David-Ari dave@restoringgrace.

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BIBLICAL TIMELINE COMPARISON AGE OF BOOKS AND THEIR WRITINGS In determining the best angle of approach for comparing Biblical history against the World Timeline, I have decided to list the books of the Bible in appropriate time ranges and listing the corresponding world events underneath. In terms of the New Testament, I will provide world history events from the turn of the BC era to the AD era and the events that were happening as the Canon of the New Testament were being compiled.

OLD TESTAMENT I have divided the Old Testament into six time divisions with four reference examples per division.

Job-Unknown Genesis-1445/1405 BC Exodus-1445-1405 BC Leviticus-1445/1405 BC Numbers-1445/1405 BC Deuteronomy-1445/1405 BC Psalms-1410/450 BC Joshua-1405/1385 BC 1450 BC-Greeks conquer Minoans after trading with the Minoans for a long period of time; the Mycenaean’s conquered them in about 1450 BC. The Mycenaean’s destroyed the great palace at Knossos. 1483 BC-Battle of Megiddo. In 1483 BC, Tutmosis launched a war of conquest against Syria-Palestine. The war culminated at Megiddo in Northern Israel. The Egyptians decisively defeated their opponents and became the dominant force in the area.

1400 BC-Iron Age in Near East. The production of iron was invented in Armenia. The people were subjects of the Hittites. The use of iron by the Hittites gave them a military advantage, and kept the secret of how to make iron a secret. The secret: raising the temperature of the iron in the forge. After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, iron manufacturing was widely dispersed throughout the Middle East. 1375-1360 BC-Akhenaton IV Pharaoh. In 1379, Akhenaton IV became Pharaoh. The Empire had reached the very highest levels of prosperity. But under Akhenaton IV, the Empire began to dissolve. Revolts broke out in Phoenicia and Palestine. The Hittites absorbed part of the Empire in Syria. Akhenaton and his wife Nefertiti pursued a new religion focusing on a belief in one god: the sun. This religion was not popular with the people and after Akhenaton’s death, his religious reforms were renounced. Judges-1043 BC Ruth-1030/1010 BC Song of Solomon-971/965 BC Proverbs-971/686 BC Eccesiatstes-940/931 BC 1184 BC-Troy Captured. The Greeks united under the command of Agamemnon to attack Troy on Asia Minor. The Trojans were besieged for a lengthy time before submitting to the Greeks. 1027 BC-Shang Dynasty Vassal Tribe. Chou defeats the Shang Dynasty. The tribe of Chou, under the leadership of Wu Wang defeated the Shang Dynasty in 1027 BC. They established the Chou dynasty which became the longest-lasting dynasty in Chinese history. The Chou continued the central administration of the Shang. The included individual principalities called “guo”, the Chinese word for states. 1090 BC-Nubia becomes independent. Within the breakup of the New Kingdom, Nubia once again became independent of Egypt. Nubia, otherwise known as the Kingdom of Kush, became a major trading center. 1070 BC-Collapse of Assyria. The Assyrian Empire collapsed under the assault of the Aramaeans and Babylonians. The Assyrian Empire reasserted itself under the reign of Assurdan II. 1 Samuel-931/722 BC 2 Samuel-931/722 BC Obadiah-850/840 BC Joel-835/796 BC Jonah-755 BC Amos-755 BC

Hosea-750/710 BC 900 BC-Etruria. It is most likely that the Etruscans arrived in Italy from the Asia Minor as a consequence of the break-up of the Hittite Empire. The Etruscans came to the area north of the Tiber River, taking control and forming a loosely connected league of cities. 945-730 BC-Libyans Rule Egypt. In about 945 BC, Libyan settlers in Egypt managed to seize control under the leadership of Shishak, who founded the Twenty-Second Dynasty. During Shishak’s reign, the Egyptians attacked the Kingdom of Israel and sacked Jerusalem. In spite of this triumph, the dynasty was racked by dissension. 840 BC-Vannic Kingdom. The Vannic Kingdom was founded by Sardur I. The Kingdom included parts of what are Turkey, Russia and Iran today. It was able to develop in the shadow of the Assyrian Empire. 814 BC-Carthage founded. In 1814 BC, Phoenicians founded a colony at Carthage. The colony would soon overshadow the homeland and become an important world power in its own right. Micah-735/710 BC Isaiah-700/681 BC Nahum-650 BC Zephaniah-635/625 BC Habakkuk-615/605 BC Ezekiel-590/570 BC Lamentations-586 BC Jeremiah-586/570 BC 1 Kings-561/538 BC 2 Kings-561/538 BC 660 BC-Empire of Japan established. According to legend, Jimmu Tenno invaded Japan’s main island Honshu. There he established himself as Japan’s first emperor. He founded the Yamato family and is believed to be a direct ancestor of Japan’s current emperor. 626 BC-Nabopolassar Founds Chaldeans Empire. The Chaldeans who had dominated Babylonia during the Assyrian period, took control of Babylon ad established a new dynasty. The head of the dynasty was Nabopolassar, whose first task was the destruction of the Assyrians. 612 BC-Nineveh Capture of Assyrian Empire ends. Nineveh, the capitol of Babylonia, was captured by a coalition of armies. The seizure of Nineveh was followed by the capture of Harran in 610 BC. This brought to an end the Assyrian Empire.

594 BC-Solon Becomes Archon. Athens was experiencing a period of social and political upheaval. To combat this, Solon, and esteemed Athenian, was appointed ruler of Athens. He inaugurated a series of new laws to replace the laws of Draco. He cancelled all land debts, outlawed new loans for which humans were used as collateral, and made other popular and successful reforms. Daniel-536/530 BC Haggai-520 BC Zechariah-480/470 BC 521 BC-Darius. Cyrus was succeeded by Darius I in 521 BC. Darius spent the first years of his administration suppressing revolts that seemed to develop in every part of the Empire. Darius then reorganized the Persian Empire into separate providences called satraps, each with its own governor and tax system. 516 BC-Darius invades Indus Valley. In 516 BC, Darius invaded India capturing the Indus Valley. He annexed it to the Persian Empire. His hold on the region was tenuous and lasted less than ten years. 509 BC-The Roman Republic is founded. 509 BC is the year that has traditionally been given as the founding of the Roman Republic. Junius Brutus and Tarquinii’s were the first consuls of Rome. 508 BC-Athenian Democracy established by Cleisthenes. Pisistratus was succeeded by his sons, one of whom, Hipparchus, was assassinated as a result of a private feud. The other son, Hippias, responded with such oppression that he was overthrown and exiled by the nobles of the city. To avoid further such outbursts, the ultimate governing body of Athens became known as “The Assembly”. It was a male-dominate voting body with representation from all the tribes.

Ezra-457/444 BC 1 Chronicles-450/430 BC 2 Chronicles-450/430 BC Esther-450/331 BC Malachi-433/424 BC Nehemiah-433/424 BC 464 BC-Third Messenia War. One of the first acts of the 18th Dynasty under Ahmose was the subjugation of Nubia. The Egyptians quickly subdued the Nubians and assimilated them into the Empire.

460 BC-Age of Pericles. The Age of Pericles lasted from 461 BC (when Pericles as a young aristocrat became the dominant politician in Athens) until 429 BC. This was a period of expanding democracy and increased imperialism abroad. 431-404 BC-Peloponnesian War. For Sparta and its allies, the growing Athenian power aroused fear and suspicion. A series of disputes finally led to the outbreak of war between Sparta and Athens. Sparta hoped to defeat the Athenians in open battle. The Athenians, on the other hand, relied on their navy. After repelling attacks by Sparta and surviving a plague that wiped out one-third of the Athenians (including Pericles), it was the Athenians attack on Sicily that eventually cost them the war. 429 BC-Hippocrates. Hippocrates was spared death from a plague that killed between 1/3 and 2/3rds of the population of Athens. Hippocrates was the first to say that disease was not miraculous or a punishment from the gods. Hippocrates is most known for his “Hippocratic Oath” that physicians swear to even to this day.

BETWEEN THE TESTAMENT While there were no canonical events taking place, there were historical events that helped lay the groundwork for the environment that the coming Messiah would arrive in. I have listed a few events here for consideration. 334-323 Alexander the Great conquers the East 330-328 Alexander’s years of power 320 Ptolemy I Soter conquers Jerusalem 311 Seleucus conquers Babylon; Seleucid dynasty begins 226 Antiochus III (the Great) of Syria overpowers the Holy Land 223-187 Antiochus becomes Seleucid ruler of Syria 198 Antiochus defeats Egypt and gains control of the Holy Land 175-164 Antiochus IV Epiphanies rules Syria; Judaism is prohibited 167 Mattathias and his sons rebel against Antiochus Maccabeus’s revolt begins 166-160 Judas Maccabeus’s leadership begins 160-143 Jonathan as High Priest 142 Tower of Jerusalem cleansed 142-134 Simon becomes High Priest; establishes Hasmonean dynasty 134-104 John Hyrcanus enlarges the independent Jewish state 103 Aristobulus’s rule 102-76 Alexander Janneus’s rule 75-67 Rule of Salome Alexandra with Hyrcanus II as High Priest 66-63 Battle between Aristobulus’s II and Hyrcanus II 63 Pompey invades the Holy Land; Roman rule begins 63-40 Hyrcanus II rules but is subject to Rome 40-37 Parthians conquer Jerusalem 37 Jerusalem besieged for six months 32 Herod is defeated

19 Herod’s temple begun 16 Herod visits Agrippa 4 Herod dies: Archelaus succeeds

THE NEW TESTAMENT I have divided the New Testament into five time divisions with a total of eighteen time references.

James-AD 44/49 Galatians-AD 49/50 Matthew-AD 50/60 Mark-AD 50/60 1 Thessalonians-AD 51 2 Thessalonians-AD 51/52 1 Corinthians-AD 55 2 Corinthians-AD 55-56 Romans-AD 56 Luke-AD 60-61 Ephesians-AD 60-62 Philippians-AD 60-62 Colossians-AD 60-62 Acts-AD 62 1 Timothy-AD 62-64 Titus-AD 62-64 1 Peter-AD 64-65 2 Timothy-AD 66-67 2 Peter-AD 67-68 Hebrews-AD 67-69 Jude-AD 68-70 John-AD 80-90 1 John-AD 90-95 2 John-AD 90-95 3 John-AD 90-95 Revelation-AD 94-96

1-3 AD-The birth of Jesus Christ. Tradition estimates the birth of Jesus to be around December, but most Jewish tradition claims His birth on October. No single event in history will ever eclipse the birth of Jesus. The majority of historical events that follow the birth of Jesus are actually in response to His birth. 6 AD-Herod Archelaus was deposed by the Roman Emperor, Augustus because of Herod Archelaus’ brutal treatment of the Jews of Judea and Samaria. 9 AD-Three Roman legions under the command of P Quinctilius Varmus were defeated by a German army led by Arminius. The battle took place in the Teutoburg Forest and resulted in Varmus committing suicide. The results of this battle ensured German independence from Rome. 9 AD-Wang Mang founded the short lived Hsian Dynasty. He instituted wide-ranging reforms that included breaking up large estates and freeing of slaves. There was a great deal of opposition to his policies and he was eventually forced to tax slaveholding instead of releasing slaves. Wang Mang instituted a series of price controls on staples. His opponents fomented revolts against him and in 23 AD he was killed during one such revolt. 14 AD-Augustus died on August 19th at Nola. While legally all of his powers ceased with his demise, Augustus had arranged for his family members to succeed him. Thus Tiberius, the son of Augustus’ wife Livia by her first marriage, became the new Emperor of Rome. 25 AD-After the death of Wang Mang, Hou Han founded the Eastern Han Dynasty. During this dynasty, which lasted until 220 AD, Buddhism was introduced into China. 30-36 AD-Jesus Christ was put to death by the Romans in Jerusalem. Jewish Tradition puts the date of death around April 7th. There are many concerns about the actual life span of Jesus. 41 AD-After the death of Tiberius, he was succeeded by Caligula. Caligula was considered by many to be insane. He was assassinated by Cassius Chaerea, a member of the Praetorian Guard on January 24th in the year 41 AD. 51 AD-The Romans under Ostorius Scaopula defeated Carctacus of Whales. This eventually led to the completion subjugation of Wales to the Romans twenty years later. 54 AD-According to legend, Claudius was assassinated by his wife Agrippina using poisoned mushrooms. Agrippina then arranged for her son, Nero, to become Emperor. Nero eventually had his mother killed.

64 AD-The City of Rome was nearly destroyed in a catastrophic fire. The fire is said to have been set by Nero. 66 AD-A rebellion broke out in Jerusalem against Roman rule. The Roman fortress of Antonia in Jerusalem was captured and the soldiers killed. The Romans dispatch an army from Syria to quell the revolt, but it was destroyed on the way to Jerusalem. 68 AD-The year 69 AD is known as the year of the four emperors. Nero was assassinated and a civil war erupted to determine who would succeed him. In the course of that tumultuous year, Nero was succeeded by Galba who was followed by Otho. Otho was defeated by Vitellius and Vespasian finally established a new dynasty. Vespasian himself was the son of a tax collector from Reate. He represented a complete break with the Augustinian dynasties that preceded him. 70 AD-Rome sends an enormous army under the command of Vespasian to retake Judea. The Roman army quickly subdued the Jewish forces in the Galilee and laid siege to Jerusalem. Vespasian was recalled to Rome and the siege continued by his son, Titus. Titus succeeded in capturing Jerusalem on the ninth day of Ab (according to the Jewish calendar). He burned Jerusalem, killing or selling into slavery tens of thousands of Jews. 73 AD-The Fortress of Masada, occupied by Jewish zealots opposed to Rome, held out for three years. Masada was located in the Judean Desert near the shores of the Dead Sea. When it became clear that they could not hold out any longer, the defenders of Masada committed mass suicide rather than become captives of the Romans. 78 AD-The Kushan Dynasty was established by Kanishka. The Kushan Empire extended from Benares and Kabul to the Vindhayas. The Kushan capitol was at Peshawar. The Kushans thrived on the Chinese-Roman trade that passed through their Empire. 79 AD-In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted. The eruption destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Most of the cities’ populations managed to flee but 20,000 inhabitants were killed.

80 AD-Vespasian had ordered the Coliseum built, but it fell to his son Titus to dedicate it. It was used for gladiator games until 404 AD. 89 AD-Domitian who succeeded Titus Vespasian us (his older brother), commenced a reign of terror after an abortive coup against him. Domitian levied heavy taxes on the provinces. Domitian was assassinated in 96 AD. 96-180 AD-The Five Good Emperors. Starting with Emperor Marcus Nerva, Rome was ruled by five individuals who became known as the “Good Emperors”. The Emperors maintained both domestic tranquility and relative peace on the borders. There were known for building roads and other large civil projects.

The Five Emperors were: 96-98 AD Marcus Nerva 98-117 AD Marcus Traianus 117-138 AD Publiius Hardrianus (Hadrian) 138-161 AD Antonius Pius 161-180 AD Marcus Aurelius BIBLE COMMENTARY GENESIS BERISHEET

Purpose/Theme: Genesis (which means “the beginning”) records the creation of the world and the creation and foundation of the Jewish nation. Key Verses: “God saw that all He had made and it was very good” (1:31) “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I shall show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:1-3) Main People: Adam and Eve: Noah; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Joseph. Outline: The Creation of the World (1,2) Sin in the world (3,4) Noah and the flood (5-9) The beginning of nations and languages (10-11) Abraham’s family: God’s people in the God gave them (12_38) Joseph: God’s people going into Egypt (39-50) Approx. Timeframe: BC 2300-1800 Credited Author(s): Moses Review: Often the events of the Book of Genesis outweigh the amazing process that was put into place. How God would deal with man and bring man back into relationship to Himself

gets its start right here. The process starts with the birth of a people, the Jewish people and reaches its zenith when that same nation brings us Jesus, the King of all kings. The Book of Genesis is not without some strange accolades. It is truly a book of firsts. The first time in Scripture we see a man weep is over the loss of his wife. The first time wealth is mentioned we also see conflict. The name “Hebrew” appears for the first time. The Book of Genesis also is different in that it is a reflexive narrative, meaning a time frame that happened and was later recorded by the Prophet Moses. The New Testament makes mention of the authorship of much of the Torah and there are subtle clues to that position as well. For example, when Noah was bringing the animals onto the ark, the narrative describes him addressing the animals as “clean and unclean”. Kosher laws were still a far way off, but Moses would have clearly taken the animal kingdom to task when asked to list them. The Genesis recording ends with Joseph explaining a God-trait that would bring more questions about God into people’s minds then almost any other question about Him. That question is, “How could a God of love let these things happen?”. Joseph answers in Chapter 50 by responding, “What you meant for evil God has meant for good”. Genesis is the beginning of the unfolding drama between God and His creation. Remember, God is all about His glory. EXODUS SH’MOT Purpose/Theme: To record the Exodus (or “departure”) of the Jews from Egyptian bondage. Key Verse: “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (3:8) Main People: Pharaoh; Moses and his brother, Aaron. Outline: The slavery of God’s people (Chap. 1) The call of Moses to be the leader of God’s people (Chap. 2-4) The challenge for Pharaoh to release God’s people (Chap. 5-11) The Passover for God’s people-a picture of Jesus as our Savior (Chap. 12-13) The exodus of God’s people from Egypt (Chap. 14-19) The giving of the Law to God’s people (Chap. 20-24) The building of the Tabernacle by God’s people (Chap. 25-40)

Approx. Timeframe: BC 1800-1500 Credited Author(s): Moses Review: The exodus and conquest narrative found in the book of Exodus form the classic historical and spiritual drama of the Old Testament times. Subsequent ages looked back to this period as one of the obedient and victorious living under divine guidance. Close examination of the environment and circumstances also reveal the strenuous exertions, human sin and bloody conflicts of the era. In historical terms, the exodus from Egypt was ignored by Egyptian scribes and recorders. No definitive monuments mention the event itself, but a stele of Pharaoh Merneptah (c. 1225 BC) claims that a people called Israel were encountered by Egyptian troops somewhere in northern Canaan. Finding precise geographical and chronological details of the period is problematic, but new information has emerged from vast amounts of fragmentary archaeological and inscriptional evidence. Hittite cuneiform documents parallel the ancient covenant formula governing Israel’s “national contract” with God at Mount Sinai. Ask the average Christian what he believes is the purpose and meaning of the book of Exodus and we are certain to hear about the departure of the Israelites from the land of Egypt. This would be a correct observation. But also included in the book of Exodus is the beginning of the Law. The Law and our understanding of the Law has been a point of contention between many Christian denominations and the Messianic Movement. When God adopted the nation of Israel, He established very rigid and distinct patterns to be observed. These patterns begin with the building and design of the Tent of Meeting and then move to the societal rules that God wanted this mono-theistic nation to follow. The purpose of the Law was to provide a clear definition between Israel and other pagan nations. By their willing obedience, they became the chosen people of God and the bloodline of the ultimate King of Kings. LEVITICUS VAYIKRA

Purpose/Theme: Named for Levi, head of the priestly tribe in Israel, this book records various laws and rituals, and the role of the priests in the Jewish sacrificial system.

Key Verses: “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy” (20:7-8) Main People: The people who bring the offerings (people of God) and the people who sacrifice the offerings (priests). Outline: Sacrifice and Separation: How can an unholy person come to a holy God? (1:1-6:7) The Priest: The priest went to God with the prayers and praises of the people. (8-10) Rules about Daily Living: (11-22) The Day of Atonement: (16) The Feasts (23-25) Approx. Time Frame: BC 1445-1444 Credited Author(s): Moses/Joshua/Priestly Scribe Review: The overwhelming message of the Book of Leviticus is the holiness of God. The response is that God is holy and His people will be holy. Leviticus begins to build the framework for a spiritual-societal organism that would become the role model for a mono-theistic nation. The book starts out by carefully defining a series of laws and ordinances concerning sacrifice/offerings, terms of worship, good health practices, standards for holy living and the role of the Levites. The final emphasis in Leviticus is celebration. The book gives instructions for the feasts. These were special, regular and corporate occasions for remembering what God has done. Our Christian faith has some of the pictures and practices of these events, but has wandered far away from these days. The book of Leviticus also offers a strain between the writings of the Jewish Sages, prophets and leaders and the Christian faith. Most of Christianity is confidently assured that the Law and the rule of the Law are over since the appearance of Christ. But there are stark and obvious contradictions in this line of thought. For example, most Christian parents tell their kids that the Bible directly forbids tattoos. And, they would be right to suggest that, even though it is deep in the Torah prohibitions mentioned in the “Law”.

Christianity speaks volumes against homosexual behavior, again using the Torah prohibitions. Drawing from the Ten Commandments, the argument of abortion being murder finds its Biblical justification. But again, Leviticus is viewed as an obsolete and extinct. Oddly enough, some of the Torah prohibitions listed in Leviticus are violated regularly in Christian faith and practice. One quick example would be the prohibition against shaving the man’s head bald. We would really need to address our congregations rather quickly and get some hair growing fast. While the book of Leviticus is as lengthy as the other Books of the Law, it oddly covers the smallest amount of time, being written in approx. 1-3 years. NUMBERS B’MIDBAR Purpose/Theme: Named for the numbering of the people of Israel, this book records their forty years of wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. Key Verse: “Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped”. (9:17) Main People: Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Caleb, Miriam and the Priests. Outline: The preparation for the journey (Chap. 1-10) The wilderness wanderings (Chap. 10-20) The journey to Canaan (Chap. 21-36) Approx. Timeframe: 1450-1410 BC Credited Author (s): Moses Review: While often considered a simple book of numerology and census-taking, the Book of Numbers offers a few of the most well-known stories of Old Testament knowledge. A very unique feature of the book is the way it changes gears, rapidly and suddenly, between live-time narrative to more ordinances and laws. It records the journey designed to eliminate the unbelieving Israelites from entering the Promised Land. A stark verse in

Numbers states clearly that with exception of Caleb and Joshua, none of the faithless remained. With this in mind, the book of Numbers gives us one of the first glimpses of the pending plan of redemption. The power of this example was so overwhelming that Jesus Himself quoted the scripture in one of His discourses. The Lord sent fiery serpents into the people of Israel. All were bitten and several had died. The cry of the people had reached the ears of the Lord. The instructions were to build a copy of the fiery serpent and hoist upon a standard. Those that looked on with belief would be healed. The image of the fiery serpent mounted to a standard should be familiar. It is the symbol we use for medical/pharmacy-related signage. It took faith in the object lifted up on the standard to cure and heal the snake-bites. Even after expressing belief, there was still sickness and suffering that ensued, but death was avoided. This was one of the first fore-runners of a graphic illustration of the death of the coming Messiah. The Book of Numbers also establishes the number of the tribes and who served in what different capacity. While some read the book as a boring recount of numbering systems and ordinances, I read it as the first account of the coming cross. DEUTERONOMY D’VARIM Purpose/Theme: The term “Deuteronomy” refers to the second stating of the Law of Moses. The book also rehearses some of the history of the Jews and records some of Moses’ great speeches. Key Verse: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (30:19) Main People: Moses, Joshua Outline: Moses’ first speech to the people, “Looking Back” (Chap. 1-4) Moses’ second speech to the people, “Looking Up” (Chap. 5-26) Moses’ third speech to the people, “Looking Out” (Chap. 27-33) Moses’ Death (Chap. 34) Approx. Timeframe:

1407-1406 BC Credited Author (s): Moses, with possible summary chapter by Joshua Review: Review is a good name for the book of Deuteronomy. This book completes what many Jews, orthodox, messianic or otherwise commonly refer to as “The Law”. Where the book of Deuteronomy differs from the other Law Books is it begins to outline how the Torah prohibitions will be exercised within the Jewish community. There are several key “reminders” and “re-reminders” in the book of Deuteronomy. In their dealings with strangers, slaves and foreigners, God reminds the Jewish nation to treat them fairly and with just scales, paying them at the end of each day. God tells Israel to remember that they were once “captives and bondservants” in Egypt. Deuteronomy also helps us get a better understanding of indentured servants versus the slaves as we see them through the eyes of American history and culture. The plight of the poor is also addressed here. The Torah commands that there should be “none poor among you”. A welfare system was developed, which interestingly enough, had two requirements. The first was on the landowner, who would leave the corners and droppings of his harvest for the poor. The second was upon the poor and needy, who must come and pick the fruit/food for themselves. There were no free hand-outs in this welfare system. But there were no hungry either. The protection of women and women’s rights were also a subject of this book of the Law. For example, rape was a capital offense. Women who were recently married (within a year) have their new husbands excused from military service. Women can testify and be witnesses. Rape and sex-crimes against women were taken very seriously. The sad reminder of the book of Deuteronomy is that Moses, the greatest prophet of all, will not enter the Promised Land. Shortly before his death, God shows Moses the Promised Land and then secretly buries him. JOSHUA Y’HOSHUA NEWS FLASH: WAR!!! Purpose/Theme: To record the Jewish conquest of the Land of Canaan under Joshua, successor to Moses, and to define the tribal boundaries in the new land. Key Verse: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (24:15)

Main People: Joshua, Rahab Outline: The mobilization of the army (1-2) The forward march (3-5) The fall of Jericho (6) The campaign at Ai (7-8) The southern campaign (9) The central campaign (10) The northern campaign (11) The defeated kings (12) The division of the land (13-22) Joshua’s farewell and death (24-25) Approx. Timeframe: 1405-1385 BC Credited Author(s): Joshua, Phinehas. Review: The Book of Joshua marks the beginning of the books of history. We can begin to see how God calls an individual for a very specific assignment and period of time. Such is the story of Joshua, Israel’s military commander. He was undefeated in battle, even though Israel had stormed off into battle at Ai and had suffered loss. While the major portion of the book is dedicated to the division of the land and does set accurate boundaries for what the Nation of Israel can call their own, it is in the subtle backdrops that we can read amazing stories that ring with truth for today. There are two women mentioned in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. One of them comes from the story of Joshua. Rahab heard of the pending destruction of Jericho and offered the spies safe harbor if they would spare her family. Her great personal risk helped Israel gain important information and eventually succeeds against Jericho. In chapter 22, word reaches the leadership that one of the tribes has erected an altar. This brings on a national outrage, with the other tribes and leadership going to investigate. The tribe explains that they have created this altar as a reminder for their generations to come so they will not forget the Lord. This calmed the leadership. Both Joshua and Caleb, the two original spies that believed the Lord, finally inherit the land they sought as their prize before the wilderness experience. It is also worth noting Joshua died at age 110, which we now begin to see the shortening of the human life span.

JUDGES SHOF’TIM Purpose/Theme: After arriving in Canaan, many Jews became disobedient to God. The book of Judges shows how God raised up leaders to call them back to faithfulness and to continue the conquest of the land. Key Verses: “Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies…But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers” (2:18-19) Main People: The judges. The chief judges were Deborah, Gideon, Samson and in the book of 1 Samuel, Samuel. Outline: The Israelites did not possess all the land (1-2) God sent the judges (3-16) The Israelites did not keep God’s laws (17-21) Approx. Timeframe: 1375-1063 BC Credited Authors: Possibly Samuel Review: Sin, betrayal, disobedience and war. These are the fatal elements of the book of Judges. As Israel begins to create a national identity away from the Torah, they find themselves in an unfamiliar position with God, facing His judgment rather than His favor. Judges starts off with Israel not in complete possession of its land. Several kings are not happy with Israel’s progress and begin to organize military intervention. There are many colorful characters introduced in this book. They serve a short-term usage, functioning as judges and leaders over Israel. Each one faces a unique problem or circumstance and prevails through the leadership of the Lord. The most famous would have to be Samson, whose life is well-taught in the pages of most Sunday-school materials. Perhaps the most interesting is Deborah, a woman placed in charge over men. Judges also offers the first sign of civil unrest between the tribes, an issue that later will split the Kingdom and the tribes. The tribe of Benjamin allows a very horrific event to take place and not bring the people responsible to accountability. While it is not clear why they refused, several thousand men die in the ongoing battles. The tribe off

Benjamin is so badly impacted that a rather clever plan is hatched on how to “catch some brides” for them. Beware of the evils of dancing, I guess. With all the other excitement happening, it is worth noting that the book of Judges makes very little of the Temple or any kosher observances, including Sabbath. Israel has turned away from God and soon will be brought under the leadership of earthly kings, thus rejecting the King of Kings. RUTH RUT Purpose/Theme: This book was written to show that King David-the forerunner of the Messiah-was a descendent of Ruth, a Moabite (non-Jewish) woman, and thus that God is with those who follow Him. Key Verse: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn my back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God” (1:16) Main People: Ruth, Naomi, Boaz Outline: Ruth’s husband, Mahlon, and Israelite, died in Moab. (1) Ruth decided to go to Israel with Mahlon’s mother, Naomi. (1:1-18) Ruth cared for Naomi (1:19-2:23) Ruth wanted to be with Boaz (3:1-18) Ruth married Boaz and had a son (4:1-22) Approx. Timeframe: Between 1375-1050 BC Credited Author: Unknown. Some credit Samuel, but evidence suggests it was written after Samuel’s death. Review: Of all the books of the Bible, Ruth changes gears faster than any book to book transition. This story, only four chapters long, begins to open eyes to the wonderment that is our God. Consider that Boaz was related to Rahab, a former prostitute from Jericho. Ruth, who has tasted the bitterness of losing a mate, will become mother of Obed, who fathers Jesse, who in turn fathers David.

Even in times of crisis and deepest despair, there are those who follow God and through them God works. This was a dark time in Israel’s history, with many falling away from Torah and taking the forms of local deities as their own. But through all the distress, three people with the strangest of backgrounds and suffering will ring the bells in a way to be always remembered. Naomi, who believed she was simply to go to Israel to live out her life, will soon be staring face to face with her grandchild. She soon will become the great-grandmother of David and brought into the line of the Messiah. While Israel struggled with idolatry, disobedience and violence, God was working in the backdrop securing His plan with the most unlikely of participants. The book of Ruth is a shadow of the coming Bride of Christ. All of us find ourselves spiritually destitute. Then, we meet the Groom, Jesus of Nazareth. He offers us a marriage, to join Him at His table. Our spiritual state is transformed and a new life begins. But perhaps most ironic, is that Ruth’s amazing transformation was performed not for her benefit, but to bring God the glory by showing His Divine plan, the offer of salvation for all creeds, nations and kinds. 1 SAMUEL SH’MUEL ALEF Purpose/Theme: To record the history of Israel from the birth of Samuel, the last judge, to the death of Saul, the first king and the anointing of his successor, David. Key Verses: “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” (8:19-20) Main People: Eli, Samuel, Saul and David Outline: Samuel-The last judge of Israel (1 Samuel 1-8) Saul-Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 9-15) David-A new king chosen (1 Samuel 16-31) Approx. Timeframe: 931-722 BC Credited Authors: Possibly Samuel, but also includes writings from the prophets Nathan and Gad. Review: The book of 1 Samuel starts us with the birth of the last judge of Israel, Samuel. His mother, Hannah, prayed to the Lord for a child and promised to dedicate him to the Lord.

Samuel was born and began his temple service. Each year, his mother brought him a new “little coat”. Samuel was raised in the temple by Eli. Eli is probably best known for his wicked sons. Even after careful attempts to discourage Israel, the nation clamors for king. Sadly, God feels the pain of rejection and gives His best description of what life with a king will be like. But even after His less than flattering discourse, Israel feels like having a king will bring them national presence and pride. Saul is elected as the king of Israel. He was a handsome and physically striking man. Shortly after his inauguration, he violates a direct command of God and Samuel calls him on it. This is the beginning of the end of the reign of Saul. But a new man of God appears on the scene, first as a welcome relief and warrior, but then as a fearful presence in the eyes and mind of Saul. The remainder of the book deals with the struggles and pursuits of Saul and David. A very interesting side story is the son of Saul, Jonathan. Jonathan loved David and participated in many efforts to secure David’s safety. Jonathan’s story ends in a bloody battle with the Philistines in which he dies with his father and brother. David lives on and as we will read becomes the newly elected king of Israel. In the final battle of 1 Samuel, David finishes the job that God have Saul, the destruction of the Amalekites. 2 SAMUEL SH’MUEL BET Purpose/Theme: To record the history of Israel under King David, whom God called to be the beginning of an eternal dynasty that eventually included the Messiah. Key Verse: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (7:12-13) Main People: David, Ish-bosheth, Abner, Mephibosheth, Uriah, Bathsheba, Nathan, Joab, Amnon and Absalom. Outline: David’s rise-king and ruler (1-10) David’s fall-sin and problems (11-20) David’s last days-troubles in David’s family and kingdom (21-24) Approx. Timeframe:

931-722 BC. Credited Author: Unknown. Some have suggested that Nathan’s son, Zabud, may have been the author. Review: David took the fractured kingdom that Saul had left behind and built a strong, united power. Forty years later, David would turn this kingdom over to his son Solomon. David had a heart for God. He was a king who governed God’s people by God’s principles and God blessed him greatly. David sinned with Bathsheba and then tried to cover his sin by having her husband killed. Although he was forgiven for his sin, the consequences remained and he experienced trouble and distress, both with his family and the nation. Under David’s leadership, Israel’s kingdom grew rapidly. With the growth came many changes: from tribal independence to centralized government, from the leadership of judges to a monarchy, from decentralized worship to worship at Jerusalem. David’s popularity and influence also grew rapidly. He realized that the Lord was behind his success because David wanted to pour out his kindness on Israel. David regarded God’s interests as more important than his own. We can learn much from David’s life. His determination to follow God was inspiring, yet his big fall yielded adultery, lies, conspiracy and eventually murder. Yet God still used him mightily. Is his life chronicled here a proof of God’s never ending love for us? David paid the price for his decisions all through his life and leadership. He suffered taunts and condemnation. His family members rose in revolt against him seeking the kingdom. Yet we see an uncommon kindness and loyalty in David. God also chose to bring the physical lineage of the Messiah through the line of David thus securing his place in Biblical history forever. David also serves as the creator of the Star of David, one of the most feared symbols of military valor and strength even to this day.

1 KINGS M’LAKHIM ALEF Purpose/Theme: First Kings records the glory of the Jewish nation under King Solomon and the tragic split of the kingdom into Israel in the north and Judah in the south. It is at this time that we also see the rise of the prophets as a powerful religious force. Key Verses:

“Be strong, show yourself a man and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in His ways and keep His decrees and commands, His laws and requirements…so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go” (2:2-3) Main People: David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Nathan, Jeroboam, Ahab, Jezebel, Elijah and Elisha. Outline: The reign of Solomon (1-10) The death of Solomon and division of the kingdom (11-16) King Ahab and his wife Jezebel introduce Baal worship (16) The prophet Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal (17-18) Ahab does evil (19-22) Approx. Timeframe: 561-538 BC Credited Author: Unknown, possibly Jeremiah or a group of the prophets Review: Yet another exciting chapter in the history of Israel begins to unfold. After the period of the judges, Israel begins to follow their chosen kings. Each king has unique features about his rule as we see in the book of 1 Kings. The kings eventually squabble to the point where kingdom becomes divided, with kings presiding over Judah and Israel. Both Judah and Israel find themselves not only involved in battles with each other, but also fighting with other nations who were defeated by David. These nations begin to sense the struggle within Israel and organize attacks against Israel. Enter Solomon the son of David. Solomon’s reign is marked by several amazing events. He builds a permanent House of God (El Beth-El) with incredible detail and beauty as never seen before. He builds a palace for the king as well, with architecture unrivaled in its day. So amazing were these buildings that the reputation of Solomon preceded to many foreign lands with dignitaries coming to seek the wise man Solomon. Perhaps the most famous visit was from the Queen of Sheba. But 1 Kings is not just the story of Solomon. A new and powerful force hits the religious scene of Israel. Prophets, who claim to carry direct words from God, appear on the horizon. Elijah and Elisha both begin their ministries here in 1 Kings. Prophets would perform amazing miracles, bring fear and dread to powerful leaders, advice on military strategy and often met their end in violent deaths. Prophets will also record large and small books concerning prophecy, the future of Israel and then begin to paint the picture of the coming Messiah.

2 KINGS M’LAHKIM BET Purpose/Theme: Second Kings was written to record the last years of the Jewish people as a nation and its captivity by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Key Verse: “The Lord rejected all the people of Israel; He afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers until He thrust them from His presence”. (17:20) Main People: In Israel: Elijah, Jehu and Jeroboam II In Judah: Joash, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Manasseh and Josiah. Outline: The ministry of Elijah (2 Kings 1-2) The ministry of Elisha (2 Kings 1-9:13) The last days of Israel (2 Kings 10-17) The last days Judah (2 Kings 18-25) Approx. Timeframe: 561-538 BC Credited Author: Unknown, possibly Jeremiah or a group of the prophets Review: It does not seem possible that 2 Kings could be a sadder testimony of the plight of Judah and Israel than 1 Kings. But 2 Kings not only compromises the moral and spiritual decline of the divided kingdoms, but it ushers in the end of the Jewish nation. The kings of 2 Kings mostly served the interests of foreign god and countries. There were several heroes; some were kings, prophets or everyday people. The book is full of murder, conspiracy, secret meetings and deception. Many lives were lost in battle. Miracles were performed. Some of the enemies of the Lord were destroyed. Some of the evil worship, such as Baal-worship, was driven from the land. But in the end, both Israel and Judah were taken into Babylonian captivity. A new age of Jewish history will begin. But of the days gone by, only sadness can be expressed. God warned Israel and Judah what the kings would do to them and it came true. God explained what would happen have they wandered away from them laws of God. God sent those judges, righteous kings and prophets. But they did not listen.

One king, King Josiah, understood what it would take to straighten out the land. He tore down and destroyed all forms of idol worship. He destroyed the followers and those that practiced the dark arts. The question is this; for all the good he did, didn’t Judah wind up in the same place? Yes, they did. But because of Josiah’s faithfulness, the days before the captivity were lengthened. King Josiah served God not for benefit, but for duty. 1 CHRONICLES DIVREI-HAYMIN ALEF Purpose/Theme: The two books of Chronicles retell much of the history in 1 and 2 Kings, especially for those of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, who were allowed to return from Babylonian exile. First Chronicles dwells on the reign of King David. Key Verse: “David…said to Solomon his son, be strong and courageous and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord God, my God, is with you” (28:20) Main People: Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Saul and David Outline: List of families and leaders (1-9) The reign of David (10-29) The death of Saul (10) David’s rise to power (11-12) The Ark of the Covenant (13-16) God’s promise and David’s prayer (17) The victories of David (18-20) David’s census (21) Preparations for the Temple (22-27) David’s last days and death (28-29) Approx. Timeframe: 450-430 BC Credited Author: Ezra has been named the author according to Jewish tradition Review: The story of Chronicles is about re-stating the past and reuniting the relational path between God and Israel/Judah. The writer of Chronicles begins this unifying work with an extensive genealogy. He traces the roots of the Jewish nation in a literary family

reunion from Adam onward, recounting its royal line and the loving plan of a personal God. We read 1 Chronicles and gain a glimpse of God at work through His people for generations. The previous book, 2 Kings, ends with both Israel and Judah in captivity, surely a dark age for God’s people. Then follows Chronicles, originally written as one book. Written after the captivity, it summarizes Israel’s history, emphasizing the Jewish people’s spiritual heritage in an attempt to unify the nation. The chronicler is selective in his history telling. Instead of writing an exhaustive work he carefully weaves the narrative, highlighting spiritual lessons and teaching moral truths. In Chronicles, the northern kingdom is virtually ignored and David’s triumph-not his sins-are recalled and the Temple is given great prominence as a vital center of national life. The amazing “Hall of Fame” listed in the beginning of 1 Chronicles is a wonderful testimony to the fact that God does not forget us. The names listed in Chronicles are embraced forever in Biblical history. The records of the military exploits show the power of God and His involvement with the Jewish nation. The entire book of 1 Chronicles gears us for the time of Solomon and the building of Temple. God’s covenant with David is the cornerstone agreement that is revisited time and time again. 2 CHRONICLES DIVREI-HAYMIN BET Purpose/Theme: To continue retelling the history of Judah under King Solomon, with special focus on the Temple and the neglect of true worship. Key Verse: “But will God really dwell on the earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built” (6:18) Main People: Solomon and the rulers of Judah Outline: The reign of Solomon (1-9) The rulers of Judah (10-36) Rehoboam Abijah Asa Jehoshaphat Jehoram Ahaziah Athaliah Joash

Amaziah Uzziah Jotham Ahaz Hezekiah Manasseh Amon The fall of Jerusalem (36) Approx. Timeframe: 450-430 BC Credited Author: Ezra, according to Jewish tradition. Review: From the installing of Solomon as King to the death of Josiah, 2 Chronicles follows the up and down life of the Jewish nation. It seems very clear to us as readers that as the spiritual observance of the Jewish nation went, so did their victories or troubles. The request of the nation to have a king over them not only displeased God but became very odious to them as well. Solomon defines wise leadership as he employs the best builders that the world has to offer. He sends letters out to the kings in his area and the kings respond favorably. His wisdom led him to become the first political “net-worker” in history. As a result, Solomon’s fame and legend became renown throughout the world. Dignitaries from all over came to Solomon to see if his reputation was consistent with his life. The found the statements about him, as the Queen of Sheba stated, “To be understatements”. Solomon achieved the goal of re-building the Temple and reinstating sacrifices. The people were overjoyed and observed their first Passover in many years. But is not too shortly after Solomon’s death that a new set of kings came on the scene. The Scripture’s repeat over and over again. Statements like, “and did evil in the sight of the Lord” and “did as the other kings have done” usually trigger a downfall of moral behavior and a reintroduction of idol worship. The end of the book provides us with a grim view of the next seventy years of history for the Jewish nation. The Babylonian captivity would whisk away all the accomplishments of Solomon and the plans God had for them. But a new type of leadership is coming from heaven to help the nation during its trial.

EZRA ‘EZRA

Purpose/Theme: The Babylonians are now conquered by the Persians. This account is of Ezra the priest being allowed to lead a return to Palestine in the fifth century BC, to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. Key Verse: “The Lord our God had been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in His sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage”. (9:8) Main People: Cyrus, Ezra, Haggai, Darius I and Artaxerxes. Outline: The decree of the Persian king (1) The census of the people (2) The rebuilding of the Temple (3-6) The return to Jerusalem (7-8) Dealing with the people’s sins (9-10) Approx. Timeframe: 450 BC, recording events from 538-450 BC Credited Author: Not stated, but probably Ezra Review: The fear of the God of Israel is clearly demonstrated here in Ezra. During their time of captivity, the Persian kings determine that it is not a good idea to upset God. They decide to release whatever followers of this God there may be to allow them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild His Temple. But, not only rebuild His Temple, but to reinstate the sacrifices and practices as well. A very interesting commentary is read about the city of Jerusalem. Detractors arose and tried to shake the confidence of the king concerning the rebuilding efforts. At one point a work stoppage was ordered. So what concerned the king so greatly as to order the stoppage? It was requested that the king read the old records concerning the city of Jerusalem and see how it has proven to be the thorn in the side of many kings, even as much as destroying their kingdoms. The city named “The City of Peace” has historically proven to be anything but peaceful. Even into the modern age Jerusalem still projects the image of unrest. But later kings released the work stoppage and provided funding and training to continue the project.

The burden of organizing, both logistically and spiritually, fell squarely on the shoulders of Ezra. He employs a couple of interesting techniques for dealing with this awesome responsibility. First, he puts the issues, needs and situation before the people and has them pray to God concerning it. He utilizes a “corporate” system involving the people in the daily decisions. He also assigns leaders to assist in ruling and enforcing the people. At the end of the book of Ezra, it is determined that intermarriage (between Israel and other nations) was to be forbidden. The issue seemed to surround their spiritual differences and observances rather than any racist or sexist viewpoints. Also noteworthy, Ezra and Nehemiah was one book in the Hebrew Bible and with Esther, they comprise the post-captivity historical books. The post historical books are: Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Haggai and Zechariah should be studied with Ezra because they prophesied during the period of the reconstruction. NEHEMIAH NECHEMYAH Purpose/Theme: Only a few years after Ezra served as a priest during the “restoration” of the Jews from Babylon, Nehemiah followed as governor. This book describes his leadership in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and renewing the covenant. Key Verse: “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart” (4:6) Main Person: Nehemiah Outline: The rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (1-7) The repairing of the agreement with God (8-10) The reforming of the nation (11-13) Timeframe: 424-400 BC Credited Author: Much of the book was written in the first person, suggesting Nehemiah as author. Nehemiah probably wrote the book with Ezra serving as editor. Review:

This book becomes the first written in a “first-person” narrative. It recounts the story of Nehemiah, a governor working for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah offers many keys to great leadership techniques. He rallied the people, he taught the people and he prepared the people for the battles ahead. Nehemiah was accustomed to hostile people. For several chapters, he faces attempts to intimidate him and try to stop the work. The efforts he made were compromised by stories of sedition and treason. But Nehemiah looked to the Lord over and over again. He even survived a prophet that tried to fool him into a bad decision. The people found tough going during the rebuilding of the walls. It got to the point where they had to handle building tools and protective weapons at the same time. But they solidified their hearts and built a major construction project that still to this day would be hard to duplicate. Nehemiah also knew that it was not just about what the walls could keep out. He was equally concerned about the spiritual condition of the people inside the walls. He established the Levites and the sons of Aaron back into the Temple service. The Feast of the Booths was practiced. Nehemiah also had the Torah read to the people. The Torah pierced their hearts. He then moved to repair the Sabbath. He found out where the Sabbath-breaking was occurring and made it his personal mission to close the gap. He discouraged sale of any types of foods or services. The final chapter finds Nehemiah addressing the “mixed-nationality” marriages. He orders the reversal of the marriages and condemns the practice. Again, it is significant to point out that the objection to the mixed-marriages was about the compromise of foreign idol worship, not for racial separation. ESTHER ESTER Purpose/Theme: To record God’s preservation of the Jews through Esther, a Jewess who became queen of Persia and the origins of the Feast of Purim in celebration of deliverance. Key Verse: “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this”? (4:14)

Main People: Vashti, Esther, Mordecai, Haman and Ahasuerus Outline: The rejection of Vashti (1) The crowning of Esther (2) The plotting of Haman (3-4) The courage of Esther (5) The deliverance of the Jews (6-10) Approx. Timeframe: 450-331 BC Credited Author: Unknown. Possibly Mordecai. Some have suggested Ezra or Nehemiah because of the similar writing styles. Review: For only ten chapters, the book of Esther packs some of the greatest life applications that we will find. The story drips with irony, deceit, conspiracy and searching out what God has called us to do. Characters like Haman, whose hatred for the Jews (like most racial hatred) consumed him on every path. But God takes the plan of Haman and not only turns it back on him, but places Haman in the position of honoring the very man and the very people he held in the highest contempt. But the story also answers in convincing fashion a plaguing question of the Church today. Many Christians believe that their service to God is so important that if they failed in their mission or quit, the Kingdom of God would suffer collapse. The book of Esther does not support that sentiment. When faced with the decision of confronting the king with the plot against the Jews and thus revealing her national heritage, Esther listens carefully to the advice of Mordecai. He tells her that the Jews will be delivered with her or without her. It is not a question of whether God will deliver the Jews, but who He will utilize for their deliverance. He also suggests that her current position as royalty may have been orchestrated by God “for such a time as this”. Esther responds by taking her concerns to the king. Her courage pays off as not only are the Jews spared from Haman’s plot but they are granted the king’s permission to fight back against their enemies. Haman winds up dying in the gallows that he built to kill Mordecai. As the saying goes, “The Lord works in Mysterious Ways”.

JOB IYOV Purpose/Theme: This is the most famous attempt in Western literature to grapple with the question of why good people sometimes suffer. A part of the Old Covenant is that God will bless the faithful. Job agonizes over the apparent exceptions, trying to preserve both the power and the justice of God. The book concludes that ultimately the reason behind much suffering is known only to God. Key Verse: “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice…as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness and my tongue will utter no deceit” (27:2-4) Main People: Job, his family and Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and Elihu Outline: The disasters of Job (1-2) The friends of Job (3-37) Job’s conversation with God (38-42) The deliverance of Job (42) Approx. Timeframe: Unknown Credited Author: Unknown, possibly Job. Some have suggested Moses, Solomon or Elihu Review: Endless people will say “you must have the patience of Job”. But the book of Job has very little to do with patience as much as it has to do with understanding God and suffering. Very few subjects gain more attention than this one. C.S. Lewis wrote a book called “The Problem with Pain” in which he talked about pain and suffering. Later he would write “A Grief Observed” which he wrote after the death of his wife. His perspective changed immensely when facing the suffering personally instead of on paper. The book of Job brings us face to face with the suffering. There is also a very evident spiritual battle being portrayed in Job. The Lord God has dialogue with the Devil concerning Job and challenges God that Job is simply a follower due to the kindness that God has shown him. This conversation should get the attention of all followers of Jesus as we have no Biblical evidence that states this was a onetime situation.

The book of Job answers the confusion of the question of pain and suffering. How could a God of love allow this to happen to Job? How can He condone experimenting with Job’s life? It comes from the understanding of what God is truly all about. God is about His glory. From Genesis to Revelation, we can see the clear message of God’s glory. Jesus was very clear that He came to glorify God with His mission. God allows suffering to show His followers faithful. He uses pain to help us become more dependent on Him. But in all He performs in our lives it is for the opportunity to glorify God through our actions. But even still with the idea of the glory of God firmly planted in our minds, we will continue to struggle with this because there is some suffering that only God knows the answer to. Job’s friends did not seem to offer any advice that helped Job. PSALMS TEHILLIM Purpose/Theme: Most of the Psalms were probably written to be set to music and sung. Because of their use in ancient Jewish worship, the book of Psalms is sometimes called the hymnbook of the Old Testament. Key Verse: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs”. (100:1-2) Outline: Book 1: (1-41) Written by David Book 2: (42-72) Written by David/sons of Korah Book 3: (73-89) Written by Asaph Book 4: (90-106) Unknown Book 5: (107-150) Written by David/unknown NOTE: Asaph was David’s choir leader. The sons of Korah were a family of official musicians. Approx. Timeframe: 1410-450 BC Credited Author: See outline for authorship Review:

The Book of Psalms is the unbelievable musical journey of the life and times of the Hebrews. This book offers praise and worship, prayers for victory, instructions in rightliving and prayers for the violent destruction of enemies. The strength of the book lies in the fact that it is written around the situations and circumstances that the writers were facing. It establishes the proper pattern for worship song-writing. The psalms range in size, from two-verse scenes to the longest chapter totally 176 verses. The writers confess their sins, express their doubts and ask God for His help. While the most popular opinion is the worship/praise angle, the Book of Psalms contains more ideas and thoughts about the practice and value of the Law, known to the Hebrews as The Torah. There is possibly no better book to guide a believer in the ways of communication with God. The elements of prayer are personal and the confessionals are honest and descriptive. The book moves through high spots and low valleys with incredible pace. Perhaps my favorite observation about Psalms is that it represents life as it will really be lived. Life is messy. Only those that can focus on the Word of the Lord can possibly escape this life alive. There is a tendency to “romanticize” the book of Psalms. To make it a collection of just songs and poems for spiritual devotion time. But the book of Psalms is more than a songbook. It is a complete collection of the adversity, joy, struggle, pain, suffering, victories and failures that we will all experience. Psalms reminds us that we live in the world we have, not always the one we want. PROVERBS MISHLEI Purpose/Theme: Proverbs is a part of the “wisdom” literature of the Old Testament. In its present form it is a collection of wise sayings from several sources, including King Solomon, laying practical rules for right living based on reverence for God instead of on mere human wisdom. Key Verse: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (9:10) Sample Topics: Respecting one’s elders The follow of unchaste love The rewards of learning wisdom from God

The value of discipline The value of honesty The value of good reputation The fate of the fool The value of hard work Approx. Timeframe: 971-965 BC Credited Author: Solomon wrote most of this book, with Agur and Lemuel contributing some of the later sections. Review: The Book of Solomon is more than just a collection of riddles and moral codes. It rings with a sense of first-hand experience. While the writings seem very narrative in their origins, there are reasons to believe that these writings were more designed to express a teaching environment. Solomon exposes the folly of prostitution, adultery and fornication in deep and dramatic fashion. He describes the kinds of people that participate in these sexual sins. He goes into great detail about the pain and suffering associated with these sexual sins. He addresses people that do not work for their food. He showed a prejudicial attitude against lazy or slothful behavior. He stresses how their lives will turn on them quickly and decisively. Solomon personifies wisdom to the point of assigning a gender to it. He endorses the pursuit of wisdom, making it a life-time pursuit. His reasoning is clear. Wisdom begins the understanding of a relationship with God. A new standard of right-living is addressed as Solomon teaches us that God looks at success by having a good reputation, moral character and spiritual devotion that creates obedience to Him. It appears at times that Solomon addresses the book to his son(s). He had gained these life experiences through the development of his kingdom. He became the wealthiest man in the world with foreign dignitaries visiting him for advice and to confirm his reputation of wisdom. For all his wisdom and writings about wisdom, his son became one of the worst kings of Israel and on Old Testament history. Solomon served as a signpost, directing without a living example. EC CLESIASTES KOH ELET

Purp ose// The me: This pessimistic book, some of it from Solomon, is an experiment in the laboratory of life “under the sun” that is, without reference to God. It concludes that without Him, power, riches and wisdom are worth nothing, all is vanity. Key Verse: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter; fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13) Ou tl ine: The failure of the world to satisfy your longings (1-4) The value of wisdom and reverence in the midst of vanity (5-10) The conclusion of the matter (11-12) Appro x. Timeframe: 940-931 BC Credited Au thor: Solomon Review: It seems difficult to believe, but even the wisest man in the world spent many years of his life apart from God. Solomon struggled with his spirituality, surrounded by the finest and brightest of all of the current world’s offerings. Ecclesiastes addresses the idea of the vanity of this world and the total loss of significant meaning of life away from God. As Solomon reviews his accomplishments, his property, his inventions and his kingdom, he speaks of it in a disdain that seems almost ungrateful. He condenses the human experience to “chasing after the wind”. He claims that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. He states that God sends waters to grow the produce of the righteous and the unrighteous. All in all, one would think after reading the book that it really doesn’t matter how you live. But that was not his point at all. Solomon also speaks of death. It is in death that he observes a difference in the lives of the people. As Christians, we understand that death is simply the beginning. Dying leads to an eternal destiny, based on the decisions we have made in this life.

Solomon encourages us to make wise decisions as these decisions will and must carry into the life to come. In a seemingly hurried fashion, Solomon closes the book by making a conclusion about all he has mentioned. The final conclusion is to fear God and follow His commandments. He believes that this is all a man can do that will stand in the end. Regardless of our accomplishments, financial status, vocational choices and race, we will all face the future based on our connection with fearing God and obeying His Word.

SONG OF SOLOMON SHI R- HASHI RIM

Purp ose/ The me: This romantic poetry celebrates human love in vivid Middle Eastern imagery. It may have been written by Solomon about a favorite wife. Key Verse: “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (8:6) Ou tl ine: Mutual expressions of love (1-2) The pain of separation (3) Images of love and beauty (4-8) Appro x. Timeframe: 971-965 BC Credited Au thor: Probably Solomon Review: The Church has grappled with the exact meaning and expression of the Song of Songs. Attempts to make this book sound figurative or allegorical have permeated Christian thought. But there cannot be any mistake about the meaning of this book. It addresses sexual intimacy, contact and love in an erotic and physical fashion. But just as strong as the physical measures of the book, there is an amazing part of it dedicated to the conversation of intimacy. We find these lovers seeking each other

out, longing after each other and even having dreams about being separated from each other. Their love is “strong as death”. Their love is also talked about by their friends as they tell their friends of the feelings they posses for each other. People around them would be very aware of their love for each other. Interestingly, sexual foreplay and contact is described but the actual act of intercourse is not mentioned. The key to the success of these lovers is their anticipation of each other. They speak of the various body parts in terms of beauty and many comparisons to nature are given. They also spend time in preparation, such as preparing the bedroom, the spraying of fragrances and the washing of the body. This book has been given to us to shake our refusal to address the sexual relationship of a married couple. The Church often portrays sex as dirty, improper, pornographic, adultery, fornication and homosexual. And the best news is that they suggest saving this dirty stuff for the person you get married to. We have a long way to go.

ISAI AH YESHA’Y AHU

Purp ose/ The me: Isaiah was a prophet in Judah during the eighth century, when the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians. He is often called “the Messianic Prophet”, since his message of future judgment and deliverance pointed forward to coming of Christ. “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace”. (9:6) Ma in Peo ple: Isaiah; the Judean kings of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh. Ou tl ine: God’s messages of judgment (1-39) God’s messages of comfort (40-66) Appro x. Time frame: 700-681 BC

Credited Au thor: The prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz Review: Isaiah begins the books of the Major Prophets. As we will see, each of the Major Prophets addresses their times very differently. Isaiah is no exception. By in large, Isaiah documents the suffering and pending judgment of Israel as the other prophets does. But he also implements the coming of the Messiah and begins to tell us about the Savior. Isaiah also uses visions and dreams as his conduit between God and himself. One of the most famous visions is the vision of the Heavenly Temple of God. Isaiah has one of the few direct encounters with God seeing Him face to face. In this vision, Isaiah receives his calling to the prophetic ministry. His vision of God first helps him to see his own wickedness and begs for forgiveness. The next event is God calling for workers. Isaiah responds immediately with a resounding “I will go”. Isaiah faces many challenges that the prophets would face. His blunt and aggressive messages made many of his contemporaries angry. He called the people to turn from their lives of sin and warned them about God’s pending judgment. Isaiah had an active ministry for 60 years before he was executed during Manasseh’s reign (according to tradition). The book of Isaiah divides into two sections; the first contains scathing remarks concerning the sins of the people and the leadership. He calls for leaders and people alike to confess their sins and create an environment of repentance. The second half of the book is filled with consolation and hope as we are treated to the beginning definitions of the coming Messiah.

JEREM IAH YIR MEYA HU

Purp ose/ The me: This records the prophet Jeremiah’s tragically unsuccessful calls for Judah to repent of idolatry and immorality, thus avoiding Babylonian captivity; and his predictions that a remnant will be saved. Key Verse:

“If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be taken captive”. (13:17) Ma in Peo ple: Jeremiah; important Judean kings; Manasseh, Josiah, Zedekiah. Ou tl ine: Before the fall of Jerusalem (1-38) After the fall of Jerusalem (39-52) Appro x. Timeframe: 586-570 BC Credited Au thor: Jeremiah Review: The book of Jeremiah differs from the other prophetic books in that it chronicles the journey of Jeremiah among the people more than the other Major Prophets. Jeremiah will be witness to the some of the greatest suffering mentioned or recorded in the Bible. Jeremiah is beaten, imprisoned and hated by most of the kings and prophets of his day. He delivered messages that accused the current day religious laity of fleecing the people of God. He refuted many of their prophetic utterances an said that there were so many “oracles” that it was impossible to tell the real oracles from the false claims. Another unique feature of the book is the unusual way the book flows. The book of Jeremiah does not follow the order in which things happened. Jeremiah and his assistant, Baruch, wrote Jeremiah’s messages on a long scroll. It stands to reason that while the dictation process was going on, Jeremiah remembered a section of another message from earlier. This earlier message would then be added to the scroll where he had left off writing. This mixing of early and late messages makes it very difficult to know the order in which his messages were given. Jeremiah is known as the “weeping prophet”. He spent his prophetic career watching the downhill acceleration of Judah and Israel. He knew in his heart that God would relent of the coming destruction if the people would simply repent and change the national direction of idolatry and immorality. He not only preached against those things, but he also went into captivity with the people and continued to be their spiritual advisor.

LAMEN TATIONS EIK HAH Purp ose/ The me: Lamentations is the “funeral dirge over the desolation of Jerusalem” (Halley). In 586 BC this book was most likely written by Jeremiah. Key Verse: “How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the providences has now become a slave” (1:1) Ou tl ine: The tragic state of Jerusalem (1) The wrath of God (2) Jeremiah’s grief (3) The reason for the tragedy (4-5) Appro x. Timeframe: 586 BC Credited Au thor: Possibly Jeremiah

Review: Three strands of Hebrew thought meet in Lamentations-prophecy, ritual and wisdom. Lamentations is written in the rhythm and style of ancient Jewish funeral songs or chants. It contains five poems according to the five chapters. We find Jeremiah weeping and mourning over the condition and suffering of the people. He does not lament over the pain he feels. His grief is felt for the people. Unique to this writing, aside from the truly Jewish flavor in the shape of the text, Jeremiah does not ask God to relieve the hand of punishment. Jeremiah does spend the closing section of the book praising God and admonishing all His attributes. Jeremiah believes that God’s mercy will bring needed relief. He tells us that when God administrates punishment, He will fill that suffering with kindness and grace.

He challenges his listeners not to be angry with God because of the events that are transpiring. He calls each person into accountability for his sins. He continues with the theme that God’s loving-kindness will not cease. He tells us that the Lord will save and be our portion. The key he mentions for closeness with God is to seek Him. He tells us to wait upon the salvation of the Lord. He brings into clear focus that the tougher the circumstance, the more we must strive to draw close to God. Many of the experiences we endure in this life are aimed at bringing us closer to God. This sad period of time is vividly described in the book of Lamentations. Graphic descriptions of horrible events are littered through its pages. Jeremiah is an amazing testimony to a man being used by God.

EZEKIEL YECHEZK’EL Purpose/Theme: Ezekiel was a prophet of the Babylonian captivity. He was given visions and dreams about the fall of Jerusalem, God’s wrath toward the nations and the return of a remnant from Babylon. Key Verses: “O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel…I will put My Spirit in you and you will live”. (37:12, 14) Outline: Ezekiel’s call (Ezekiel 1-3) Prophecies against Judah and Jerusalem (4-24) Prophecies against the nations (25-32) Prophecies about Israel and the last days (33-48) Approx. Timeframe: 590-570 BC Credited Author: Ezekiel son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest. Review: Of all the Major Prophets, Ezekiel gives us the most visions and dreams. He sees strange shapes and descriptions, all geared toward a greater understanding of the downfall of

Israel and what it will take to bring them back. His book is full of encounters with God and mysterious proclamations about future history. But perhaps the greatest mystery concerning the book of Ezekiel is the question of what future is Ezekiel talking about. Many Christian “End Times” theologians point to Ezekiel as the future events mentioned in Revelations. Special attention has been focused on the condemnation of Babylon. Many end-times specialists believe that Babylon is a spiritual analogy for the wickedness of the world at the end of the age. Others have gone as far as to suggest that Babylon is the Roman Catholic Church, where some are convinced that the Pope will serve as the Antichrist. But Ezekiel’s visions do not present themselves in a neat or even chronological order. Much like the book of Revelations, they move from past, present and future tenses with a great ease. Ezekiel was a true street-preacher, who much like Jeremiah, lived among the people he was serving. He used object lessons often spawned from his visions he received from God. His messages were also of pending doom with special attention being paid to the wicked religious leadership of the day. His most famous writings would be the chapter about the Watchman, in which we are taught that by looking away instead of sounding the alarm, we take on the blood of those not warned. The Valley of the Dry Bones is also a favorite which has captured the imagination and even has a song written about it. DANIEL DANI’EL Purpose/Theme: This book is the story of some Hebrew captives who gained the favor of both God and their captors. Daniel’s visions and dreams symbolize the sovereignty of God and His coming kingdom over all the kingdoms of the earth. Key Verse: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever”. (2:44) Main People: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and King Nebuchadnezzar Outline: Daniel’s life in Babylon (1-6) Daniel’s visions (7-12)

Approx. Timeframe: 536-530 BC Credited Author: Daniel Review: Daniel is an exciting and fast moving book that captures both Daniel’s life and his prophetic utterances. For the Christian, especially in terms of end-times prophecy, Daniel’s writings are full of controversy and mystery. Perhaps the most famous story in the book of Daniel is about the lion’s den. Every Sunday school child has heard how Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for his faith (which must scare them to death) and how God came and rescued him from certain disaster. But we often miss the sideline story about the faith of the king in the God of Daniel. Before throwing Daniel into the lion’s den, the king told Daniel that his God would save him. Then the next day, he comes calling for Daniel as if he was alive, not dead. From then on, the nation is ordered to worship the “God of Daniel”. The three men cast into the fiery furnace is another very popular story again told in children’s circles. By refusing to bow, they angered the king and he had them set on fire. But his plan was thwarted when they did not burn up and a fourth mystery guest appeared in the fire with them. But the clamor over Daniel’s prophecies seems to overshadow all the other stories. The main system of belief for the seven-year tribulation comes from Daniel chapter 9 and the Seventy Weeks. The great “Abomination of Desolation”, which is described as the event when regular Temple sacrifices start up again is pointed to as the beginning of the end-times events. While the seven-year tribulation makes for some interesting reading, the Scriptures and the math simply do not add up. HOSEA HOSHEA Purpose/Theme: The prophet Hosea called the northern nation of Israel to repentance in the eight century BC. He emphasizes God’s faithfulness or “covenant love”. But the people would not listen and they were carried away into Assyrian captivity about the middle of Hosea’s ministry. Key Verse: “The Lord said to Hosea, Go take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord”. (1:2)

Main People: Hosea; the kings of Israel from Jeroboam II to Hoshea Outline: Hosea’s wife: (1-3) Hosea’s people: (4-14) Approx. Timeframe: 750-710 BC Credited Author: Hosea, son of Beeri. (Hosea means salvation) Review: The book of Hosea is a love story, complete with truth and tragedy. God instructs Hosea to take a prostitute for a wife. In Jewish custom, by taking a prostitute for a wife, all his children will be considered the children of harlotry. It makes for a life of hardship and suffering, as Hosea never knows where his wife might be cheating on him playing the harlot again. At one point, it appears he has to buy her out of slavery and ask her to return to him. Many people would have let her be sold, but Hosea was being called to represent the kind of undying love that God has for Israel and Judah. Hosea spends time addressing Judah and begging her to observe the path of suffering that Israel has chosen. One of the messages of this book is that sin has consequences. Some of these consequences are devastating. The descriptions of the suffering throughout the book and in comparison to the other books are simply unbelievable. God served Judah notice and it was His divine desire that they return to the covenant and commandments He had given them. He did not desire to bring this great calamity upon them, but the “stiffness of their necks” and the “stubbornness of their hearts” seemed to accelerate those dramatic events that would unfold. We can learn much from their example. It seems that we all make attempts to skirt around with sin, pretending to have a handle on it. But in the end, it is our loving God that does whatever He needs to do get our attention and bring us back under His wings. JOEL YO’EL Purpose/Theme: A little before Hosea prophesied to Israel in the north, Joel preached to Judah in the south. He warned that a plague of locusts and a resulting famine stood for the judgment of the Day of the Lord that was to come, but in that Day would also come with an outpouring of God’s Spirit.

Key Verses: “I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy and your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions…And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. (2:28, 32) Main People: Joel; possibly during the reigns of King Joash or King Uzziah Outline: Looking back at God’s judgment (1) Looking toward the Day of the Lord (2-3) Approx. Timeframe: 835-796 BC Credited Author: Joel, son of Pethuel Review: At the heart of the modern Pentecostal Movement is the prophesy of the Spirit in Joel chapter 2. Most people that quote this verse are probably unaware of the events unfolding in its backdrop. God begins talking about some subtle differences in the way He will be dealing with the people of the earth. One of these changes is the prophecy concerning all nations coming to Him. He says that the day is coming when all peoples will call upon His name. This is exciting news as the Old Testament is starting to lay the foundation for the Gentile population coming into His fold. Joel talks about the Day of the Lord, which appears to have pending judgment and amazing blessings all at the same time. The people of Judah had become very wealthy and affluent. They no longer saw the reasoning for walking in the paths that God had instructed them. Self-centeredness, idolatry and sin were the major complaints that God had leveled against them. Joel was prophesying that relief from the judgment of God was possible if a move toward national repentance was achieved. Joel’s book does stand separate in that he writes much on the promises of deliverance. Part of that deliverance is the restoration of Israel and Judah and part of that deliverance is judgment upon the nations that have unfairly treated Israel and Judah during their periods of captivity. God seems especially angry about the misuse of the sacred Temple implements. Joel also records unjust treatment in terms of the slaves, selling male and female children in exchange for services.

AMOS ‘AMOS

Purpose/Theme: Amos was another 8th century prophet with a message for the northern kingdom, Israel, although he lived in Judah. His visions and prophecies warned both the Jews and their persecutors of God’s coming judgment, but also predicted the glory of a restored kingdom of David Key Verses: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand in your assemblies…let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream”. (5:21, 24) Main People: Amos was a contemporary of Hosea, and late in his ministry, of Isaiah and Micah. Outline: Amos’s prophecies: (1-2) Amos’s sermons: (3-6) Amos’s visions: (7-9) Approx. Time Frame: 760-750 BC Credited Author: Amos Review: The book of Amos starts off in a very different place with a very different kind of prophet. Amos is called by God while tending the sheep as a shepherd by trade. God seems to have a special interest in shepherds. While Amos actually came from the region of Judah, he goes to the northern kingdom in Israel for most of his prophesies. He is told to leave the region after his messages and visions begin to disturb the prophets. There are four chapters devoted to the sins of the people. Amos brings railing accusations against Israel and Judah. The accusations include hiding beneath a fake religious exterior, worshipping idols and oppressing the needy and poor. He openly confronted them on their sins and warned about God’s pending judgment. Samaria had become the capital of Israel. They were prosperous, greedy and unjust. Over taxation, illegal slave trade and land-grabbing, thus moving the markers as prohibited by God in the Torah. They also had no concern whatsoever for the plight of the needy. In the time of Amos God finally grows weary and no longer will tolerate their disobedience. One of the consistent themes of the prophets appeared here again in Amos. Many people abandon their faith yet still remain religious in appearance. These superficial religious exercises replace true spiritual integrity. God desires true heartfelt obedience that not

only exemplifies love for Him but also shows a commitment to the values He has shown important. Amos shows that often prosperity can bring corruption and destruction. God offers repentance and the opportunity for change. But the sad truth is Israel and Judah both suffered great hardship because of their actions.

OBADIAH ‘OVADYAH Purpose/Theme: This prophecy was directed toward the Edomites, the descendants of Esau and long-time enemies of the Israelites. Edom was known for its rocky cliffs, which made it a natural fortress. The Edomites were overrun by the Babylonians when they destroyed Jerusalem in the 6th century BC, just as Obadiah predicted. Key Verse: “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, who can bring me down to the ground?” (1:3) Outline: Introduction (1) Judgment on Edom (2-14) The Day of the Lord (15-21) Approx. Timeframe: 850-840 BC Credited Author: Obadiah Review: Make no mistake about it, God will judge and punish those that cause suffering to His children. Edom is the focal point of this writing. Edom had constantly harassed the Jews. Prior to the time this book was written, they had participated in attacks against Judah. Given the dates we estimate for the writing of this book, this prophecy came after the division of Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms and before the conquering of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. Obadiah has the honor of being the shortest book in the Bible. But the book has a dramatic message for those that harm the children of God. Strangely enough, the Edomites were blood relatives to the Israelites. We would expect that they would have come to the aid of Israel during its time of tribulation. But instead the gloated over

Israel’s problems and captured fugitives and delivered them over to the enemy. In their spare time, they looted Israel’s countryside. The prediction of Obadiah of the destruction the Edomites is caused by their standing by as Israel was attacked. God also turns the table and provides the land of the Edomites to Judah. We can also ascertain that Edom must have felt very secure because of their mountain fortress they called home. But regardless of the protection they felt, God was able to pull them down from their high place. Amos tells us that arrogance of the heart is very deceiving and will be a downfall when it comes to dealing with God.

JONAH YONAH

Purpose/Theme: Jonah was another 8th century prophet whom God selected to preach to the people of Nineveh, a city of the Assyrians, the very nation God had selected to punish the northern kingdom of Israel. No wonder Jonah fled leading to the famous story of Jonah and the great fish. Key Verse: “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (4:11) Outline: Jonah tried to run away (1) Jonah prayed to God (2) Jonah preached to the people in Nineveh (3) Jonah learned God loves all people (4) Approx. Timeframe: 775 BC Credited Author: Jonah, son of Amitai Review: Another famous story told in Sunday Schools everywhere. Jonah in the belly of the whale is the story of a disobedient prophet that won’t go to the city God sends him to. After boarding a ship heading the other direction, Jonah encounters an angry God and winds up being thrown overboard by a group of suspicious sailors. As soon as he hits the waters, he is swallowed up by a whale before he drowns.

After three days in the belly of the whale, a story that Jesus would later retell, Jonah finds he is ready to be obedient to the Lord’s call. He heads off to Nineveh to preach the Word of the Lord. It was tough on Jonah because the people of Nineveh were the very same ones God had used to punish Israel. Upon his arrival, he preaches and the city takes on sackcloth and ashes and repents from their sins. From the king on down the line, the country experiences a national repentance. The Assyrians that had been the thorn in the side of Israel was now preparing to embrace the God of Israel. Jonah struggles with their turn-a-round. He becomes angry with God. But God applies a logic that will continue on as a major theme of the New Testament. God does not look upon past history or national heritage in terms of the needs of people. God argues with Jonah that He has concern for these people. He tells Jonah that they can’t tell their right hand from their left. God feels their suffering and answers them with His Word. Their response is evidence enough of their readiness and need.

MICAH MIKHAH Purpose/Theme: About the time Isaiah was preaching to Jerusalem, Micah was prophesying in western Judah, directing his warnings to Israel as well. Key Verse: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s Temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills and peoples will stream to it.” (4:1) Outline: Micah warned that nations and rulers who do not obey God will be defeated (1-3) Micah promised that God will provide a new King (4-5) Micah gave thee people God’s promise that He will forgive them (6-7) Approx. Timeframe: 735-710 BC Credited Author: Micah, a native of Moresheth Review: Micah records a very popular verse that has been the subject of many songs and sermons. He answers the question about what God requires from a man. First to do justice, then to

love kindness and finally to walk humbly before God. It is of special interest to note that these three principles make up the major portion of the indictment against Israel and Judah. Again centered in the area of Samaria, Micah tells of the pending destruction of the community on the account of their failure to deal with their sins. God hates sins and brings His judgment against those that recklessly continue in their sins. He also proclaims woes upon those that practice iniquities. Micah states that the practitioners of iniquity lie on their beds at night and rehearse the sin they are planning. They plan thievery, murder, adultery and don’t even blush. They believe that God is far off and is not willing to deal with them. But soon they will see that God is more than ready to deal with their sin. The comparison is mentioned in other prophetical books that God has ceased to listen to the people as they had ceased to listen to him. God promises special attention will be paid to the deceitful prophets who have been leading the people away. Their message seems to imply that there will be peace when God is promising destruction. Even with the obvious signs of His judgment, the prophets continue to attempt to hold the profitable “status quo” together. But God says that darkness will enter their vision and they will not be able to answer in that day.

NAHUM NACHUM Purpose/Theme: Nahum preached of God’s justice and love. Like Jonah, he warned that Nineveh would be destroyed because of its wickedness. Later, God would restore His people to the land of promise. Key Verse: “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him, but with an overwhelming flood He will make an end of Nineveh; He will pursue His foes into darkness.” (1:7-8) Outline: Nineveh’s Judge (1) Judgment (2) Instruction (3) Approx. Timeframe: 650 BC Credited Author:

Nahum Review: The book of Nahum centers on the city of Nineveh and the Assyrian people. Their belief in their invincibility would become part of their downfall. They had performed acts of idolatry, arrogance and oppression. A hundred years before this time, Jonah had preached in Nineveh and had good results. But as time passed, the nation turned from the Lord and returned to their previous actions. Nineveh was a great city headed for a collision with God. Nahum called Nineveh a bloody city, an evil city and the Assyrians were judged for their idolatry, murder, lies, treachery and social injustice. Nahum predicted that this proud and powerful nation would be completely destroyed because of its sins. Nineveh met its doom within 50 years of this writing. In Nahum 1:1, there is a reference to “one who has plotted evil against the Lord”. This could have been Ashurbanipal (669-627 BC) king of Assyria during much of Nahum’s life and the one who brought the Assyrians to their zenith of power. Sennacherib (705681 BC) who openly defied God (see 2 Kings 18) epitomizing rebellion against God. There was no one king in particular more evil than any other, but an entirely evil monarchy. One of the complaints against the Assyrians was their life of excess. The major source of the wealth for the Assyrians economy was the plunder taken from other nations. The Assyrians had taken food of innocent people to maintain their luxurious standard of living, depriving others to supply their excesses. God took exception to this and brought judgment on them. HABAKKUK HAVAKUK Purpose/Theme: This book was written to show the justice of God in allowing such terrible judgment to come upon Judah by the hands of an equally wicked nation, Babylon. God assures Habakkuk that the Babylonians will also be punished and that He will save those who are faithful to Him. Key Verse: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of our deeds; Oh Lord, Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” (3:2) Outline: The first complaint (1:1-4) God’s answer (1:5-11)

The second complaint (1:12-2:1) God’s answer (2:2-20) A prayer of praise (3) Approx. Timeframe: 615-605 BC Credited Author: Habakkuk Review: Habakkuk was a prophet with a lot of questions. He has exchanges with God in which God answers his questions. Habakkuk talks with God concerning why Judah has not been punished for their sins. Habakkuk could not understand God’s timing, an issue that we all struggle with. God responds by telling Habakkuk that the Babylonians will be used in punishing Judah. That brings up another question from Habakkuk. Why would God use the evil Babylonians to punish Judah? God reassures Habakkuk that He is using the Babylonians not only to punish Judah, but to bring them on the radar for God to punish them as well. It seems like evil will triumph, but God reaffirms that all evil will be answered for. With a new sense of justice, Habakkuk concludes his book with a prayer of triumph. Habakkuk’s understanding of God’s love and mercy provokes him to say, “Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength and He has made my feet like the hinds’ feet and makes me walk on high places” (3:1819) There is a great lesson to be learned through the life of Habakkuk. When the prophet had questions, he went directly to God. When he received the answers he prayed the prayer of faith. The challenge in communicating with God is understanding that we are limited in our thinking. God desires to increase our understanding of Him by passing His knowledge to us a piece at a time. Habakkuk asks his questions and then responds in ways that tell God that he gets it. ZEPHANIAH TZ’FANYAH Purpose/Theme: Zephaniah preached in Judah in the 7th century, after Israel had fallen to the Assyrians. He wrote to warn both Judah and the surrounding nations of the “day of the Lord”, a future time of tribulation, but also of salvation for a faithful remnant whom God will restore to glory. Key Verse:

“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what He commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the lord’s anger.” (2:3) Outline: God’s judgment against Judah (1:1-2:3) God’s judgment against the nations (2:4-15) The redemption of a remnant (3) Approx. Timeline: 635-625 BC Credited Author: Zephaniah Review: Zephaniah is a prophet with great influence. He prophesied during the reign of a king that had made large strides in correcting the path of Judah. King Josiah was attempting to reverse the evil trends set by the two previous kings of Judah, Manasseh and Amon. Josiah was able to extend his influence because there was not a strong super-power dominating the world at that time. Assyria was in rapid decline as a world power. Zephaniah’s prophecy may have been the motivating factor in Josiah’s reform. Zephaniah is filled with thundering and tragic prophecies of certain destruction. This destruction was coning because, as so many of the prophets before and after Zephaniah, the people has forsaken the Lord. There had been occasional attempts at reconciliation, but Judah and Israel had not shown remorse or sorrow for their sins. But as with many prophets, Zephaniah proclaims that there is hope in God. Admonishments such as “seek the Lord” and “carry out His ordinances” are followed by offers of escape from the oncoming judgment. At one point Zephaniah offers this advice, “Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger” (2:3) One of the exciting events of Zephaniah’s time was when the scroll of the law was found and brought to King Josiah. The reading of the scroll sparked a national revival. Zephaniah then fanned the flames of the revival by warning people that the judgment of God was coming. Although this great revival turned the nation back to God, still some participated in idolatry and eventually the nation returned to its previous folly.

HAGGAI HAGAI Purpose/Theme:

Seventy years after being taken captive to Babylon, many Jews were allowed to return to Babylon to rebuild the Temple. Opposition from their neighbors halted the work for some fifteen years. Haggai’s preaching stirred them into action and encouraged them with visions of the future glory of the Temple. Key Verse: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little… your earn wages only to put them into a purse with holes in it…build the house, so I may take pleasure in it and be honored.” (1:5, 6, 8) Outline: The Temple must be rebuilt (1) A new Temple greater than the rebuilt one (2:1-9) God’s blessings will come as the Temple is rebuilt (2:10-19) The Lord God will overthrow the nations and will bless Zerubbabel (2:20-23) Approx. Timeframe: 520 BC Credited Author: Haggai Review: Haggai was one of three post-exilic prophets, the others being Zechariah and Malachi. The style and tempo of their books are simple and direct. The Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed in 586 BC. King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their Temple in 538 BC. Concerns from local countries that the Jews were building a wall to protect themselves against attack prompted a work stoppage. Through the ministry of Haggai, they were convicted to begin the Temple reconstruction till its eventual completion between 520-516 BC. When God delivers His message through Haggai, He gives definitive reasoning why the Temple should be rebuilt. He cites the people as striving for accomplishment but falling short of the goal. He shows that they have movement without achievement. Basically God challenges their priorities, making Haggai one of the most useful books in teaching. Priorities between God and His followers have always been and will always be a conflict. Without clouding the issue, God confronts the people and their comfortable situation through a comparison. He asks why they sit their finished houses when He has no house. He relates their physical environment, such as clothing, food and finances, to the condition of His house. Make no mistake, God directly claims that we cannot achieve the heights He has for us without proper priorities concerning His work and ministry. In a beautiful invitation, God calls us to Him and says, “Come, let us reason together”. God invites us all to gather around His Word and strive to make sense out of what our Christian duty will be and what He has for us to do.

Also, Haggai prophesies about a Temple that is coming better than Temples of the past.

ZECHARIAH Z’KHARYAH Purpose/Theme: A younger contemporary of Haggai, Zechariah also encouraged the people in the rebuilding of the Temple. His vivid visions contain many predictions of the coming Messiah. Key Verse: “Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (9:9) Outline: The call to turn back to God (1:1-6) The eight visions of Zechariah (1:7-6:8) The crowning of Joshua, the high priest (6:9-15) The question of fasting (7:1-3) The four messages of Zechariah (7:4-8:23) The two burdens of Zechariah (9-14) Approx. Timeframe: 480-470 BC Credited Author: Zechariah Review: Zechariah was another prophet serving after the exile from Babylon. As with both Haggai and Malachi, the focus of the prophetic writings will change. While God was still angry with the people for disobeying Him and ignoring the prophets He has sent, He was concerned that they would to listen to the leadership He was establishing and again turn to false leaders and prophets. Zechariah will address this in his book. The Jews were in a period of great depression and discouragement. While they were free from bondage and slavery, most of the spiritual and cultural settings that made them so unique were gone. Truly, sheep without a shepherd. They needed a central rallying point as a nation and a hope for the future. Zechariah would address both these needs.

First, Zechariah, as with so many of the other prophets, was prophesying during times of great duress. But there were constant pieces of the puzzle being filled in concerning the coming Messiah. Jesus was taking shape on the pages of the Old Testament. Secondly, the rebuilding of the Temple became the focus for the Jewish people. They began to work together in a cause they valued greatly. But they were about to fulfill the final act that would bring on the age of the Messianic era. While we struggle here on earth, God controls the future. Our actions today can and will be big parts of His future plans. It may be tough or even impossible to see, but just as the times of Zechariah, the Jews embarked on a mission that effected not just their lifetime, but many centuries to come. The Messiah would walk in the halls and teach in the rooms they were building. MALACHI MAL’AKHI Purpose/Theme: Malachi was the last prophet of the “restoration”, when the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem from Babylon. He explains that the woes of God’s people were because of their unfaithfulness and foresees the coming of the Messiah who would finally provide the solution to sin. Key Verse: “See, I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His Temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come, says the Lord Almighty.” (3:1) Outline: God’s love for the people of Israel (1:1-5) God’s complaint against the people of Israel (1:6-2:15) The Lord’s coming announced (3:1-4:6) Approx. Timeframe: 430 BC Credited Author: Malachi Review: Malachi marks the final chapter and book of what we would come to know as the Old Testament. The following period before the arrival of Jesus Christ is marked by several significant historical events, but the cannon of Scripture remains closed and quiet for almost 400 years.

Malachi offers us perhaps the most known and used portion of Scripture in terms of understanding the believers role in financial support of the Church. The tithe is in the closing section of Malachi as God is stressing the important factors of service to Him. Israel has suffered many years of captivity and is anxious to re-establish their relationship with God. Tithing is one of the areas of agreement with God we all must enter into. God reveals in Malachi that there are storehouses of blessings at His disposal. He plans to open these storehouses and pour out on us blessings. While the blessings remain largely undefined (they could include health, spiritual knowledge and other factors other than financial) we understand that this part of our life with God is give and take. From this portion of Scripture have come thousands of prosperity teachers, preachers and assorted fakes/frauds. They have mishandled this teaching to represent prosperity for the believer in terms of financial gain. Sadly, the book of Malachi is often missed for some of its other wonders. Among those wonders is the announcement of the “messenger”, which I believe to be John the Baptizer, who will introduce Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. While the cannon of Scripture goes silent for these 400 years, Malachi assures us that major preparations are occurring in heaven for the arrival of the Great Deliver, who will free us once and for all from death and sin. One who will become the ransom for many, ending the need of the Temple sacrifice. THE GOSPELS OF THE EVANGELIST’S NOTE: The approx. timeframes given in the section of the New Testament will reflect the timeframes the book were written. The timeframe that they record is obvious because of the changing to AD with the birth of Christ.

MATTHEW

Purpose/Theme: Matthew dwells especially on how the life and ministry of Jesus show Him to be the Messiah, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. This Gospel is therefore called the Gospel to the Jews. Key Verse: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet; The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel, which means God is with us.” (1:23)

Outline: Jesus’ birth and boyhood (1-2) Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry (3-20) Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (21-28) Approx. Timeframe: 50-60 AD Credited Author: Matthew (Levi) Review: Matthew was a Jewish tax-collector who became one of Jesus’ disciples. His Gospel forms the connecting link between the Old and New Testaments because of its emphasis on the fulfillment of the Law. Many people have considered this Gospel to be a book written primarily to the Jewish people. It contains many direct quotes from the Old Testament concerning the identity and actions of the coming Messiah. Many of these quotes came during the years of captivity and are nestled in between passages that now fully illuminate their meaning as we see the Messiah walking among us. When reading the book of Matthew, it feels like a whirlwind tour of the life of Jesus. The other Gospels cover the ground very fast, but Matthew moves quickly, especially in terms of the trial, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Matthew covers many of the parables of Jesus, which reveal spiritual truths through the Hebrew mindset. He records some of Christianity’s hot buttons, such as end-times theology, prayer and fasting. Matthew stands in the background of his Gospel, with no known direct interaction or words with Jesus recorded. Much like and investigative reporter, Matthew reports the observations he makes with pin-point accuracy. The narrative speaks to the first-hand experience he had. Matthew was a witness to the workings of Jesus. Mathew is filled with messianic language (Son of David is used throughout) and Old Testament references, including 53 quotes and 76 other references. The Gospel was not written as a chronological account; its purpose was to present the clear evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. MARK Purpose/Theme: Mark’s overall picture of the life of Christ is more complete than the other Gospels, even though it is more concise and therefore the shortest. Mark emphasizes the larger-thanlife, wondrous nature of Jesus. Since so many Romans in the ancient world were attracted to such powerful portrayals, Mark is often called the Gospel to the Romans.

Key Verse: “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. The time has come, He said, The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (1:14-15) Outline: Jesus, the Servant-serving people (1-10) Jesus, the Servant-giving His life to save others (11-16) Approx. Timeframe: 50-60 AD Credited Author: John Mark. He was not one of the twelve disciples, but did accompany the Apostle Paul on his first missionary journey. Review: The Gospel of Mark is written by a non-disciple of Jesus and the narrative of the story leaves out some of the more intimate details mentioned in the other Gospels. It also is the shortest version of the life of Christ, covering just 16 chapters of information. Important to understanding why there are four different accounts of the life of Christ is the realization that each Gospel is written for a different target audience. The Gospel of Mark is no exception. Mark wrote this Gospel in Rome for the believers in Rome. The Roman Empire was currently under the direction of Tiberius Caesar. The Empire, with its common language, excellent transportation and communication systems was ripe to hear Jesus’ message, which spread quickly from nation to nation. Mark is believed to be the oldest (although not by much time) Gospel. Reasoning for this idea is that the other Gospels quote all but 31 verses of the book of Mark. Mark also records more miracles than does any other Gospel. It has been suggested that he presented the miracle performing side of Jesus because he knew that the Roman culture had a fascination with the supernatural. Now with Mark recording more miracles of Jesus that His sermons, the question are raised as to the purpose of performing miracles. In the large sense, miracles were not the Divine purpose or mission. But Jesus did perform miracles. Is there a difference between the miracles of Jesus and His motivation than the miracles of today? Jesus is clearly a man of power and actions in the Gospel of Mark. He was just not about words. Jesus did miracles to convince people who He was and to confirm to the disciples who He was-God. LUKE

Purpose/Theme: Luke (who also probably wrote the book of Acts) was a Greek physician. His book is often called the Gospel to the Greeks because it emphasizes the beauty of Jesus’ humanity and acceptance of gentiles, women, children and the poor-traits which the Greeks often associated with the Ideal or Universal man. Key Verse: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whosever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.” (9:23-24) Outline: Jesus, the Son of Man, grows up (1-4:13) Jesus, the Son of Man, has power over everything (4:14-9:50) Jesus, the Son of Man, teaches His disciples (9:51-19-17) Jesus, the Son of Man, suffers and dies (19:28-23:56) Jesus, the Son of Man, lives again forever (24) Approx. Timeframe: 60-61 AD Credited Author: Luke, a Greek Doctor Review: While the Gospels are often referred to as “four different accounts of the same story”, much like four different witnesses to the same traffic accident, they are not necessarily fashioned in this much of a simple manner. Each of the writers came from vastly different backgrounds and the Gospel of Luke is no exception. This is the most comprehensive of the Gospels. The general vocabulary and diction show that the author was well educated. He makes frequent references to illness and diagnosis. Luke stresses Jesus’ relationship with people; emphasizes prayer, miracles and angels; records inspired hymns of praise; and gives a prominent place to women. Most of chapters 9:51-18:35 are not included in any other Gospel. Not only is the author Luke a Doctor, but he is a Greek Doctor. His emphasis of the beauty of Jesus’ humanity, His acceptance of the Gentiles and other traits make the character of Jesus especially of interest to the Greeks. Greek mysticism believed that many of the listed traits of Jesus belonged to the “Ideal or Universal Man”. Perhaps a lesson from Luke can be learned. I believe that Biblical Truth never changes, but Biblical Methods do. Luke took the pieces of Jesus and His life that would best frame the picture in the mind of the Greek thinker. To many in the Church, this approach seems to have backfired as the Church has adopted many Greek lines of thinking and

theology. But to Luke’s credit, he wrote his Gospel to present King Jesus in the best of lights. JOHN Purpose/Theme: John says expressively that he wrote so that people might come to believe in Christ (20:30-31). He was not as interested in the historical order of the events in the life of Christ, or in His deeds, as he was in the inner meaning of His teaching. Balancing Luke’s emphasis on the humanity of Jesus, John makes the case for His deity. Key Verses: “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry “(6:35). “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live” (11:25). “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me” (14:6). Outline: Jesus God’s Son’s healing and teaching ministry (1-12) Jesus God’s Son’s death and resurrection (13-21) Approx. Timeframe: 80-90 AD Credited Author: John, the Apostle, son of Zebedee, brother of James, called a “Son of Thunder”. Review: The Gospel of John offers us the greatest details concerning the deity of Christ and forever closes the door on the thought process that the disciples did not understand the claims of Jesus as the Son of God. Students of the Bible need to be aware that the Gospel of John was written 25-35 years after the other three Gospels were recorded. That has lent itself to the suspicion that it was altered or revised to give a better representation to the claim of Jesus to be the Son of God. The book has other features that make it an independent source for information concerning the life of Christ. Of the eight miracles recorded, six are unique to the Book of John, as is the “Upper Room Discourse” as recorded in Chapters 14-19. Over 90% of John is unique to his Gospel. John does not contain a genealogy or any record of Jesus’ birth, childhood, temptation, transfiguration, appointment of the disciples, nor any account of Jesus’ parables, ascension or the Great Commission. John does offer us an amazing insight into a question that many Christians face. What percent of the recorded events of the Gospels actually cover the total of the Life of Jesus? In his closing chapter, John states that there are not enough books on the world to record all that Jesus had performed and done.

John does present the solid argument for the deity of Jesus. His Gospel goes step by step, pointing at every turn and make every case for the Son of God. But no one makes the case better than Jesus Himself, as He appears resurrected to the disciples. Many people have made the claim that the deity of Jesus was a trait the disciples made up after His death, but the question is this; would they all die to protect the hoax? John says Jesus lives as the Son of the Living God. ACTS Purpose/Theme: The physician Luke is generally accepted as the author of this record of the establishment and growth of the early church. It emphasizes the presence of the Holy Spirit, the missionary work of Peter and Paul and how Christianity was not the enemy of the Roman government. Key Verse: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8) Outline: The Gospel is preached: In Jerusalem (1-7) In Judea and Samaria (8-12) To the world (13-28) Approx. Timeframe: 62 AD Credited Author: Luke Review: Acts is the sole history book of the early movement of the followers of Jesus. There appeared to be two wings of the faith, Messianic Judaism and Christianity, both with a saving faith in the risen Lord, but with differing ideas as to how that faith was to be practiced. The spread of the Gospel mandated that the early church leaders, such as Apostles and those trained by the Apostles, leave their familiar surroundings and go hit the trail. We find the book of Acts telling us many of the stories of those campaigns, especially focusing on the conversion and missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul. The church did not start based on its enthusiasm. Rather, it was grounded in the Apostle’s doctrine and training. An early council in Jerusalem was established to serve as

the sounding board for issues that would arise in the area churches. One of the unique features of the faith, which the Apostle Paul would several times call “The Way”, was its racial and cultural diversity. This was also the center of much of its debates as well. Opposition seemed inevitable for the early church. But it also formed the catalyst that caused the massive and decisive spread of the Gospel. No religious effort can be recorded as such a fast moving religion as Christianity can. The center of the movement of “The Way” centered not only on Jesus, but on His resurrection. This seemed to be the centrifuge of the argument with the Jewish leaders. By proclaiming the risen Christ, the book of Acts also places the blame on the religious leadership for His death. This caused much tension and distress. The earliest believers found themselves cautiously approaching this new found faith. ROMANS Purpose/Theme: That the salvation of God has made Himself known through His mighty acts and miracles. This salvation is here and the Messiah has arrived. Key Verse: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”. (3:23-24) Outline: The universal need for grace (1-4) Peace and power through grace and the Spirit (5-8) Grace for God’s Old Testament family (9-11) Practical application of the message of grace (12-16) Approx. Timeframe: 56 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: There are three great themes of the book of Romans. Paul gets out the pulpit and preaching voice and fires up some seven-point outlines here in the book of Romans. The three themes weave in and out of the book. Theme 1: Everyone is a sinner and needs God’s salvation. God sent His Son, Jesus, to be our Savior from sin. Those who trust Christ as Savior have their sins forgiven and will enjoy eternal life.

Theme 2: Israel turned away from Jesus, the Messiah (Savior) that God had sent. God will still be faithful to His promise, redeeming the believing Jews and the remnant as He promised. Theme 3: When we belong to God’s family we should live our lives to please Him. We should obey God because we love Him. Theme 1 tells us we have all missed the mark. Paul clearly spells out that we need a Savior. Then, without allowing for a mistake, he makes the case for Jesus. We cannot read Romans and not understand fully who the Messiah truly is. Paul puts focus on the resurrection of Jesus, a point he knows will cause him much harm and distress. But it is in the complete belief in the resurrection that brings us to the saving faith. Paul also stresses the difference between faith (as in the Law) and saving faith (as in Jesus). Theme 2 shows that God has not changed His mind about Israel. He still welcomes Israel into His arms, but plans on using the Gentiles to create a jealousy for Him. Israel is now and forever will be God’s elect. Theme 3 begins what Paul will spend most of his time writing about. Paul tells us the rules of Christian conduct. He outlines how we should engage with each other, how we should pray and how we should not judge. Expect more from Paul on these matters in the Pauline epistles. 1ST CORINTHIANS

Purpose/Theme: Paul wrote this letter to the young church at Corinth to curb division, urge morality and encourage them to steadfastness by teaching on the hope of a general resurrection. Key Verse: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought”. (1:10) Outline: The importance of unity in Christ (1-4) Personal and public morality (5-8) Influence and Christian freedom (9-10) Worship and spiritual gifts (11-14) The resurrection and concluding matters (15-16) Approx. Timeframe: 55 AD

Credited Author: Paul Review: They say that some things never change. By reading the instruction of the Apostle Paul to the Church in Corinth, I can see where they might just be right. Many of the struggles listed in 1 Corinthians are very consistent with the struggles of the church today. For starters, the church was rallying around leaders instead of Jesus. They put emphasis on whom they followed and who baptized them. Paul took issue with this in his famous analogy about planting, watering and reaping. It was evident to Paul that we all worked for the same leader and the same results. Paul also tackled the issue of the use of spiritual gifts in the church, with special attention to the speaking in tongues. He gives a very practical outline for the usage of tongues and how they should be utilized in the church. He also states that unbelievers might think we have gone mad if they were to see this gift employed. He ends this section with a plea for all things to be done decently and in order. But no look at 1 Corinthians would be complete without addressing Paul’s words on love. Chapter 13 talks about the love that God gives in a very short and concise fashion. Love is shown to have qualities unlike other emotions. Love is given traits and behaviors. Love becomes described in this chapter. While the resurrection of Jesus had been a hot-button for the early believers, Paul addresses the resurrection of the believer and the glorified body and state of the next world. This is ground-breaking teaching and doctrine for the newly formed body of believers. Every major ethnic group has its own ideas about the afterlife. Some were based in mysticism, fables, occult practices and the like. But Paul cleared the road when he said that the resurrection of the body was available through the risen Lord only. 2 CORINTHIANS Purpose/Theme: Probably written only a few months after 1 Corinthians, this letter records Paul’s responses to the result of his earlier writings. Here he defends his authority to correct them and continues to teach on various subjects. Key Verse: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf; be reconciled to God (5:20) Outline:

Greetings and assurance of concern (1-2:13) Explanation and defense of Paul’s ministry (2:14-7:16) The importance of sharing our means with others (8-9) Further defense of Paul’s apostleship (10-12) Closing warnings and benediction (13) Approx. Timeframe: 55-56 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: Written very shortly after 1 Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians is Paul’s response to the letter or messenger he received from Corinth in regards to his first letter. Paul had already written three letters to the Corinthians (two are now lost). In 1st Corinthians (the second of these letters), he used strong words to correct and teach. Most of the church seems to have responded in the right spirit; there were, however, those who were denying Paul’s authority and questioning his motives. This letter to the Corinthians is an intensely personal letter. Paul bares his soul about his love for the Corinthians. He speaks of the pride and joy he has in their progress in a way that is familiar to the language a parent would use to describe their children. He expresses regret concerning anyone that may have been hurt by his first letter, but defends the need of the harsh commentary of 1 Corinthians. Paul faces one of his most difficult writing assignments in 2 Corinthians. His authority has been challenged as an Apostle. He needs to be able to find a way to defend his apostleship without sounding arrogant or boasting. He starts by re-affirming his relationship with the Corinthians. He was very concerned for them and planned to return to sit down face to face an address his love. He also gave evidence of his sincerity, commenting that he could have been a burden to them, but chose to take care of himself. Finally, he talks about his love for Christ, a love that both he and the Corinthians share.

GALATIANS Purpose/Theme: Like Romans, the theme of Galatians is salvation by grace through faith-not by keeping the law. The letter was written to be circulated among the churches of Galatia, a Roman province that is now in Turkey. Key Verse:

“We too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified”. (2:16) Outline: Introduction and defense of Paul’s authority (1-2) Salvation by grace affirmed and illustrated (3-5:15) Obligations of the grace-full life (5:16-6:18) Approx. Timeframe: 49-50 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: A cursory look at Galatians would lead someone to think that Paul is raging against the law and is calling for its complete abandonment. But this is not the case. It is of the utmost importance that we fully understand who he is writing this letter to. As earlier mentioned, the area of Galatia is located where we would know Turkey to be located today. The area had a following of Jews, but had a heavy Gentile population. In Galatia, as in many other places at this time, there were non-believing Jews who were still seeking their Messiah, there were Messianic Jews, believers in Jesus and Gentiles coming to the faith. This presented various challenges to The Way. What part of Scriptural obedience were Gentiles to follow? What rules or laws applied? Was a saving faith all they needed? Paul had his hands full answering these questions. But Galatians gives a snapshot of his thinking. Paul opens up a new line of thinking when he states that by following the law, there is no need for Christ and by following Christ, there is no need for the law. He points out that the law was given to tutor us. Basically, the law shows us our limited abilities against an unlimited opponent. We cannot overcome our sin and sin nature on our own. The law created boundaries to fence us in. It drove us to the place where we realized we needed out from underneath this taskmaster. It pointed our need for a Savior. Worth mentioning, when we talk of the law, it is sometimes thought to include the kosher lifestyle, festival celebrations and practices of the Jewish people. These traditions and practices are not what Paul is referring to in his epistles. The Jewish people, Messianic or otherwise, are free in God to continue these practices. But Paul notes that the practice of anything, even for religious purpose, is not a replacement for the saving faith in the risen Lord.

EPHESIANS

Purpose/Theme: Paul wrote this letter, probably from prison in Rome, to affirm Christian unity “in Christ” as a part of God’s plan for the ages and to warn against false doctrine and immorality. Key Verse: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace.” (2:6-7) Outline: The exalted unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ (1-3) The responsibility of those united in Christ (4:1-6:9) The Christian’s armor, and concluding greetings (6:10-24) Approx. Timeframe: 60-62 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: The book of Ephesians can probably make the claim of being the most taught and quoted of the Pauline epistles. Many believe that this letter was distributed throughout the region to the local area fellowships if Ephesus. The letter is unique in that Paul does not address any particular heresies or violations, but begins to focus on the area of Christian conduct and the Church. In Ephesians, the Church is described in several different manners. Illustrations such as a body, a mystery, a new man, a bride and soldier fill the pages of this letter. But even with the different examples of the Church, Paul wrote with convincing fashion about the unity of belief and believers in the Church. The subject of the Gentiles was addressed again. Paul explains that the salvation for the gentiles was always in God’s plan, not some afterthought because of the poor reception of Jesus on the behalf of the Jews. Paul tells us that the focus of Christianity is on those that accept Jesus. Paul’s explanation for the evil actions of the world is that they are dead men, caught in their sins and trespasses against God. Like dead fish floating the direction of the stream, they react only to the current. But now in Christ, those same men can be made alive. But to maintain that “aliveness”, there is a prescribed path one must follow. Among the illustrations mentioned for the Church, marriage and the relationship between husband and wife are taught in Ephesians. Three times in chapter six Paul admonishes the husband to “love your wife”. He writes that there will be a time of presentation when

God will see firsthand our treatment of our wives. Paul uses the example of the love of Christ for His Church as our standard.

PHILIPPIANS Purpose/Theme: Another “prison epistle”, this brief but powerful letter covers a number of issues, with the underlying theme of the importance of joyful faithfulness in the Christian walk, even in the face of suffering. Key Verses: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7) Key Thoughts: God can make negatives turn into positives (1:12-19) The humiliation of Christ as an example (2:5-9) The relative unimportance of fleshly achievement (3:1-11) Approx. Timeframe: 60-62 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: Philippians was the first church on the European continent. Paul had visited this church on his second missionary journey. His letter to them rings with themes of Christian conduct. He addresses very little concerning the stemming Jew/Gentile debate in the church. But the book of Philippians offers some of the favorite verses of Christian heritage. When Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, he was not talking about becoming very rich or prosperous. Paul was talking about enduring great sufferings, which he had experienced first-hand. He was warning the Church in almost all his letters that persecution was coming. Philippians also talks about the importance of giving to the work of the ministry. Paul honors the church there by recording that they were the first to support him when he was in need.

Paul talks about his past as a detractor of The Way. He talks about his different citizenships, his educational background and his associations. But Paul says he would trade it all for the knowledge of Christ. Paul is now living for a testimony and not a title. The book of Philippians also warns against false teachers and people with impure motives. There is no compromise in Paul’s summation of them; they are listed as “enemies of the cross”. The ability to see through these people is to observe if they walk according to the pattern that Paul had written about and lived. In the end, the Bible records that they will be destroyed. The book of Philippians shows that there are citizenships available here on earth, with worldly reward and no eternal benefit, and a citizenship of heaven, with help in this world and reward in the world to come.

COLOSSIANS Purpose/Theme: Similar to Ephesians and written about the same time, this letter confronts false doctrine by affirming that Christ must be our doctrinal center, just as He is at the center of creation. Key Verse: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (2:8) Key Thoughts: The kingdom of Christ has a present aspect (1:1-14) The exalted Christ is head of the church (1:15-18) Too many rules and regulations can be bad for spiritual health (2:20-23) While rule-keeping does not save us, this is no excuse for immorality (3:1-10) Approx. Timeframe: 60-62 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: The letter to the Colossians differs from the other Pauline epistles in that this is an aggressively written letter against illegitimate teachings and doctrines in the church. Some have suggested that these types of doctrines were “creeping in” , but the mindset and culture of the time speak differently. The Church was struggling to maintain its

identity, under the on-going debates with Jews and Gentiles and the philosophy of the region where the Church was based. The Word spread so quickly that having trained and experienced men and women at the controls was a tough venture. So Paul would write against the various challenges as he was informed by them The false doctrine at Colosse is often called “Gnosticism”, a heresy seen in other books of the New Testament as well. Gnosticism was a system of thought that exalted knowledge (gnosis) of certain divine mysteries as the way to salvation. Some forms demanded strict, legal morality, while others thought to “burn out” the flesh with immoral behavior. It could also teach the worship of intermediate beings between heaven and earth. Paul presents Christ as having absolute supremacy and sole sufficiency. While Paul had never visited the church in Colosse, it is believed that it was founded by Epaphras and other converts as a result of Paul’s missionary travels. The church was being infiltrated by religious relativism to the point that believers were attempting to combine Christian practices with pagan traditions. The book of Colossians is a theological training manual for hitting these problems head on. While the idea of combining pagan or secular traditions and practices seems like a good way to bring in the outside population, it is both un-scriptural and unfair at the same time. By “tuning-down” the Scriptures, they lose the effectiveness they were intended for. And, when the entry standard for new converts is lowered, we are simply making the long-range journey for them even more difficult. Paul wrote against these practices.

1ST THESSALONIANS Purpose/Theme: Paul wrote this friendly letter to the Christians at Thessalonica only a few months after establishing the congregation there. He writes to affirm their faith, especially in the safety of those who had died in Christ and to further instruct them on the Second Coming. Key Verse: “May the Lord strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones” (3:13) Key Thoughts: Paul’s gentle and pastoral behavior (1:7-10) The encouragement faithful Christians are to each other (3:6-10) Instruction about the Second Coming (4:13-5:11)

Approx. Timeframe: 51 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: Paul writes his most intimate letter to the Thessalonians. His love for this church group is obvious in the language he chooses. He spends several verses affirming their progress and his love for them, much as a parent would address a young child to encourage and then instruct him. The letter seems to be aimed at straightening out a perception regarding the Second Coming of Christ. Some early believers thought Jesus was coming very soon, even in their own lifetime. This thinking brought up a concern about those that had died before the return of Jesus. Paul addresses this and brings us one of the first New Testament passages concerning the Second Coming. In contrast to much of the hostility surrounding end-times theology today, Paul tells us to comfort each other with the news of the return of Christ. He is very sure that no one can know the time or the hour, but as a thief in the night it will strike. Paul paints a glorious return of the King, with the heavens opening and angels. But Paul also gives some practical advice as to what we believers should be doing as we wait for the King. Paul tells us to: admonish the unruly, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone, be kind to everyone, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, examine everything that is taught and abstain from evil. It appears that Jesus wants us to be concerned with what is at hand here on earth and leave the Second Coming up to Him. As sure as we know that the King is coming, we are to be at arms fulfilling and occupying until He arrives.

2 THESSALONIANS Purpose/Theme: Apparently some Christians in Thessalonica interpreted Paul’s first letter to mean that Christ would return so soon that there was no use in working or planning for the future. Paul writes this follow-up note to correct such misunderstandings and to teach further on the subject. Key Verses: “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing” (2:9-10)

Key Thoughts: The “gospel” is not just good news to be believed, but to be obeyed as well (1:8) Despite the known players delaying the Second Coming, a sovereign Lord is in control (2:1-8) The main responsibility of those who await Christ’s coming is to be faithful in order to do His work of sanctification (2:13-15) Idleness should not be rewarded (3:6-12) Approx. Timeframe: 51-52 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: In contrast to his first letter, the Apostle Paul writes to correct some thinking on the subject of his previous letter about the Second Coming of Christ. Persecutions had increased sharply upon the church and many began to believe that this must be the signs of the Lord’s return. After thinking on the writing of the Apostle Paul, they became persuaded Jesus was just a short time away. Some of the congregation became idle and disorderly, excusing their behavior as waiting in the Lord’s return. This book is a call to continued courage and consistent conduct. Paul uses his trademark opening and then goes into preaching mode, almost sounding like a seven point outline. He writes that they should: stand firm in Christ’s truth, receive God’s encouragement and hope, and pray for strength and the spreading of God’s message and to warn those who are unruly. One of the amazing prophecies of Paul is here in 2 Thessalonians. He says that there were be a great rebellion against God, brought on by the man of lawlessness. God will remove all restraints on evil before He brings judgment on the rebels. The man of lawlessness will attempt to deceive many. The Messianic believers understood this reference to the man of lawlessness to mean Torah-lessness. They are looking for a man to condemn the Torah as the leader of all evil. As the early church grew, the Gentile community became the largest sector of Christianity and the Messianic congregations feared the gentile conversions. As such, a great divide between spiritual parents and spiritual children began to open up. The Apostle Paul continued to hammer on the subjects of salvation and sanctification.

1ST TIMOTHY Purpose/Theme: The “Pastoral Epistles” earned the name because they show how to “shepherd” the flock of God. Paul was especially concerned again about false teachers. In 1st Timothy, Paul instructs his younger associate on basic doctrine, church order and personal life. Key Verses: “I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (3:14-15) Outline: Greeting and warning about false teachers (1) Instructions on worship (2) The qualifications of bishops and deacons (3) Warnings and exhortations (4) Proper relationships (5:1-6:2) Final warnings and benediction (6:3-21) Approx. Timeframe: 62-64 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: Many agree that 1st Timothy is a personal letter and a handbook of church administration and discipline. Paul’s letter begins with warm salutations and reaffirms their relationship. It was important to Paul that people knew where they stood with him. One of the first subjects addressed is false teachers. False teachers occupied many of Paul’s instructions to the church. Paul stated by observing what these teachers were speaking on, it was easier to identify their falsehood. He brought up subjects such as; forbidding marriage and abstaining from certain foods. His rebuttal against the food argument was easily understood. But he could see on the horizon a problem lingering for the church, one he had perhaps gave credence to. As the first couple of centuries passed by, a growing sect of Jews and Christians alike began to manifest distaste for marriage. They saw it as a compromise, designed to allow those weak in their flesh to exercise their sexual passions under the umbrella of church consent. Married people were considered only partial ministers, with their time compromised between the needs of the church and the needs of the home.

But false teaching is false teaching and the Bible does not prevent or discourage marriage. Paul’s main concern about false teaching was the fact that it took time away from the actual goal of proclaiming Christ. That is why he despised fruitless conversation and the studying of genealogies. He accused the false teachers of not knowing what they were talking about while coming up with confident assertions. The new environment of Christianity meant that many were new to the faith and not settled in their belief. This left the door open for the wolves.

2ND TIMOTHY

Purpose/Theme: This is quite possibly Paul’s last letter. There is evidence that after his first imprisonment in Rome, he was released, went on another missionary journey, and then was jailed in Rome again. It is thought that 2nd Timothy was written then as a message of encouragement for Timothy to carry on the faith. Key Verses: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day-not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (4:7-8) Key Thoughts: Paul’s personal relationship with Timothy and the Lord (1:3-12) Exhortation to be faithful (2) Warnings against ungodliness (3:1-9) The inspiration of Scripture (3:16-17) A commission to preach the Word (4:1-5) Approx. Timeframe: 66-67 AD Credited Author: Paul Review:

If you were recording what you believed to be your last words, what would you say? What would be the controlling thoughts you would share with your audience, even if you had no idea that what you were writing would become the textbook for Christian conduct? What we find here is the Apostle Paul basically signing off and saying goodbye. There is significant reasoning behind the idea that Paul was well aware of his situation. Emperor Nero had just taken over and Christian prisoners were being rapidly executed. Paul knew the end was near. So he writes to his friend and close colleague, Timothy. His words are not a plea for help or the sound of a defeated man close to death, but they ring with the sound of a victorious champion who knows the mantle is to be passed on to the apprentice. Paul makes no apologies; he shows no fear in death. As he writes this letter, he fully understands he is passing the torch to the new generation of church leaders. In the face of persecutions and opposition, Paul encourages Timothy to carry out his ministry without fear or shame. He challenges Timothy to use his preaching gift boldly. He tells him to lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance and endurance. Paul heads out with the steam he entered into the ministry with. But there is a sense of longing to be home. Paul sees the end, his eventual execution, as the step to a reunion with the One he met on the road to Damascus. He encourages Timothy with all the enthusiasm we would expect from Paul, while his heart is preparing for the journey of a lifetime.

TITUS

Purpose/Theme: Paul may have written this letter to another younger minister, Titus, from the Roman prison about the same time as 1st Timothy. Here he gives additional teaching about pastoral duties, and warning against ungodliness. Key Verses: “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (2:11-12) Key Thoughts: More instructions on the qualifications of elders (1:5-9) The importance of sound morals (1:10-15) The importance of sound doctrine and godly relationships (2) Approx. Timeframe:

62-64 AD Credited Author: Paul Review: While the book of Titus looks a lot like 1st Timothy in its instructions and teachings, it is worth noting that Titus is a Greek believer in Messiah. Titus had served Paul as a special representative to the Island of Crete. Paul had sent Titus to oversee the church projects on the Isle of Crete and this letter tells Titus how to do his job. Differing from some of the other writings of Paul, Titus has an unusually long greeting section. Paul also spends time listing his pastoral qualifications, as perhaps there would be some questioning his authority. One of the best sections of Titus covers a subject near to my heart. Paul gives instruction for the older men and women to invest in the lives of the younger men and women, encouraging them to be sensible. We see that in the Body of Christ a person never runs out of usefulness regardless of their age. As a matter of fat, the older and more experienced the person is, the greater value they may possess. If ever a lesson needs to be learned this must be it. The sheltering of age groups from each other, providing different service times to cater to the musical/worship whims of the congregation must end. The elderly in the church have an obligation to be involved in the lives of the youth, helping them out of the pratfalls and stumbling blocks that occurred in their own lives. Many of our elderly believers will die and take their amazing stories and experiences with them. This is a disgrace. PHILEMON Purpose/Theme: This personal letter from Paul to his friend reveals some interesting facts about the times. A slave named Onesimus had run away from his master, Philemon, and had joined Paul in Rome. Now Paul asks Philemon to set Onesimus free and accept him as a brother in Christ. Key Verse: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (vs.6) Approx. Timeframe: 60-62 AD Credited Author: Paul

Review: This short and personal letter could be the forerunner of a huge change in the lives of many slaves that now call on the Name Above all Names. It appears that Philemon is a wealthy constituent in the Colossian church. He has had a slave, Onesimus, run away from his household. But Onesimus has run into the Apostle Paul who happens to be very good friends with his former owner. How Paul knew that Onesimus belonged to Philemon is open to imagination. Some slaves were branded with different marks or jewelry that distinguished one owner from another. But Paul does not concern himself with that. After some brief introduction (very brief, Philemon is the shortest book in the New Testament) Paul begins his address. Paul tells Philemon that Onesimus has been profitable and useful for him and he would like very much to keep Onesimus with him. But Paul is seeking Philemon’s permission. Next, Paul asks for the most shocking request of any of his writings. He asks Philemon to take Onesimus back not as a slave, but as a fellow brother in Christ. He further adds that any debt of any kind, with no ceiling amount discussed, Paul would gladly pay in full. But Paul adds a dose of Jewish guilt, reminding Philemon that he owes the Apostle Paul a debt larger than Onesimus. The question which begs for an answer here concerns the issue of slavery. Was Onesimus a rare situation and Paul was petitioning Philemon only because he knew him? Or is it possible that Paul had opened up the doors for the release of fellow Christians from their Christian masters? Often slaves were indebted to their masters for a financial breach, which seems to be what Paul is addressing here. Is it fair then to release the slave before his debt is paid? Or release him when another pays his debt? The picture becomes clearer when we see the Apostle Paul paying the debt of one that could not pay and thus securing his freedom. Maybe a little clearer now? HEBREWS Purpose/Theme: The book of Hebrews was written to encourage Jewish believers in Messiah to affirm their place in Christ instead of returning to the Old Law. It shows that Christ is greater than the prophets, the angels, Moses, Joshua and the Jewish priesthood. Key Verse: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days, He has spoken through His Son” (1:1) Outline:

Christ is greater than the angels (1-2) He is greater than Moses (3) The real “Sabbath Rest” was not ushered in by the Old Covenant, but promised under Christ. (4:1-13) Christ is greater that the priesthood and all older covenants (4:14-10:18) Therefore, have faith and persevere (10:19-13:25) Approx. Timeframe: 67-69 AD Credited Author: Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Philip, Priscilla and others have been suggested because the name of the author is not given in the Biblical text itself. One clue is the reference of calling Timothy “brother” (13:23) Review: For lovers of the Old Testament, the book of Hebrews is for you. Littered with dozens of Old Testament Scripture and recounts of the heroes of that time, Hebrews flashes back and forth, giving us a picture of past history and a glimpse into the present and future. But what was the aim of a book sent to the Messianic believers and what was the main driving point? Was it kosher laws? The issue of circumcision? What rules apply to Gentiles converting to the faith? Although these had all been addressed by Paul in other writings, the writer of the book of Hebrews decides to confront another issue. This book is often referred to as a “General Epistle” as it does not have a city or a particular church/group it is referenced to. Messianic believers were enduring fierce persecution, socially and physically, both from Jews and from Romans. Christ had not returned to establish His earthly kingdom as they had hoped, and the people needed to be reassured that Christianity was true and that Jesus was truly the Messiah. The writer of Hebrews expresses a concern about blood sacrifices and goes on to prove the sufficiency of the death of Jesus. Many theologians believe that Hebrews was written as the death-stroke to Judaism thus ushering in Christianity as the replacement religious vehicle that God has chosen to use. But a careful read of Hebrews shows the driving message is the sacrifice of Jesus ending the temporary practice of the blood offering of animals. The writer of the book of Hebrews contends sharply that Jesus has paid all and in Him we are free from the practice of shedding blood to obtain forgiveness of sins. We stand forgiven.

JAMES

Purpose/Theme:

Like the book of Proverbs, James is full of practical wisdom and rules for right living. It was probably written by the James who was Jesus’ half-brother. Key Verses: “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22) Key Thoughts: The growth and potential in trials (1:3-4) The evolution of sin (1:13-15) The folly of favoritism (2:1-13) Taming of the tongue (3:1-12) Friendship with the world (4:1-12) The prayer of faith (5:13-20) Approx. Timeframe: 44-49 AD Credited Author: James, the half-brother of Jesus Review: James addresses his letter to the twelve tribes. He is distinctly a Jew writing to the Messianic believers scattered out from the early church in Jerusalem. Not using his position as a blood relative of Messiah, but rather calling himself a “bond-servant” of Jesus, James writes a passionate letter concerning three vital areas of following Jesus: genuine religion, genuine faith and genuine wisdom. The five chapters of James address five unique characteristics of the follower of Christ. I do not believe that James would understand what the title “Christian” actually meant, since his writings are within reason the oldest writings we have from that era. But he does provide an outline of what it takes to follow Jesus. James begins by talking about the confident stand we have in Jesus. He compares trials to the tool that will perfect the believer. He states that it takes compassionate service to those in need to prove the change of heart that our faith brings. Our belief needs an outside manifestation. He points out the importance of careful speech, noting that of all the disciplines, the discipline of the tongue is the most difficult and admirable. He tells us that the tongue can bring forth waves of evil. Yet that same tongue can be used for issuing blessing and preaching that can change the lives of all that hear. James agrees, but questions how both blessing and cursing can come from the same “fountain”.

He tells us that it takes contrite submission to be a follower of Jesus. There are no proud or lofty believers. He speaks against favoritism for the well-off or rich. He points out that “true religion” starts with the poor and the needy.

1ST PETER Purpose/Theme: This inspirational letter from the Apostle Peter was written to strengthen the early Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. If “Babylon” stood for Rome as was common in the early church, then Peter was in Rome when he wrote this letter. Key Verses: “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed…If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear His name” (4:14,16) Key Thoughts: Suffering refines faith like refining purifies gold (1:6-7, 4:12-19) Our holy calling calls or holy living (1:13-25) Christians are the new priesthood (2:9) Teaching on right relationships (2:1-3:7) The use of spiritual gifts (4:9-11) Approx. Timeframe: 64-65 AD Credited Author: Peter Review: Very few New Testament figures draw the amazing response that the Apostle Peter does. He even has these two books bearing his name. Some of the mystery surrounding Peter can be easily sorted out by a careful examination of his writings. Suffice it to say that based on Peter’s writings it seems he is the only one that does not know he is the Pope. As a matter of fact, Peter uses the example from the Old Testament of the Chief Cornerstone and leaves no doubts as to who the Cornerstone is. Peter’s conception of the church is a spiritual house composed of living stones built on Christ as its only foundation. Jesus had implored Peter to care for the church as a gentle shepherd would care for the flock. So in this writing from Peter, it serve as no surprise that Peter uses sheep and shepherds and lively stones in his portrayal of the Body of Christ. Peter is writing to the church during perhaps the darkest of days. The passive allowance of religious practice by the Romans is over and Emperor Nero is on the scene. Persecutions and executions of Christians are being held in a grand scale. This created a

great scattering of the church, particularly in Jerusalem. It had an adverse affect because as the Christians fled, they took the Gospel message with them and it spread equally as fast. Peter echoes the fact that we all are interconnected as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, a spiritual family with Christ as our Founder and Foundation. We are loved equally by God and posses talents and abilities unique to us. Peter encourages us to share those talents and thereby bless and strengthen the entire Body of Christ around us.

2ND PETER Purpose/Theme: Second Peter has the ring of an Old Testament prophet predicting doom for those that oppose God in unrighteousness and urging faithfulness in the face of the soon-coming Day of the Lord. Key Verse: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance” (3:9) Key Thoughts: Growing in the Christian graces (1:5-9) Biblical prophecy is inspired (1:19-21) Warning against false teachers (2) What to make of the delayed return of Christ (3) Approx. Timeframe: 66-67 AD Credited Author: Peter Review: Peter was aware that his time on this earth in service to the Master was drawing to a close. He wanted to make sure that he addressed the problems he saw as pressing to the Body of Christ. Top of the list was the warning against false teaching. He focused on the enduring and never changing truth of the Gospel. As we read Peter’s antidote for a stagnant and non-productive Christian life, we soon realize we are reading the last words from this Christian warrior. Peter warns that false teachers will be found in abundance during the last days. He breaks down their actions into four categories and one final result. The four categories to identify them by are: they

will do anything for money, they will spur the depth of Scripture and of God, they will do whatever they feel like doing and they will be proud and boastful. The end result for them is that God will judge them and punish them according to their deeds. Many of the false teachers were bringing up the delay of the return of Christ. They used this as an attempt to weaken the authority of the Apostles and of Scripture. Peter diffuses the attack by explaining the complexity of the Lord’s return and the new heaven and the new earth. While there is no doubt about his Apostolic authority, the date and destination of 2 Peter is uncertain. Also, the authorship has been disputed. Because of this, 2 Peter was the last book admitted into the cannon of the New Testament Scripture. Part of this line of thought was brought on by the similarities between Jude and 2 Peter.

1ST JOHN

Purpose/Theme: Apparently 1, 2 and 3 John were written by the Apostle John (the John who wrote the Gospel of John) in his old age. They were first circulated in and around the city of Ephesus. Their theme is love and light, good and evil, and how to stay free of “Gnostic” influences. Key Verse: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (2:1) Outline: Walking in the light (1-2:17) Warning against the antichrist (2:18-27) Living as God’s children (2:28-3:24) Warnings against worldliness (4) The importance of faith (5) Approx. Timeframe: 90-95 AD Credited Author: The Apostle John Review: The Apostle John starts his letter writing with a definitive plea for love to abound among the believers. He provides us with a piece of Scripture that even to today is the

cornerstone element to our understanding of the forgiveness of God. John makes the case that we do not seek man or religious officer for forgiveness of sins, but go to the Father through the completed work of Christ and forgiveness is the guarantee. There will be no further need for human representation for forgiveness. John qualifies his claim to be an Apostle with the admission of being an eyewitness to the Incarnation of Jesus. I believe that the age of the Apostles has ended and that their qualifying experience was being eyewitness to the life of Christ. Love is mentioned throughout this letter and the trends and similarities between the vocabulary and style of this letter and the Gospel of John are undeniable. While many contend John wrote this book in his very late years, his message of the supremacy of the love of Christ never changed. This Apostle continued to post forth the message, Jesus loves you. He also believed as a result of that love, we would have love for each other. By John writing this letter in his later years, he was writing to the second generation of Christians and Messianic believers. He spent time reassuring them of having confidence in God and their faith. In his closing text, he reminds the church that they are of God and the whole world around them is of the power of the evil one. Through the entire writing, John keeps repeating the phrase, “that you may know”. John understood the perilous times ahead for this new generation and he steered them to the knowledge of Jesus and His unchanging love. 2ND JOHN

Purpose/Theme: 2 John is addressed to a “chosen lady”. Many Biblical scholars argue about this reference, claiming it probably belongs to the name of a church rather than a female. (See 1st John for purpose/theme information) Key Verses: “I am not writing to you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love; that we walk in obedience to His commands” (5-6) Key Thoughts: Walking in love (4-6) Warning against deceivers (7-11) Approx. Timeframe: 90-95 AD

Credited Author: The Apostle John Review: The book of 2nd John is a very interesting piece of writing as it appears to be written to a woman who is in a leadership position in the church. John is very cautious in describing his relationship with her, using a phrase that only appears in this book. He says “whom I love in the truth”. This peculiar phrase places a gender separation concerning the love he has for this female leader. This letter is fairly consistent with his other letters, addressing the subject of maintaining love and preventing false teaching. He compliments the “lady” by letting her know that he found several of the children walking in the faith. He restates the importance of communicating and living love among the brethren. He also defines one of the attributes of love as the obedience to the commandments of God. He affirms that the message has never changed since the beginning that we should walk in obedience to the commandments of God and by doing so we show our love by the act of faithfulness. Towards the end of the chapter, John warns that false teachers without the correct knowledge of Jesus have gone out into the world. He says they are on a mission to deceive and provide false information about the Messiah. But in regards to this, John encourages them not to be distressed or lose heart so that they may secure their reward. He advises them that when false teachers and teachings come into their assembly not to welcome them into their house because the one that does is actually participating in their evil deeds.

3RD JOHN Purpose/Theme: Third John is addressed to a man named “Gaius” who is warned about a local church leader, “Diotrephes” who loves to be first. Key Verse: “I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul prospers” (vs. 2) Key Thought: Church leadership must be out of higher motives than personal ambition Approx. Timeframe:

90-95 AD Credited Author: The Apostle John Review: The third book from John, in short form he speaks to the church about some concerns and compliments. One of the first compliments was how the word being spread about them is that they continue to walk in the truth. Then, as was common practice among the Apostles, he expressed how much joy he has in hearing about their continued success and faithfulness. John tells them that not only the brethren are relating their love and commitment but also strangers are talking about them in positive fashion. Their testimony is causing a positive picture for the growing Christian community. He extols them to continue in their practices and to make sure that they send off the servants of the Lord in a manner worthy of them. One of the reasons he mentions a thorough send off for these men is there appears to be a problem at this point with the Gentiles participating or contributing. This may come from many different issues such as a lack of funds or desire to help. Jude then issues a warning concerning an individual named Diotrephes. Jude desires to confront him personally to bring charges against him relating to unjust accusations of the brethren, nor receiving the brethren or helping with their needs and he argues against those that would help by putting them out of the church. He closes by challenging the church to imitate good and not evil. He says that those that strive to do good are of God. He pays tribute to Demetrius because of the good testimony he has among the church.

JUDE

Purpose/Theme: The Jude that was the Lord’s half-brother may have written this as a general letter warning of falling away from the truth. It is very similar to 2 Peter in its strong prophetic warnings. Key Verses:

“In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit” (18-19) Key Thoughts: False teachers face sobering judgment (5-16) Doubters come in several forms; believers must make a distinction (22-23) Approx. Timeframe: 68-70 AD Credited Author: Possibly Jude, the half-brother of Christ Review: Jude writes his book concerning the influence of false teaching and doctrines making their way onto the fellowship. Jude identifies himself as the brother of James, which would make him the half-brother of Jesus. Both James and Jude do not utilize their blood relationship with Jesus but rather fall back on their relationship with God the Father. He tells us that these false prophets creep into the church unnoticed. While this may seem as a strange notion, the early church had many people attempting to influence and infiltrate it. As a newly found institution there were many opportunities for problems to arise. Jude compares the suffering of the false teachers with the unbelieving in the wilderness. He assures that the non-believers will face certain death. He goes on to list the angels that followed Satan to pursue his campaign of lust and greed will also face damnation because of their unfaithfulness. As a final addition, he mentions Sodom and Gomorrah and their fate as well. Jude gives us valuable advice for battling with the Devil. He cites a battle scene between Michael and Satan, in which Michael does not bring accusation against the devil but instead commands a rebuke in the name of the Lord. This makes me wonder about the name it and claim it theologians that encourage aggressive conversation with the devil and attempts to order the devil around. How do we overcome and recognize the false teachers? By first understanding their makeup and thought process and keeping ourselves plugged into our knowledge and power source, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jude tells us to hate even the garment spotted with the flesh. Even the stain of wickedness we cannot tolerate, but with gentle reproof and loving instruction, offer eternal salvation to all who are in need.

REVELATION Purpose/Theme: Once more, tradition holds that we are treated to the writings of the elderly Apostle John. He paints breathtaking pictures of the war between good and evil, in the visionary style of Ezekiel’s prophecy. His purpose is to strengthen Christians who face persecution by showing them the glorious victory awaiting the faithful. Key Verse: “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings-and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers” (17:14) Outline: Introduction (1) Letters to the seven churches (2-3) Visions of heaven (4-5) The seven seals (6-7) The seven trumpets (8-11) Signs of the end (12-14) The seven bowls of wrath (15-16) The fate of Babylon (17-18) The victorious Christ (19-20) The holy city (21:-22:6) Concluding blessings and cursing (22:8-21) Approx. Timeframe: 94-96 AD

Credited Author: John Review: Ask just about any Christian what they believe to be the most misunderstood and controversial book in the New Testament and hands down Revelation will emerge the victor. The book of Revelation is written by John from the perspective of a long vision or dream. Everything he encountered he is seeing in the same way we would see a movie. One of the important points of understanding the book of Revelation is the order it is written in and the events that it covers. John tells us that the book contains three timebased elements. He was instructed to write the things which have been, the things that

are and the things that will be. So we can ascertain that the book of Revelation deals in past, present and future tenses. Adding to the complexity of the issue is that Revelation is not written in chronological order. For example, the fall of Satan from heaven and the third of the angels that follow him are recorded after the seven letters to the seven churches. In addressing these issues, it is important to consider that we cannot always be sure to the exact order of events. The seven letters to the seven churches has also created major controversy inside the body of Christ. Some theologians have created a line of thinking called dispensation periods. They assume that these letters represent specific time periods of church history. They also claim that we are in the last stage of the church age, awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. While Revelation can stir emotions and cause some fierce debate among the Body of Christ, it was written so we can observe the times in which we live and know with confidence that Jesus will reign forever.

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