few maps in the appendix, and perhaps a small concordance to help look up verses.

However, there are Study Bibles which include a wealth of information for helping to navigate the scriptures:

  1. Introduction to each book
  2. Charts that show the timeline of Biblical history
  3. Maps scattered throughout revealing the land of Israel and the Mideast
  4. Footnotes that give alternate translations or readings
  5. Commentaries on individual verses
  6. Inserts with helpful info on archaeology discoveries, bios, etc.
  7. Pictures of the biblical interest
  8. A concordance of words
  9. Listings of common words, customs, etc.

{Harpers Collins Study Bible, NIV Study Bible, Holy Spirit Study Bible are samples}

Some Study Bibles are geared to a specific audience: Ladies Study Bible, Apologetics Study Bible, American Indian Study Bible, Men's Study Bible, etc. These point out scriptures that would appeal to them, and give commentaries on subjects of interest. These are scattered throughout the Bible.

Along with these there are Handbooks to the Bible that provide a wealth of information concerning each book, background custom material, outlines of each book, and plenty of maps and charts.

{Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, Halley's Bible Handbook are excellent samples}

As well, there are books that give Surveys of the Bible. Sometimes just on on of the major sections, O.T. or N.T.

{Robert Gundry, Survey of the New Testament, Jensen's Survey of the New Testament are examples}

Of immense help are the Atlas of the Bible, and the books of maps which not only give topography, but include "historical maps" showing the wanderings, the battle fields, the major highways, etc. of the history of Israel. The travels of Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles are shown.

An investment in one or two of these informative books would be greatly worthwhile. They would give a basic understanding of the Holy Bible, and make bible study quite enjoyable and spiritually profitble.

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