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Knowing the Parts of the Bible

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Why I Read Something From the Bible Every Day

In order to understand the Bible, you must read the Bible, and you must read it daily. Then as you read the Bible you will begin to understand it.

When I was growing up, my mother insisted that all 10 of her children read the Bible before leaving the house every day. Even though we did not understand what we were reading, we still read it each day.

When I grew up and left home, I continued reading something from the Bible each day even if it was just one verse or a scripture from the Psalms. I remember my girlfriends in college used to laugh at me because while they were going out to a party, I was staying in the dormitory reading the Bible.

During the summer and during Christmas breaks I worked in New York. If I left home and was blocks down the street going to the subway and remembered that I had left without reading the Bible, guess what? Yes, I could hear my mother’s voice saying, “Don’t leave home without reading something from the Bible.” Needless to say, I would go all the way back home and read something from the Bible before I continued on my way.

Read Something From the Bible Every Day

"Read something from the Bible before you leave home." I don’t think that was bad advice because I developed the habit that I keep even today. I have been reading the Bible since I was a child. When I read it as a child and while I was in college and while I was working in New York, I admit I did not know the meaning of the scriptures I was reading. It was merely mental assent; that is head knowledge.

Believe me when I tell you that when the Holy Spirit began to teach me, He brought back every scripture I had ever read over those many years. Not only that, but He gives me revelation knowledge of what all those scriptures mean. So, I say to you, “Read something from the Bible every day and leave it up to the Holy Spirit to explain the scriptures to you in His own time."

By the way, I am 74 years old now. I have read the entire Bible many times since I was encouraged to read something from it every day. Even though I can quote many scriptures by memory, I still read it because that was what I was taught to do.

What God Wants From You

I love reading the Bible. I enjoy studying the Bible. I am delighted to discover new things in the Bible. I am sure you will be able to do the same once you know some basic principles for understanding the Bible.

Let me assure you that you will never learn all God wants you to learn by listening to an hour-long sermon on Sunday morning when the preacher takes one passage and interpret it his own way. God wants you to do several things.

  • God wants you to study and learn how to rightly divide the scriptures yourself. God wants you to do what Paul told Timothy to do: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • God wants you to attend Sunday School and Bible Study where you can ask questions. Attend a good Bible Study where the word of God is taught rather than one where personal opinions rule.

Basic Principles

There are some basic principles that will help anyone who is serious about understanding the Bible.

The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word “biblia” meaning “a collection of books.” Even though we have 66 books, we do not have 66 stories. The Bible is only one story about the Jewish nation. There is a common thread that runs all the way through the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21.

So as you begin to read, remember that the focus should be on only one story, the story of God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel.

The Bible was written by 40 different authors covering a period of approximately 1600 years. The Bible is divided into two parts. The first section is the Old Testament consisting of 39 books originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The second section is the New Testament consisting of 27 books originally written in Greek.

Genres of the Bible

In order to fully understand the Bible, be aware that you cannot read all the books the same way because they are different literary types consisting of the law. the histories, parables, narratives, biographies, prose, poetry, prophecies and there is even a drama in the Bible. That drama is the Song of Songs, also called the Song of Solomon in some Bibles.

Things to Keep in Mind

You do not read each book the same way. You do not look for the same things in all the books. You should keep in mind that the books are NOT in the order in which they were written. The books as they appear in your Bible are grouped together by their types.

  • Law
  • Histories
  • Wisdom Writings
  • Major Prophets
  • Minor Prophets
  • Gospels
  • History of the Church
  • Pauline Writings
  • General Epistles
  • Apocalyptic Book

The Old Testament

The first five books of the Bible consist of the Pentateuch or the Law or the Torah. These books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The next section consists of the histories. Then the Writings or the Poetic books such as the Psalms. Then all of Solomon’s books are together that include Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

The four major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s other book Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel. After the major prophets, the 12 minor prophets are listed. Do know that the minor prophets are just as important as the major prophets. The major prophets are longer books whereby some of the minor prophetic books are much shorter. Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament consisting of only one chapter. After the prophetic books, there is a 400- year period called the Intertestamental Period because it is between the Old Testament and the New Testament. During this 400-year period, God spoke to no prophets.

The New Testament Starts with the Gospels

After the Intertestamental Period, there are four gospels:

  1. Matthew
  2. Mark
  3. Luke
  4. John

Why are there four gospels? Wouldn't one have been enough? We have four gospels because each gospel writer spoke to a different audience by sharing from their own perspective.

It would help you to know that Matthew was not the gospel that was written first, but it is listed first in our Bibles to make the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament through the genealogies of both Mary and Joseph.

It helps to know that Matthew was a tax collector. That’s why we have so many numbers in his gospel. It helps to know that Matthew was a Jew writing to the Jews about a Jew. That’s why in his gospel we find “kingdom of heaven” rather than “kingdom of God” because it was offensive for the Jews to say "God."

Mark was written first, but his gospel is short with no genealogies and nothing about the birth of Jesus. Luke is the only Gentile writer of the Bible who copied what he learned from Matthew and Mark to compile his information. John is altogether different because John is not a synoptic gospel.

Rather, John talks about the person of Jesus Christ, His incarnation, His different names such as I am the Bread of Life, I am the Resurrection, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. In other words, John wrote about the person of Jesus more than the deeds of Jesus.

The Birth of the Church and the Pauline Epistles

The Acts of the Apostles is next because it is the birth of the church. If at all possible, it would be good to read The Acts of the Apostles after reading the Gospel of Luke because Luke is the author of both books and The Acts of the Apostles is a continuiation of the Gospel of Luke.

The first part of Acts is about the birth of the church, but Paul dominates the rest of the book with his conversion on the Damascus Road and his three missionary journeys. As you read about Paul’s missionary journeys, it would help tremendously if you would read his books that go along with his missionary journeys. For instance, the book of Galatians was written while on his first missionary journey. So, go on and read Galatians and see if it doesn’t make more sense to you now.

The Pauline Epistles are not grouped in our Bible in the order in which they were written. Paul’s writings are grouped by their length from the longest to the shortest. The Book of Romans is the longest of Paul’s books with 16 chapters and Philemon is the shortest with only one chapter.

The General Epistles

After the 13 Pauline Epistles, we have the General Epistles consisting of Hebrews, James, I and II Peter; I, II, III John, Jude and then the book of Revelation (no s). It is not the revelation of John as most people think. It is the Revelation of Jesus Christ told by John. Some people are afraid to read the book of Revelation and that’s exactly what the devil wants.

The book tells us about 7 times that we are blessed if we read it. So get busy, read the book of Revelation and find out what will happen to us during the end times. There is nothing scary about the book at all. It does contain a lot of symbols, numbers, and figurative language. Find out the reason for the book, the theme of the book and the lessons the book teaches. A good Bible teacher can surely help you understand the lessons you are to learn from the book

In order to understand the Bible, you must know something about the author’s background. Find out what was happening in his life and what was happening in his surroundings at the time of the writing. For instance, Paul never wrote anything that didn’t need to be addressed.


Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation is the last book in the Bible. It is a book about end-time events as told by John as he was on the Isle of Patmos. He looked up to heaven, and it was revealed to him what would happen during the last days.

Daniel in the Old Testament is the counterpart to Revelation because they are the only two books with information about what will happen during the last days. Readers will get a good idea of what heaven is like and what awaits them in heaven.

Broadcast: How to Understand the Bible

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