The New Testament Books by Category and Theme
The Synoptic Gospels
- Matthew: The gospel to the Jews
- Mark: The gospel to the Romans
- Luke: The gospel to the Greeks
The Supplementary Gospel. John: The gospel to the world
History. Acts of the Apostles: A record of the early Christian Church
- Paul’s Travel Epistles: Romans: Most comprehensive discussion of salvation; 1 Corinthians: Correction of Corinthian errors and divisions; 2 Corinthians: Paul defends his authority and concern for the Corinthians; Galatians: Salvation by grace apart from works; 1 Thessalonians: Clarification about the resurrection of believers; 2 Thessalonians: Clarification about the timing of Christ’s return
- Paul’s Prison Epistles: Ephesians: The Church as a united new people in Christ; Philippians: Joy at Christ’s presence through adversity; Colossians: Warnings against participation in heresy; Philemon: A personal letter to Paul’s friend about Onesimus
- Paul’s Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy: Instructions to Timothy about Christian leadership; Titus; Titus is instructed to set standards of sound doctrine and good works; 2 Timothy: Paul’s final words given to Timothy
- Miscellaneous Epistles: Hebrews: Christ is superior to the Torah (Mosaic Covenant); James: Practical issues for Christian living; Jude: God’s judgment on false teachers
- Petrine Epistles: 1 Peter: Courage under suffering; 2 Peter: False teaching is strongly condemned
- Johannine Epistles: 1 John: Warnings against Gnostic teachers; 2 John: Cooperation with false teachers is forbidden; 3 John: Cooperation with teachers of the gospel is commanded
Apocalypse: Revelation: Preparation for Christ’s return
It has been said that the Bible is merely an ancient set of writings which may contain noble ideas, but that it is not inspired by God in any special sense. This type of statement has been made so confidently and so often that many people have come to believe it without ever studying the issue or reading the book itself.
The fact is, the Bible makes specific claims to be inspired by God. Let’s see if there is any evidence to support its claim.
Here are just a couple of examples from the Old Testament. Referring to the Law of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy), Psalm 19:7-11 consistently calls it, not the words of Moses, but God’s word. Jeremiah 1:1-2 claims that this book is the result of the word of the Lord coming to Jeremiah. This is typical of the prophetic writings and is found throughout both major and minor prophets.
In the New Testament, 2 Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that all scripture is inspired by God (literally “God-breathed”). Even more specifically, 2 Peter 1:19-21 tells us that the inspired words of the prophets have been confirmed (made more certain) in the New Testament. This short passage goes on to say that scripture did not originate in the mind of any man, but originated with the Holy Spirit who moved men to speak (or write).
Perhaps the greatest evidence of the inspired nature of the Bible comes from Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 5:18: “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.(NKJV)”. In this verse, Jesus most solemnly affirms not only the general inspiration of the message of Scripture (speaking here of the Old Testament) but explicitly of the words and letters, down to the smallest strokes of the pen which distinguish letter from letter (the tittle is the little overhang which makes the difference between the Hebrew “he” ה and the “chet” ח). In other words, Jesus is saying that the scriptures are inspired and unfailing in their divine purpose.
In addition to its own claims, consider some of the following facts which show the Bible to be absolutely unique:
It consists of 66 books, some of which are further divided into sub-books and sections. It was composed over a period of some 1,500 years. The Bible’s human writers number at least 40. They came from all walks of life and lived under widely differing circumstances. Some where highly educated; others came from a relatively humble background. Some were people of great influence, while others were oppressed by the powerful. These writers had highly diverse personalities and backgrounds.
The Bible contains several distinct types of literature, including poetry, proverbial wisdom, philosophy, love songs, genealogical lists, creation accounts, historical sagas, apocalypse (vivid prophetic imagery), as well as straight narrative prose.
The original text of the Bible was written in three different languages: Hebrew Aramaic and Koine Greek. Its subject matter includes dozens of highly controversial topics that people throughout history have struggled with. Yet despite these huge obstacles to its cohesion, the Bible flows as a single work, retaining amazing unity of purpose, consistency of ideas, and continuity of theme.
Here are some other facts worth considering: The Bible is the most published book ever. It is the most translated book of all time. In fact, the Old Testament was the first major book ever to be translated (around 200 BC from its original languages into Greek).
The Bible has had an amazing ability to survive the rigors of history. For example:
It has survived the tendency of time to corrupt its text. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has shown that the copying process of the Old Testament has remained accurate in the extreme over many hundreds of years. Likewise the reliability of the New Testament’s manuscripts is shown through exacting comparison of hundreds of ancient copies.
The Bible has survived repeated attempts to destroy it by various enemies. Roman emperors, pagan rulers and communist governments have done their best to burn, confiscate and limit its availability—all to no avail. It has also survived more than 2,000 years of attacks aimed at discrediting and disproving it. The dozens of theories “disproving the Bible” can be read about in history books, but the Bible still remains a living and relevant book today. If anything, as a result of the probing of its critics, it has shown itself to be more reliable not less.
So, there is plenty of evidence that the Bible is truly what it claims to be: God’s inspired word. Such a book deserves our study, our respect and our willing cooperation with its teachings and discipline.
Bible study can be an exciting adventure into the heart and mind of God. Reading and carefully considering its records, accounts and stories can literally be a life-transforming experience. Without the proper preparation, it can also be confusing, frustrating or even misleading. In order to make a good beginning, it is helpful to keep the following pointers in mind:
Set aside adequate time. You need a block of time during which disturbances and distractions will be at a minimum. The time should be sufficient to deal with the passage you plan to study and the issues in it without being rushed.
Choose in a place that is conducive to study, thought and prayer. The place should have access to study tools and other materials and equipment necessary for the task. It should be comfortable and as free as possible from distractions.
Look to yourself. Don’t assume that the passage to be studied is for someone else. Study it for your own issues and growth before anything else. Include prayer specifically asking God to give you understanding of the facts of the passage and its application for your life and the lives of others. Decide beforehand to obey what you learn.
If you plan to teach the passage, consider the needs and context of your audience. Are they believers in Christ? How much Bible background do they already have? What are their possible biases toward the passage or subject to be taught? Will they be able to understand you if you speak as you normally do? How long will they be willing to listen? What can you do to make them comfortable enough to learn and respond?
Make use of basic Bible study tools. A Bible atlas helps locate places and describes the geography of the Bible. A concordance lists verse references according to the words each reference contains. A Bible dictionary defines various terms as they are used in Scripture. In a commentary a Bible teacher or scholar discusses and explains scripture. A Bible handbook gives basic information and an outline of Bible books. Language studies give in-depth discussion of the Greek and Hebrew words used in various passages.
Use a basic and reliable translation. Make sure that the version you are using is accepted by a wide range of believers, and not just by a narrow sect. The more precise and in-depth you want to go in your study, the more exactly word-for-word the translation you use needs to be. Use a translation that takes into account the reading level and proficiency of your audience as well as one that is appropriate to the occasion and/or tastes of your audience.