To celebrate Bible Sunday, we looked at how the pieces of the Bible jigsaw fit together. The first thing we need to realise is that the Bible is made up of 66 books, pieces which are divided into the Old and New Testaments. People worked at fitting these pieces together in order:
Genesis through to Esther are historical books, with the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch (from words which mean ‘five’ and ‘vessel’ or ‘book’), and commonly referred to as the Law (or Torah), because as they explain how God chose people and taught them how to live, they also contain the 10 Commandments and rules or laws of God. All of these books have a number of different stories in them, showing how God worked with people and what happened to them over hundreds of years.
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs are ‘Wisdom’ literature, being poetic in style and often using imagery to describe God’s reality, desire for relationships and rules. These books are not written in a narrative style like the history books; they’re more like songs or prayers or conversations between people.
Isaiah through to Malachi are prophecy, with Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel known as the ‘Major Prophets’ and the others as ‘Minor Prophets’ (major and minor referring to the length of the books, not importance!) The Prophets are speaking forth the words of God, giving God’s people the chance to hear how He wants to restore their relationship and usually contain quite a lot of rebuke and correction and challenge in them as well as comfort and reassurance.
In the New Testament, the first five books (Matthew through to Acts) are historical narratives which talk about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His work through the church. Most of the rest of the New Testament are letters, written to churches or individuals, acting as God’s guide book for the church, usually written to specific churches or people to give advice and guidance on how to live for Christ.
The last book of the Bible (Revelation) is prophetic, using vivid imagery and symbolism to describe the end times and God’s ultimate sovereignty and victory over evil.
Someone has used these genres in the form of the periodic table of elements to give us further information:
Though the Bible can be hard at times to understand, it helps to see how the different pieces of this jigsaw fit together and to understand that Scripture interprets Scripture, giving us all the information we need to know (not necessarily all we’d like to know!)