The Bible in a Nutshell

A (Generally) Chronological History of the Bible
[I'm following the Protestant canon.]

Genesis 1-11
  • God created everything and put man in Eden. He called it "good."
  • Mankind sinned. As a result, we were exiled from Eden and the earth was cursed.
  • Humanity became thoroughly evil.
  • God flooded the world, sparing Noah and his family.
  • Humanity became prideful, built the Tower of Babel, and God scattered them.

Genesis 12-Joshua
  • God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, making huge promises - to be their God, to give them land, to bless them, and to bless the world through them.
  • Jacob was named Israel and he had twelve sons, the fathers of twelve tribes.
  • Jacob and his descendants went to Egypt because of a famine.
  • Egypt made them slaves.
  • Through Moses, God led the Israelites out of Egypt with miracles in the Exodus.
  • God gave Israel the Torah (Law) at Mount Sinai, including instructions for the Tabernacle, God's dwelling place among his people.
  • That generation died in the wilderness because they lacked faith in God.
  • God brought the second generation in to conquer and inherit the Promised Land.

Judges-2 Chronicles (and many of the prophetic books)
  • The culture fell into chaos. God raised prophet-judges to lead and defend Israel under God's kingship.
  • Israel asked for a human king, and God gave them Saul, then David, then Solomon, who built the first Temple, patterned after the Tabernacle.
  • The kingdom then divided into two kingdoms: (1) a northern kingdom ("Israel" or "Ephraim") and (2) a southern kingdom ("Judah") and each had many kings. [map]
  • Many prophets in Israel and Judah recorded prophecies of God that foreign nations would conquer these kingdoms, but that God would later restore them. They also prophesied other future events, including the coming of the Messiah who would save his people.
  • The Assyrian Empire (NE of Israel) conquered and exiled the northern kingdom, importing foreigners in their place. [map]
  • About 150 years later, the Babylonian Empire (east of Judah) conquered and exiled Judah, the southern kingdom, who had also served idols rather than God for a long time. [map]

Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther
  • The Jewish people remained in Babylon and Persia for 70 years and even in that location, God revealed himself supernaturally in various ways.

Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
  • After these 70 years later had passed, many Jews returned to Judah from the exile in Babylon, which was now under Persian control. They rebuilt Jerusalem and the Temple.

{The Time Between the Testaments}
from non-biblical historical documents
  • The Jews in Judea (Judah) lived under Persian influence until the Greek king, Alexander the Great, conquered Persia. 
  • The Jews were then ruled by the Greeks until Alexander died, then by an Egyptian dynasty and then by a Syrian dynasty.
  • A Syrian ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, desecrated the Temple and prohibited the Jews from following God's law. The Jews (led by the Maccabee family) revolted, purified the Temple, and had an independent dynasty for about 80 years called the Hasmonean dynasty.
  • The Romans conquered the Hasmoneans and installed Herod the Great as vassal-king over the Jews. Herod expanded and re-built the Temple complex in Jerusalem. This is where the New Testament begins.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
  • Jesus of Nazareth was born from a virgin, taught many things, showed compassion for the broken, forgave sin, confronted the self-righteous, did signs and miracles, was crucified, and rose physically from the dead. He fulfilled hundreds of prophecies about the Messiah - the anointed one who would come to save his people from their sins and show the light of God to the whole world.

  • Jesus ascended into heaven.
  • The Holy Spirit was poured out dramatically on Jesus' followers in Jerusalem, giving them God's power.
  • Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus (also called Paul) and called him to teach about Jesus as the Messiah.
  • Paul and the other apostles ("sent ones") spread the good news of Jesus from Jerusalem to the whole world - both to Jewish people and non-Jews ("Gentiles").

  • Apostles wrote letters to churches in various locations with moral instruction, theological instruction, correction, encouragement, and overall guidance for their present time and for the future. The future they describe includes Jesus returning to earth to judge it and to restore the earth from the curse of sin.

Having this big picture helps us understand where the overall story of God's revelation has come from and where it's going.

While this is helpful, a simple framework of events still doesn't interpret what it all says about God and about us. For this, we need to allow it to be personal, looking at themes, explanations, examples, and instructions in addition to these events. For example, the Exodus is a historical pattern that shows God's desire and ability to free us from slavery to sin. Similarly, the exile and restoration illustrates God's love, faithfulness, justice and mercy in our lives. And when we explore the gospels and letters of the New Testament we find the amazing account of a God who loves us so much that he would exchange our wretchedness for his perfection.

What we find as we dig deeper into these things reveals nothing less than the Meaning of Life - and if you haven't already, you can get a bigger taste of it with this article.