Subscribe to the RSS feed for this book
The Outpouring of Scripture
The Old Testament
A. 1500 BC
Our hypothetical time traveler, who we stipulate has no knowledge of God outside of what he finds revealed from God, begins at some point well before 1500 BC when the Earth was created. What the exact age of the Earth is is not relevant here. You can believe in an old Earth or a young Earth. Either way, for at least two millennia after Adam, our time traveler does not have access to any written revelation from God. To be sure, God could and did speak to individuals, but this revelation is fragmented, scattered amongst various people, and not available for everyone as a whole since it is not written down or distributed freely. At most, our time traveler would have access to perhaps the genealogies that are found in the beginning of Genesis and a few scraps of stories here and there.
The first full book of Scripture this time traveler would get is the book of Job. Let us give an extremely brief overview of the book of Job so we can have a rough-cut of what this time traveler would know about God. The most basic generalization of Job is as the story of a righteous man who suffers many trials as a result of what appears to be some kind of cosmic contest between God and the devil. God challenges Satan, saying that Job’s righteousness is genuine and will not buckle. Satan argues that Job only believes because of God’s blessings to him and that if God removed that blessing, Job would curse God to His face. God permits Satan to destroy everything Job has, only requiring that Job’s life be spared. After this contest shows Job to be morally upright, Job asks of God the reason for why God put Job through such painful events. God’s response, notably, is that it is none of Job’s business why God does what He does. God’s reasoning is summed up in a counter-question he asks Job: “Where were you when I made the world?” (Job 38:4, paraphrased). Job admits that he has no basis to question God. At that point, God blesses Job and he gains back twice as much as what he had lost. The book ends, noting that Job has lived a full life and died an old man.
To our modern ears, having been conditioned with the words of Christ and the concepts shown in the Gospel, this book seems harsh. Yet it must be noted that this is the first impression that God wishes to leave with people. The book of Job asserts that God is free to do whatever He wants, and even if we end up going through many trials because of what God wants to do, He owes us no answer. God’s response to Job is hardly one of comfort. God instead asserts His rights—the rights He has by virtue of the fact that He has created everything that exists in the first place. In other words, God begins His relationship with mankind by revealing that He is the Creator of all things and therefore has sovereignty to do whatever He wants whenever He wants.
B. 1400 BCAs our time traveler moves ahead in time, he gains access to five more books of the Bible, as well as the first Psalm penned. The five books begin with Genesis, a book which itself describes the creation of the world and the events leading up to the Exodus. We are introduced to several important patriarchs, whom we will look at in more detail in upcoming chapters. After Genesis, the book of Exodus describes events that the first readers would have just gone through as they left Egypt and began their trek to Canaan. (The five books of Moses end before the Israelites get into the Promised Land.)
From the end of Exodus through Deuteronomy, we also have the Laws of God given unto Israel. These constitute His commandments, His wishes, and give us insight into His character. Interspersed in the midst of these laws, we also read the stories of what goes on during the wandering in the wilderness, including how Moses disobeyed God and therefore is not permitted to enter into the Promised Land.
Of special note, we should consider the importance of covenants in these works. Genesis describes a covenant between God and Abraham, and Deuteronomy it can be argued (I think persuasively) is styled after an Assyrian covenantal contract between God and Israel. As such, we have moved into a new aspect of Scripture. After God has established that He can do as He pleases and is Sovereign over His creation, He now establishes a covenant with His creation that applies obligations to His subjects through the Law. But in addition to those obligations, He also provides promises of benefits, rewards for obedience. Thus, we see a transition from God claiming He has the right to do as He pleases with Job to God now imposing an enforcement of rules upon mankind.
Even Psalm 90 is based upon God’s sovereignty and man’s lack of power. Moses laments that “all our days pass away under [God’s] wrath” (verse 9). If we are strong, we may attain eighty years for our life, but our life is “but toil and trouble” (verse 10). Moses asks God to teach us how to consider our days correctly, and beseeches God to provide favor to His people. This is a prayer of submission, an acknowledgment of God’s sovereign power.
Thus, at this point in time, Scripture is very heavily oriented toward how God is in charge and can do as He pleases. We have seen how God acted toward the mighty Egyptian army of the time by destroying it in the Red Sea. We have seen how previous to that God has chosen a specific people to be His and He has given them obligations along with both blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. All of this God can do because He has created all things. Thus, we can conclude that for someone having only this aspect of Scripture, the emphasis is on God’s creator-sovereignty.
Even though the emphasis is on the law, scattered throughout there are still references to an upcoming change. God promises a redeemer, one who will defeat evil completely. Though this concept is not the main focus of these texts our hypothetical time traveler has managed to obtain, they are nonetheless existent. Thus, we can see that the emphasis on the rules and obligations is even yet hinting at something better. Speaking in our modern terminology, the old covenant includes the seeds for the new.
C. 1050 BCSometime after 1050 BC, our hypothetical time traveler will have access to two more books of Scripture. The first will come just before 1050 BC, and it will recount in Joshua how Israel conquered the Promised Land from Canaan after the death of Moses. There we see how God’s blessing goes with the obedience of Israel, but when disobedience happens disaster strikes. The book ends with Joshua stipulating that only by following God can Israel succeed. Any other path will end in ruin.
The book of Judges, written just after 1050 BC, details the beginnings of this collapse. Israel follows a cycle of sin, followed by punishment, followed by repentance, followed by restoration, followed by sin, etc. The book ends by demonstrating the tragic results of what happens when everyone does as he sees fit instead of as God commands, in that the tribe of Benjamin is almost completely destroyed.
D. 1000 BCAround 1000 BC, Israel gets her first kings. Between 1000 BC and 950 BC, Saul and David will take turns reigning. With David being a prolific writer, we gain the vast majority of the Psalms. These function primarily to show David’s devotion to God, and they work as a guideline for us to recognize practical aspects of the worship of God.
A few of the Psalms also establish prophecy from David that include both the fact that the promised redeemer hinted at in the books of Moses will come through the lineage of David and the fact that this coming Messiah will have a priestly lineage outside of what is proscribed in the Law (but one still contained in the book of Genesis). This important point about the priestly role of Christ will be looked at further in an upcoming chapter.
Also around this time, the book of Ruth is penned. This work shows us the Godly devotion of a believing woman—something that the rampant sexism of the time would have typically ignored. In this case, the prejudice is exasperated by the fact that Ruth is also a Moabite, not a Jew. It is hard to underestimate the importance of Ruth in combating much of the prejudice of the era (and even of modern times).
E. 950 BCAround 950 BC, the histories of how David became king are written in the book of Samuel (which we have now as First and Second Samuel). These again show us that the promised Messiah will be through David’s lineage, as well as showing how the kingdom of Israel flourished under the rule of a righteous man, despite the setbacks that occurred during the reign of the unrighteous King Saul.
Immediately following David’s death, his son Solomon takes over control of the kingdom. Solomon is considered the wisest man of all, and many of his sayings are codified in the book of Proverbs. Thus, our hypothetical time traveler would have access to many of these nuggets of wisdom, although the complete book will not be finished for another few hundred years.
At this same time, the Song of Solomon and the book of Ecclesiastes are penned. Song of Solomon provides a high allegory of the relationship between lovers, which also represents the relationship the God wants with His people. This work fleshes out the aspect first hinted at in the Psalms of David of something beyond just a ruler/subject relationship between God and His people by rooting it in how a husband and wife relate to each other.
Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, is a much more philosophical book and demonstrates the hopelessness that must result when one does not consider the things of God. Without God, everything is “vanity” and “a chasing after the wind.” Our works, whether good or bad, are nothing. Whatever we do will pass away in time, and others will reap what we plant.
F. 700 BCBy 700 BC, our hypothetical time traveler will have received another five inspired texts. The circumstances of Israel had also changed. Where there had been a kingdom under Solomon, civil war and strife followed his death and eventually Israel would split into two kingdoms. To the north was Israel, consisting of ten tribes; to the south, Judah, consisting of both Judah and the remnants of Benjamin.
The first newly inspired text was the book of Jonah, which details the events of a prophet who did not want to obey God. When Jonah was told to go to preach to the people of Nineveh, he immediately boarded a ship and headed out the other way to get as far as he could from Nineveh because he knew that if he preached to Nineveh then the people would repent and God would spare them. As those familiar with the story know, there was a great storm and Jonah was cast overboard where he was swallowed by a fish or whale, and then spat up on the shore near Nineveh three days later. He then preached to the people of Nineveh as God originally commanded and his fears were confirmed as the people of Nineveh repented and God spared them.
This particular book shows God’s intention to save people outside of Israel in clarity. To be sure, previous books hinted at this as well, but here we can see the conflict between the Jewish mindset that God should only save those in Israel and God’s desire to save whomever He wants to save instead of who they want Him to save.
About 50 years after Jonah, two more minor prophets were on the scene: Hosea and Amos. The book of Hosea is especially interesting in that Hosea was commanded to take an unfaithful wife. This meant that Hosea was going to suffer a lot through his life, as he loved his wife Gomer, but she was promiscuous and constantly turned from him. This served as an illustration of the way that Israel was treating God. In other words, Hosea represented the faithful and loving God who longed to be with His wife Israel, despite her constantly running after false gods.
The second of these minor prophets was the prophet Amos, who was sent to the northern kingdom of Israel. Amos predominately preached of the upcoming judgment against Israel if she did not repent and return to God, but there was also the promise of restoration for the righteous, who would remain behind.
A few years later, the prophet Isaiah was sent in to the kingdom of Judah. Isaiah likewise prophesied upcoming judgment, but at the same time he gave a great deal of information regarding the Messiah. In fact, Isaiah is one of the most often quoted books in the New Testament precisely because of the amount of detail about the Messiah that the book contains. We will look into Isaiah in great detail in upcoming chapters. It should be noted, however, that it was during the time of Isaiah, who was a prophet to Judah, that the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians (the capital of Assyria being none other than Nineveh, the city Jonah preached to).
The final book that our time traveler would have received by this point is from the prophet Micah. Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, although younger. Micah’s prophecies were very similar to Amos’s and arrived about fifty years later. Micah gives one more important fact regarding the coming Messiah though, for it is Micah who prophesies that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.
Therefore, we can see that by 700 BC, our time traveler would have been getting quite a bit of information about the promised savior. What began as a few verses in Genesis and Deuteronomy has now developed to the point that one could know that the Messiah would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem, that He would be a suffering servant who would be bruised and crushed for our sins and transgressions. In short, though hard to see without the benefit of hindsight, the path of the New Testament has already been laid.
G. 600 BCBy 600 BC, our time traveler will pick up Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Obadiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel in his Bible. The first four books constitute more minor prophets while the second two are major prophets. (It is perhaps beneficial to note that the difference between a minor prophet and a major prophet is just the amount of text given, not the importance of what was written.)
Nahum, the first book received in this time period, was a prediction of judgment against Nineveh. Assyria had already conquered Israel, as mentioned earlier. Now, God promises that Nineveh will be destroyed.
After Nahum, Zephaniah wrote his prophecy that Judah was going to be conquered due to her idolatry and sinfulness. This work is rather short, but it does end with an appeal for the people of Judah to repent.
Soon after Zephaniah, Habakkuk wrote his work. This work differs a great deal in style from other prophetic works, since it appears more as a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. The book essentially consists of Habakkuk questioning why God is sending various countries to conquer Judah, and God’s responses indicating both that it is for the judgment of His people and that He will likewise judge those who have sinned against His people too. Through the end of the dialogue, Habakkuk solidifies his faith in God.
The final minor prophet during this time is Obadiah, who wrote the shortest of all the prophetic books (Obadiah is only 21 verses long). Obadiah pronounces judgment upon Edom, the descendents of Esau. Obadiah concludes by pointing out that God’s judgment will be on other nations as well as Edom, and states that the LORD’s kingdom is coming.
Thus we can see that the minor prophets are concerned to a great deal with the judgment that is about to arrive on Judah and the surrounding nations. This facet is continued in both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who both prophesy against Judah for the various sins Judah has committed, and against the surrounding countries which are equally evil. By the end of Jeremiah, Judah has been conquered by Babylon and the people are enslaved.
One of the most important features of the book of Jeremiah is that Jeremiah tells us that there will be a new covenant. The old covenant—the currently existing one that Jeremiah is in—will be fulfill and there will be some major differences in the new.
H. 550 BCIt is during this period of conquest that Jeremiah writes his Lamentations, which despite the fact that it is a series of laments concludes that God is merciful and just. In the book, Jeremiah confesses the sins of his people, submits to the will of God, and prays for restoration.
Also around this time, the history of events from the reign of David through the conquest of Babylon is written in a book we have since split into First and Second Kings. This historical text gives us most of the information by which we can piece together the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
I. 540 BCAround 540 BC, Daniel is written. Daniel was a Hebrew prophet imprisoned in Babylon. As such, the book of Daniel deals with some of the rulers of Babylon, the prophecy of the destruction of Babylon, and with the promise of the restoration of Israel. Even more importantly, the book of Daniel also predicts exactly when the Messiah will appear, as well as much of the destruction that will happen after His arrival. Some even believe that Daniel speaks of the final End Times events (the study of End Times is known as eschatology), although much of what he wrote appears to have a fulfillment in the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD too.
J.500 BCBy 500 BC, four more texts are added to Scripture, beginning with Haggai. Haggai is one of the first books penned after the Babylonian exile ends. The returned Israelites were working on rebuilding the Temple that had been destroyed during the conquest, but they were continually delayed. Haggai writes to spur them on to complete the progress on the temple.
Contemporary to Haggai, Zechariah wrote in a similar vein for the first half of his book, but the second half deals primarily with Messianic references and potential eschatology. Because of this, Zechariah has been called “the apocalypse of the Old Testament” by some.
About two decades later, Joel and Esther are both written. The book of Joel prophesied the future work of the Holy Spirit, and would be quoted by Peter in the book of Acts. Joel wrote regarding a plague of locust during his day and used it as a reference to the Day of Judgment, and to call the people of Israel to repent. Esther, on the other hand, does not even contain the word “God” at any point in it. Nevertheless, God’s unseen hand can be viewed in the events described. Esther was a beautiful Jewish woman who married the Persian king Ahasuerus, traditionally identified as Xerxes I (the same Xerxes who tried to invade Greece and was opposed by the Spartan King Leonidas at Thermopylae, inspiring the rather fanciful movie 300). When the Jews were persecuted, Esther risked her own life to intercede on their behalf. In this way, she was to picture the coming Messiah, although at the time our hypothetical time traveler would not have understood that foreshadowing.
K. 400 BCBy 400 BC, the last of the Old Testament was penned. The final books included 1 and 2 Chronicles (originally just one book), which detailed the events of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In that way they mirrored much of 1 and 2 Kings. The final Psalms were likewise penned during this time. Additionally, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, both dealing with the post-Babylonian Exile and the rebuilding of the temple, were penned. These give us the history which would have been known by the everyday Israelite during the prophecy of Haggai and Zechariah. And finally, the book of Malachi, which ends on the note of the future Day of the LORD, closes out the Old Testament with both a promise and a curse.
L. SummaryWe can therefore quickly summarize the Old Testament. We begin with God’s creator-sovereignty displayed in Job and Genesis, then God’s choosing of a special people (Israel). God promises a Messiah to save His people, and then works within those groups of Israelites to bring about the events needed for His Messiah to arrive. The Old Testament ends with the promise of that deliverance.
The New Testament
After the Old Testament, approximately four hundred years would pass in silence. Jesus Christ would be born, most estimate the date to be around 6 BC, and would live for approximately thirty to thirty-five years before being crucified. Within twenty years of His death, various inspired texts of Scripture would begin to circulate within the Church. This is in stark contrast to the Old Testament, where the events of Eden were not written down until at least two millennium after they occurred. Furthermore, the entire New Testament was written in no more than fifty years, whereas the Old Testament took over 1000 years (roughly 1500 BC to 400 BC).
A. 49 ADThe first book of the New Testament to have been written was the book of James. This is widely considered to be the James who led the church in Jerusalem. It could even be the brother of Christ, who was also named James, but the name is quite common so there’s no actual proof of this. James’s epistle is characterized by the fact that mere statements of belief in God are insufficient to save anyone; a genuine faith in Christ must be a life-changing faith, evidenced by works of the Spirit.
B. 51 ADThe next year would bring the first letter from Paul, 1 Thessalonians. This (along with the second letter penned the following year) gave a large part of Paul’s eschatological beliefs. In addition to this letter, the Gospel of Mark was also written about the same time. Mark, the first Gospel, is also the shortest of the Gospels. It was probably written by someone with close access to the Apostle Peter, and tradition states it was written by John Mark (who also traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey). The Gospel of Mark has a primary focus on the miracles Christ had done, presenting them as evidence that He was the Son of God. Many scholars believe the original audience for the book were Gentile readers in Rome.
C. 54 ADAround 54 AD, Paul wrote his letter to the church in Galatians. In this letter, Paul asserts the primacy of faith over following the law. Some may see this as being a counter to the book of James, but there is no actual contradiction between the two. Indeed, faith without works is a dead faith (as James claims), but our salvation is fully due to our faith alone (as Paul claims). Or, to put it in the words of the Reformation, “We are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.”
D. 55 ADBy 55 AD, two more letters from Paul had been received. First was a letter to the church in Corinth. There were many doctrinal issues dividing that church, and so Paul sought to clarify what godly living entailed as well as what the basic beliefs of the gospel ought to be. This second part was even more clearly contained in the book of Romans, which followed soon after the letter to Corinth. Romans is the longest of Paul’s epistles, and it contains the fullest, most detailed description of the Gospel.
E. 57 ADIn 57 AD, Paul sent a second letter to the church in Corinth. In reality, this was probably his fourth or so letter that he had sent (given the reference to other letters that Paul mentions in this work). This letter details much of the hardship that Paul has had to endure for the sake of the Gospel.
F. 60 ADThe book of Matthew, the second Gospel written (although the first found in the typical book order of the Bible), was written around 60 AD. This book was written primarily to a Jewish audience, and often quotes the Old Testament as proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Matthew also gives the most complete account of Jesus’ actual teachings, quoting Him for many long passages, such as the Sermon on the Mount.
Around the time this came out, Paul also penned his letter to Philemon. This was the shortest of Paul’s epistles, and in it Paul asks the owner of an escaped slave named Onesimus to treat him as a brother in Christ.
G. 61 ADThe next year would bring Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi. This epistle is considered the epistle of joy, given Paul’s emphasis on being joyful in the Lord. This despite the fact that Paul was in prison when he wrote the text.
H. 62 ADBy 62 AD, four more books would appear. First, Paul’s letters to Ephesus (Ephesians) and Colossi (Colossians) were penned. These works were both very similar to each other. They emphasized how Christians should behave, the primacy of Christ in theology, and the relationship of the church to God.
The same year, the books of Luke and Acts, both written by the physician Luke, came out. Luke’s gospel gives a compilation of many events that Luke had researched. While he was not an eyewitness, his research was impeccable and is praised even by secular scholars, in distinction to some of the more fanciful Roman histories of the day. As a doctor, Luke also provided several clues about the resurrection that help to solidify the fact that Christ was certainly dead (as opposed to “swooning” on the cross) and give us some indication of some of the medical aspects of His death.
The same Luke also wrote the book of Acts, which detailed the early church’s movements in the twenty to thirty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Midway through the book, the text switches from third person (he) to first (we), indicating that Luke was an eyewitness to much of the missionary journeys of Paul.
I. 64 AD1 Peter, written around 63 AD, 1 Timothy, Titus, and the book of Hebrews are next to appear. The letter of 1 Peter echoes much of the theology of the speeches of Peter in the book of Acts. He emphasizes a time of trials and suffering that the church would go through. At this point in history, Nero would have been running rampant. 1 Timothy (and possibly 2 Timothy at this same time) was written from Paul to Timothy and is often called a “pastoral” epistle due to the fact that Paul was training Timothy to be a pastor and the notes are more personal than directed to the church setting. The same is true of the book of Titus, in this case a personal letter written to a young minister Paul had left on the island of Crete.
Finally, the book of Hebrews, often assumed (most certainly in error) to have been written by Paul, is one of the few sermons we have written out for us. Hebrews shows how Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, how He supersedes them, and how He is exalted above them. Hebrews therefore argues from the lesser to the greater, in that it takes something that was true of the Old Covenant and uses that to demonstrate just how much greater the New Covenant is.
J. 65 ADBy 65 AD, the book of Jude had been written. One of the shortest books in the Bible, the letter warns against apostasy. It uses many of the historical events of the Old Testament to show what would happen to those who fell away from the true faith.
K. 67 ADPeter’s second letter was written no later than 67 AD. This letter served as a reminder of the truth of the Gospel, and warned against false teachers who sought to pervert it. The text even claimed Paul’s letters were Scriptural, helping to establish the canonicity of the New Testament along with the Old.
L. 68 ADAssuming he was not killed by Nero before 64 AD, by 68 AD the last of Paul’s epistles was written before his execution. This personal letter to Timothy included hints that Paul knew his time was nearing an end. He sought to affirm Timothy and prepare him to take over ministry. If Nero did not kill Paul earlier, he was still definitely martyred at some point before 70 AD.
M. 70 ADHistorically, 70 AD was momentous. This was the year that the Roman Empire conquered Israel and destroyed the Temple for a second time (the first being when the Babylonians had destroyed the Temple). Before that destruction happened, the book of John was written. This Gospel is one of the most intimate Gospels, showing not just what Jesus taught but Who He was.
While most scholars believe that the book of Revelation was written about 25 years later, I believe due to some textual clues that Revelation was written sometime before the fall of Jerusalem too. Revelation was also written by John. The book commonly deals with eschatology.
N. 90 ADThe final three letters, all from John, would have been finished by the 90s AD. The first letter chronologically was most likely the one we call 3 John. All three of the letters share a similar feel, and were obviously penned by the same person. They deal primarily with the nature of God and His care for His people. Thus, the same themes in John’s Gospel percolate through his letters too.
O. SummaryThe New Testament, then, can be seen as the outworking of the New Covenant, the fulfillment of the Old, and the example of the life of Christ. There is a greater focus on the character of God through the work of Christ, and the passing of the old ways into the new. Thus, all that is foreshadowed from the Old Testament becomes illuminated in the New. The New surpasses the Old, while remaining faithful to it.
P. Speculation on WhyNow that we have a brief overview of Scripture, we can return to the question that prompted this survey. Why is it that God revealed Scripture the way that He did. It seems very clear that God started off by showing His might and power and the aspects of His divine authority. He only then, slowly, revealed Himself more as the role of a husband with a wife, until finally by the New Testament we see through Christ the fullest expressions of the mercies of God. Another way to look at it is to say that God seems to have moved from Law to Grace, from rules to relationship, from power to servanthood.
It is actually a bit of a misnomer to state it that starkly. The God of the Old Testament remains the same in the New. Jesus spoke more of Hell than Heaven. Yet, the general gist still has something going for it.
My own personal opinion on the matter is colored by having seen people emerge from legalistic churches as well as seeing some rather hedonistic believers. But it appears to me that the reason why God revealed Himself in the way He did is because, in general, it is easier for our minds to make the transition from living under law to living under grace than it is for us to begin with a concept of grace and then figure out why the law is still important. That is to say, if God began with grace, then it would be far harder for us to understand the purpose of the Law. For some, it might even be impossible to understand that purpose.
But let us set that aside for now. It is time to study the Scripture in greater detail.