Holy Spirit Interactive
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Inside Holy Spirit Interactive

Direct Bible Discovery

Chapter 15 - Where to Start

Before you study any particular Bible book or any particular Bible topic, you should have a bird's-eye view of the whole Bible.

Bird's-Eye View

The Bible is a large book, equal in length to perhaps two or three volumes of an encyclopedia. Thus, it helps to be able to see the basic overall organization of the Bible. The chart below gives the main divisions of both testaments. (If personal Bible study is complete new to you, you would be wise to take time out and memorize the books of the Bible in their proper order. Also memorize the categories, and which books make up each category.)

Bible Books by Categories

according to their arrangement in the English Bible, with number of chapters

Old Testament
Genesis (50) (these are also historical) Pentateuch (Law, or Five Books of Moses)
Exodus (40)
Leviticus (27)
Numbers (36)
Deuteronomy (34)
Joshua (24) History
(16 Books)
* not present in Protestant Bibles
Judges (21)
Ruth (4)
1 Samuel (31)
2 Samuel (24)
1 Kings (22)
2 Kings (25)
1 Chronicles (29)
2 Chronicles (36)
Ezra (10)
Nehemiah (13)
Tobit (14)*
Judith (16)*
Esther (10)
1 Maccabees (16)*
2 Maccabees (15)*
Job (42) Poetry/Wisdom
(7 books)
* not present in Protestant Bibles
Psalms (150)
Proverbs (31)
Ecclesiastes (12)
Song of Songs (8)
Wisdom (19)*
Sirach (51)*
Isaiah (66) Major Prophets (5 books) Prophecy
(18 books)
* not present in Protestant Bibles
Jeremiah (52)
Lamentations (5)
Ezekial (48)
Daniel (12)
Hosea (14) Minor Prophets (12 books)
Baruch (6)*
Joel (3)
Amos (9)
Obadiah (1)
Jonah (4)
Micah (7)
Nahum (3)
Habakkuk (3)
Zephaniah (3)
Haggai (2)
Zechariah (14)
Malachi (4)

New Testament

Matthew (28) Synoptic Gospels Gospels or Biography of Christ History (5 books)
Mark (16)
Luke* (24)
John (21)
Acts* (28) Early Church History
Romans (16) Pauline letters (13 books) Letters or Epistles (21 books)
1 Corinthians (16)
2 Corinthians (13)
Galatians (6)
Ephesians (6) Prison
Philippians (4)
Colossians (4)
1 Thessalonians (5)
2 Thessalonians (3)
1 Timothy* (6) Pastoral
2 Timothy* (4)
Titus* (3)
Philemon* (1) Also prison
Hebrews (13) General perhaps Pauline
James (5) General letters (7 books)
1 Peter (5)
2 Peter (3)
1 John (5)
2 John* (1)
3 John* (1)
Jude (1)
Revelation (22) Prophecy (1 book)
* These New Testament books were written to individuals.

To get a bird's-eye view of the actual content of the books of the Bible, follow the plan described below. This plan surveys the whole Bible in such a way that the contents can be easily remembered and reviewed. Start with the book of Genesis. As you read each chapter, write out a very brief summary of the chapter in your notebook. Your summary of each chapter might consist of a few phrases or a sentence or two. When you complete the fifty chapters in Genesis you will have the entire book condensed into two or three pages in your notebook. Then read over your condensation, divide it into several sections, and give a short title (one, two, or three words) to each section. For example, Genesis might be divided into five sections with the following titles:

  • Beginning events (chapters 1-11)
  • Abraham (chapters 12-23)
  • Isaac (chapters 24-26)
  • Jacob (chapters 27-36)
  • Joseph (chapters 37-50)
Do the same for each book of the Bible. You may also want to memorize your section titles so that you have a capsule of each book's content at your fingertips.

When you finish the entire Bible you will be able to think through its entire content, book by book, by reviewing your section titles. Many people faithfully read their Bible through every year, and this is a very commendable practice. But if you also record, divide, title, and review, you will remember what you have read and will have a better grasp of the structure of the Bible. The extra work can make the difference between a blur and a clear bird's-eye view. This approach does not take much longer than it takes to read through the Bible, but the benefits are much greater. The Bible has 1,189 chapters, so if you read three or four chapters every day, you can complete your survey in one year. Then, of course, it is beneficial to continue to read the Bible through on a regular or periodic basis.

After you have a clear bird's-eye view of the whole Bible, you are ready to focus on more intensive Bible study. However, you should not think in terms of dozens of Bible study "methods." Instead, think in terms of one basic approach which consistently employs the principles of proper Bible study already discussed in earlier chapters. This one basic approach can begin, however, at either of two basic starting points, book study or topic study.

Book Studies

While complete book study will include topic study, and while complete topic study will include book study, book study is basic to topic study and, generally speaking, should come first. Book study should precede topic study for the following reasons. First, the Bible was written that way -- in books rather than topically arranged. Indeed, some sections of some books are arranged topically, but the Bible as a whole is not arranged for topical reference. Second, even when studying a topic, relevant passages from various books each need to be examined in their own immediate and larger context, and a thorough knowledge of the Bible, book by book, helps a great deal. Third, when studying topics it is necessary to bring some assumptions to the study for the necessary process of identifying relevant passages. This is unavoidable. Yet, since you need to constantly guard against unfounded assumptions, book study should come before topic study in order to insure that the few assumptions which you must bring to the topic are founded in your study of Bible books. Thus, the study of Bible books lays a necessary foundation for the study of Bible topics.

You will be tempted to launch into a study of one topic after another. After all, it seems like a quick road to Bible knowledge. It seems inviting to be able to say that you have studied everything that the Bible says on such and such a topic. And, of course, certain interesting and controversial topics catch our fancy. However, the person who is best equipped to study Bible topics is the person who has spent years studying Bible books. Therefore, discipline yourself to establish a schedule of Bible book study first, and as a general rule, let the topic studies wait until later.

Here are some suggestions for your first few book studies.

  1. Philippians
  2. Mark
  3. 1 John
  4. James
  5. Acts
  6. Romans
  7. John
  8. Genesis
  9. Ephesians
  10. Colossians
  11. 1 Peter
  12. Isaiah
  13. Daniel

Topic Studies

When you finally get into topical study, it is good to have an overview of the whole field of theology so you can see how each individual topic fits into the overall picture. The partial outline of Christian doctrine given below is, of course, only one of several possible ways to organize the field of theology. Each individual sub-area of theology is a valid topic for study.

Partial Outline of Christian Doctrine
  1. Prologomena (Introduction)
  2. Revelation
    1. General revelation (includes nature, providence, conscience)
    2. Special revelation
      1. Bibliology (the Bible, the written Word)
        1. Inspiration and authority of the Bible
        2. Transmission of the biblical text
        3. Canon (list of inspired books included in the Bible)
      2. Jesus Christ (the living Word)
  3. Theology Proper (God)
    1. Nature of God
      1. Personalness of God
      2. The trinity
    2. Names of God
    3. Attributes of God (holiness, justice, love, grace, mercy, etc.)
    4. Decrees of God
      1. Sovereignty
      2. Creation
    5. God the Father
  4. Angelology (Angels)
    1. Angels (unfallen)
    2. Satan and demons
  5. Christology (Jesus Christ)
    1. Person of Christ
      1. His humanity
        1. Incarnation
        2. Virgin birth
      2. His deity and preexistence
    2. Work of Christ
      1. His sinless life
      2. His substitutionary death
      3. His resurrection and ascension
      4. His present ministry
  6. Pneumatology (the Holy Spirit)
    1. Personalness of the Holy Spirit
    2. Deity of the Holy Spirit
    3. Work of the Holy Spirit
  7. Anthropology (Man)
    1. Origin of man
    2. Nature of man
      1. Man's material part
      2. Man's immaterial part
    3. Fall of man
    4. Hamartiology (sin)
  8. Soteriology (Salvation)
    1. God's provisions (includes foreknowledge, election, predestination, calling, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification, etc.)
    2. Man's response (repentance and faith)
    3. Eternal security
    4. Christian living
  9. Ecclesiology (the Church)
    1. The universal church
    2. The local church
  10. Eschatology (Last things)
    1. Individual eschatology (includes heaven and hell)
    2. General eschatology (includes the return of Christ, millennium, eternal state)
  11. Apologetics (Systematic argumentation in defense of the teachings of Christianity.
    1. The existence of a personal God
    2. The reliability of the Bible

Partial List of Areas of Christian Living

Each of the topics in the following list should be viewed in relation to the above outline of doctrine. None of these topics should be studied alone, but each should be studied after, or along with, a study of the related sub-areas of theology.

  1. Assurance of salvation
  2. Lordship of Christ
  3. Good works; obedience
  4. Dedication, or Spirit-led living and victory over sin; filling of the Holy Spirit
  5. Temptation; dealing with Satan
  6. Maintaining fellowship with God (confession of sin, yielding to the Holy Spirit, etc.)
  7. Using God's Word
  8. Finding God's will (guidance)
  9. Worship
  10. Closeness to God, or the Lord's presence
  11. Love for God and others
  12. Faith (trust in God)
  13. Grace
  14. Prayer
  15. Gratitude
  16. Inner life; attitudes; motivation
  17. Joy; peace; fear; sorrow; worry; discouragement (feelings and emotions)
  18. Baptism
  19. Pride; humility; self acceptance
  20. Speech
  21. Liberty
  22. Stronger/weaker brother
  23. Thought life; lusting
  24. Honesty; lying
  25. Separation; worldliness
  26. God's discipline
  27. Witnessing
  28. Fellowship with other Christians; responsibilities to other Christians
  29. Spiritual gifts
  30. Patience; anger; self-control
  31. Gossip
  32. Judging
  33. Forgiving others
  34. False teachers
  35. Husband-wife relationships
  36. Parent-child relationships
  37. Care of one's body
  38. Citizenship
  39. Stewardship; money; tithing; business dealings
  40. Death

There are many, many other topics, such as the study of the lives of certain Bible characters, as well as all the controversial topics which come up in discussions again and again. You will be wise to avoid jumping into the study of one controversial area after another until you have grounded yourself well in the content of the Bible books and in the more basic topics of the Bible. Here are some suggestions for your first few topical studies.

  1. The content of the gospel message (the plan of salvation)
  2. Assurance of salvation
  3. Prayer
  4. Speech

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