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Bible Book Summaries

👑 OLD TESTAMENT 👑

The First Book of Moses Called

GENESIS

THE first part of Genesis focuses on the beginning and spread of sin in the world and culminated in the devastating flood in the days of Noah. The second part of the book focuses on God’s dealings with one man, Abraham. Abraham and his descendants learn firsthand that it is always safe to trust the Lord in times of famine and feasting, blessing and bondage. From Abraham … to Isaac … to Jacob … to Joseph … God’s promised begin to come to fruition in a great nation possessing a great land.

Genesis is a Greek word meaning “origin,” “source,” “generation,” or “beginning.” The original Hebrew title Bereshith means “In the Beginning.”

The literary structure of Genesis is clear and is built around eleven separate units, all but the first including the word genealogy or history in a summary phrase: (1) Introduction to the Genealogies (1:1—2:3); (2) Heaven and Earth (2:4—4:26); (3) Adam (5:1—6:8); (4) Noah (6:9—9:29); (5) Sons of Noah (10:1—11:9); (6) Shem (11:10-26); (7) Terah (11:27—25:11); (8) Ishmael (25:12-18); (9) Isaac (25:19—35:29); (10) Esau (36:1—37:1); (11) Jacob (37:2—50:26).


The Second Book of Moses Called

EXODUS

EXODUS is the record of Israel’s birth as a nation. Within the protective “womb” of Egypt, the Israelite family of seventy rapidly multiplies. At the right time, accompanied with severe “birth pains,” an infant nation, numbering between two and three million people, is brought into the world where it is divinely protected, fed, and nurtured.

The Hebrew title, We’elleh Shemoth, “Now These Are the Names,” comes from the first phrase in Exodus 1:1. Exodus begins with “Now” to show it as a continuation of Genesis. The Greek title is Exodus, a word meaning “exit,” “departure,” or “going out.” The Septuagint uses this word to describe the book by its key event (see Exodus 19:1, “gone forth out”). In Luke 9:31 and in 2 Peter 1:15, the word exodus speaks of physical death (Jesus and Peter). This embodies Exodus’s theme of redemption, because redemption is accomplished only through Christ’s death. The Latin title is Liber Exodus, “Book of Departure,” taken from the Greek title.


The Third Book of Moses Called

LEVITICUS

LEVITICUS is God’s guidebook for His newly redeemed people, showing them how to worship, serve, and obey a holy God. Fellowship with God through sacrifice and obedience show the awesome holiness of the God of Israel. Indeed, “‘you shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy'” (Leviticus 19:2)

Leviticus focuses on the worship and walk of the nation of God. In Exodus, Israel was redeemed and established as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Leviticus shows how God’s people are to fulfill their priestly calling.

The Hebrew title is Wayyiqra, “And He Called.” The Talmud refers to Leviticus as the “Law of the Priests,” and the “Law of the Offerings.” The Greek title appearing in the Septuagint is Leuitikon, “That Which Pertains to the Levites.” From this word, the Latin Vulgate derived its name Leviticus which was adopted as the English title. This title is slightly misleading because the book does not deal with the Levites as a whole, but more with the priests, a segment of the Levites.


The Fourth Book of Moses Called

NUMBERS

NUMBERS is the book of wanderings. It takes its name from the two numberings of the Israelites—the first at Mount Sinai and the second on the plains of Moab. Most of the book, however, describes Israel’s experiences as they wander in the wilderness. The lesson of Numbers is clear. While it may be necessary to pass through wilderness experiences, one does not have to live there. For Israel, an eleven-day journey became a forty-year agony.

The title of Numbers comes from the first word in the Hebrew text, Wayedabber, “And He Said.” Jewish writings, however, usually refer to it by the fifth Hebrew word in Numbers 1:1, Bemidbar, “In the Wilderness,” which more nearly indicates the content of the book. The Greek title in the Septuagint is Arithmoi, “Numbers.” The Latin Vulgate followed this title and translated it Liber Numeri, “Book of Numbers.” These titles are based on the two numberings: the generation of Exodus (Numbers 1) and the generation that grew up in the wilderness and conquered Canaan (Numbers 26). Numbers has also been called the “Book of the Journeyings,” the “Book of the Murmurings,” and the “Fourth Book of Moses.”


The Fifth Book of Moses Called

DEUTERONOMY

DEUTERONOMY, Moses’ “Upper Desert Discourse,” consists of a series of farewell messages by Israel’s 120-year-old leader. It is addressed to the new generation destined to possess the Land of Promise—those who survived the forty years of wilderness wandering.

Like Leviticus, Deuteronomy contains a vast amount of legal detail, but its emphasis is on the laymen rather than the priests. Moses reminds the new generation of the importance of obedience if they are to learn from the sad example of their parents.

The Hebrew title of Deuteronomy is Haddebarim, “The Words,” taken from the opening phrase in Deuteronomy 1:1, “These be the words.” The parting words of Moses to the new generation are given in oral and written form so that they will endure to all generations. Deuteronomy has been called “five-fifths of the Law” since it completes the five books of Moses. The Jewish people have also called it Mishneh Hattorah, “Repetition of the Law,” which is translated in the Septuagint as To Deuteronomion Touto, “This Second Law.” Deuteronomy, however, is not a second law but an adaptation and expansion of much of the original law given on Mount Sinai. The English title comes from the Greek title Deuteronomion, “Second Law.” Deuteronomy has also been appropriately called the “Book of Remembrance.”


The Book of

JOSHUA

JOSHUA, the first of twelve historical books (Joshua-Esther), forges a link between the Pentateuch and the remainder of Israel’s history. Through three major military campaigns involving more than thirty enemy armies, the people of Israel learn a crucial lesson under Joshua’s capable leadership: victory comes through faith in God and obedience to His word, rather than through military might or numerical superiority.

The title of this book is appropriately named after its central figure, Joshua. His original name is Hoshea, “Salvation” (Numbers 13:8); but Moses evidently changes it to Yehoshua, “Yahweh Is Salvation” (Numbers 13:16). He is also called Yeshua, a shortened form of Yehoshua. This is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek name Iesous (Jesus). Thus, the Greek title given to the book in the Septuagint is Iesous Naus, “Joshua the Son of Nun.” The Latin title is Liber Josue, the “Book of Joshua.”

Joshua’s name is symbolic of the fact that although he is the leader of the Israelite nation during the conquest, the Lord is the Conqueror.


The Book of

JUDGES

THE Book of Judges stands in stark contrast to Joshua. In Joshua, an obedient people conquered the land through trust in the power of God. In Judges, however, a disobedient and idolatrous people are defeated time and time again because of their rebellion against God.

In seven distinct cycles of sin to salvation, Judges shows how Israel had set aside God’s law and in its place substituted “that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The recurring result of abandonment from God’s law is corruption from within and oppression from without. During the nearly four centuries spanned by this book, God raises up military champions to throw off the yoke of bondage and to restore the nation to pure worship. But all too soon the “sin cycle” begins again as the nation’s spiritual temperature grows steadily colder.

The Hebrew title is Shophetim, meaning “judges,” “rulers,” “deliverers,” or “saviors.” Shophet not only carries the idea of maintaining justice and settling disputes, but it is also used to mean “liberating” and “delivering.” First the judges deliver the people; then they rule and administer justice. The Septuagint used the Greek equivalent of this word, Kritai (“Judges”). The Latin Vulgate called it Liber Judicum, the “Book of Judges.” This book could also appropriately be titled the “Book of Failure.”


The Book of

RUTH

RUTH is a cameo story of love, devotion, and redemption set in the black context of the days of the judges. It is the story of a Moabite woman who forsakes her pagan heritage in order to cling to the people of Israel and to the God of Israel. Because of her faithfulness in a time of national faithlessness, God rewards her by giving her a new husband (Boaz), a son (Obed), and a privileged position in the lineage of David and Christ (she is the great-grandmother of David).

Ruth is the Hebrew title of this book. This name may be a Moabite modification of the Hebrew word reuit, meaning “friendship” or “association.” The Septuagint entitles the book Routh, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name. The Latin title is Ruth, a transliteration of Routh.


The First Book of

SAMUEL

THE Book ofFirst Samuel describes the transition of leadership in Israel from judges to kings. Three characters are prominent in the book: Samuel, the last judge and the first prophet; Saul, the first king of Israel; and David, the king-elect, anointed but not yet recognized as Saul’s successor.

The books of First and Second Samuel were originally one book in the Hebrew Bible, known as the “Book of Samuel” or simply “Samuel.” This name has been variously translated “The Name of God,” “His Name is God,” “Heard of God,” and “Asked of God.” The Septuagint divides Samuel into two books even though it is one continuous account. This division artificially breaks up the history of David. The Greek (Septuagint) title is Bibloi Basileion, “Books of Kingdoms,” referring to the later kingdoms of Israel and Judah. First Samuel is called Basileion Alpha, “First Kingdoms.” Second Samuel and First and Second Kings are called “Second, Third, and Fourth Kingdoms.” The Latin Vulgate originally called the books of Samuel and Kings Libri Regum, “Books of the Kings.” Later the Latin Bible combined the Hebrew and Greek titles for the first of these books, calling it Liber I Samuelis, the “First Book of Samuel,” or simply “First Samuel.”


The Second Book of

SAMUEL

THE book ofSecond Samuel records the highlights of David’s reign, first over the territory of Judah, and finally over the entire nation of Israel. It traces the ascension of David to the throne, his climactic sins of adultery and murder, and the shattering consequences of those sins upon his family and the nation.

See First Samuel for details on the titles of the books of Samuel. The Hebrew title for both books (originally one) is “Samuel.” The Greek title for Second Samuel is Basileion Beta, “Second Kingdoms.” The Latin title is Liber II Samuelis, the “Second Book of Samuel,” or simply “Second Samuel.”


The First Book of the

KINGS

THE first half of First Kings traces the life of Solomon. Under his leadership Israel rises to the peak of her size and glory. Solomon’s great accomplishments, including the unsurpassed splendor of the temple which he constructs in Jerusalem, bring him worldwide fame and respect. However, Solomon’s zeal for God diminishes in his later years, as pagan wives turn his heart away from worship in the temple of God. As a result, the king with the divided heart leaves behind a divided kingdom. For the next century, the Book of First Kings traces the twin histories of two sets of kings and two nations of disobedient people who are growing indifferent to God’s prophets and precepts.

Like the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings were originally one in the Hebrew Bible. The original title was Melechim, “Kings,” taken from the first word in 1 Kings 1:1, Vehamelech, “Now king.” The Septuagint artificially divided the book of Kings in the middle of the story of Ahaziah into two books. It called the books of Samuel “First and Second Kingdoms” and the books of Kings “Third and Fourth Kingdoms.” The Septuagint may have divided Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles into two books each because the Greek required a greater amount of scroll space than did the Hebrew. The Latin title for these books is Liber Regum Tertius et Quartus, “Third and Fourth Books of Kings.”


The Second Book of the

KINGS

THE Book of Second Kings continues the drama begun in 1 Kings—the tragic history of two nations on a collision course with captivity. The author systematically traces the reigning monarchs of Israel and Judah, first by carrying one nation’s history forward, then retracing the same period for the other nation.

Nineteen consecutive evil kings rule in Israel, leading to the captivity by Assyria. The picture is somewhat brighter in Judah, where godly kings occasionally emerge to reform the evils of their predecessors. In the end however, sin outweighs righteousness and Judah is marched off to Babylon.


The First Book of the

CHRONICLES

THE Books ofFirst and Second Chronicles cover the same period of Jewish history described in Second Samuel through Second Kings, but the perspective is different. These books are no mere repetition of the same material, but rather form a divine editorial on the history of God’s people. While Second Samuel and First and Second Kings give a political history of Israel and Judah, First and Second Chronicles present a religious history of the Davidic dynasty of Judah. The former are written from a prophetic and moral viewpoint, and the latter from a priestly and spiritual perspective. The Book of First Chronicles begins with the royal line of David and then traces the spiritual significance of David’s righteous reign.

The books of First and Second Chronicles were originally one continuous work in the Hebrew. The title was Dibere Hayyamim, meaning “The Words [accounts, events] of the Days.” The equivalent meaning today would be “The Events of the Times.” Chronicles was divided into two parts in the third-century B.C. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint). At that time it was given the name Paraleipomenon, “Of Things Omitted,” referring to things omitted from Samuel and Kings. Some copies add the phrase, Basileon Iouda, “Concerning the Kings of Judah.” The first book of Chronicles was called Paraleipomenon Primus, “The First Book of Things Omitted.” The name “Chronicles” comes from Jerome in his Latin Vulgate Bible (A.D. 385-405): Chronicorum Liber. He meant his title in the sense of the “Chronicles of the Whole of Sacred History.”


The Second Book of the

CHRONICLES

THE Book of Second Chronicles parallels First and Second Kings but virtually ignores the northern kingdom of Israel because of its false worship and refusal to acknowledge the temple in Jerusalem. Chronicles focuses on those kings who pattern their lives and reigns after the life and reign of godly King David. It gives extended treatment to such zealous reformers as Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah.

The temple and temple worship, central throughout the book, befit a nation whose worship of God is central to its very survival. The book begins with Solomon’s glorious temple and concludes with Cyrus’s edict to rebuild the temple more than four hundred years later.


The Book of

EZRA

EZRA continues the Old Testament narrative of Second Chronicles by showing how God fulfills His promise to return His people to the Land of Promise after seventy years of exile. Israel’s “second exodus,” this one from Babylon, is less impressive than the return from Egypt because only a remnant chooses to leave Babylon.

Ezra relates the story of two returns from Babylon—the first led by Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple (chapters 1-6), and the second under the leadership of Ezra to rebuild the spiritual condition of the people (chapters 7-10). Sandwiched between these two accounts is a gap of nearly six decades, during which Esther lives and rules as queen in Persia.

Ezra is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew word ezer, “help,” and perhaps means “Yahweh helps.” Ezra and Nehemiah were originally bound together as one book because Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah were viewed as one continuous history. The Septuagint, a Greek-language version of the Old Testament translated in the third century B.C., calls Ezra-Nehemiah, Esdras Deuteron, “Second Esdras.” First Esdras is the name of the apocryphal book of Esdras. The Latin title is Liber Primus Esdrae, “First Book of Ezra.” In the Latin Bible, Ezra is called First Ezra and Nehemiah is called Second Ezra.


The Book of

NEHEMIAH

NEHEMIAH, contemporary of Ezra and cupbearer to the king in the Persian palace, leads the third and last return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. His concern for the welfare of Jerusalem and its inhabitants prompts him to take bold action. Granted permission to return to his homeland, Nehemiah challenges his countrymen to arise and rebuild the shattered wall of Jerusalem. In spite of opposition from without and abuse from within, the task is completed in only fifty-two days, a feat even the enemies of Israel must attribute to God’s enabling. By contrast, the task of reviving and reforming the people of God within the rebuilt wall demands years of Nehemiah’s godly life and leadership.

The Hebrew word for Nehemiah is Nehemyah, “Comfort of Yahweh.” The book is named after its chief character, whose name appears in the opening verse. The combined book of Ezra-Nehemiah is given the Greek title Esdras Deuteron, “Second Esdras” in the Septuagint, a third-century B.C. Greek-language translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. The Latin title of Nehemiah is Liber Secundus Esdrae, “Second Book of Ezra” (Ezra was the first). At this point, it is considered a separate book from Ezra, and is later called Liber Nehemiae, “Book of Nehemiah.”


The Book of

ESTHER

GOD’s hand of providence and protection on behalf of His people is evident throughout the book of Esther, though His name does not appear once. Haman’s plot brings grave danger to the Jews and is countered by the courage of beautiful Esther and the counsel of her wise cousin Mordecai, resulting in a great deliverance. The Feast of Purim becomes an annual reminder of God’s faithfulness on behalf of His people.

Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah, “Myrtle” (Esther 2:7), but her Persian name Ester was derived from the Persian word for “Star” (Stara). The Greek title for this book is Esther, and the Latin title is Hester.


The Book of

JOB

JOB is perhaps the earliest book of the Bible. Set in the period of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph), it tells the story of a man who loses everything—his wealth, his family, his health—and wrestles with the question, Why?

The book begins with a heavenly debate between God and Satan, moves through three cycles of earthly debates between Job and his friends, and concludes with a dramatic “divine diagnosis” of Job’s problem. In the end, Job acknowledges the sovereignty of God in his life and receives back more than he had before his trials.

Iyyob is the Hebrew title for this book, and the name has two possible meanings. If derived from the Hebrew word for “Persecution,” it means “Persecuted One.” It is more likely that it comes from the Arabic word meaning “To Come Back” or “Repent.” If so, it may be defined “Repentant One.” Both meanings apply to the book. The Greek title is Iob, and the Latin title is Iob.


The Book of

PSALMS

THE Book ofPsalms is the largest and perhaps most widely used book in the Bible. It explores the full range of human experiences in a very personal and practical way. Its 150 “songs” run from the Creation through the patriarchal, theocratic, monarchical, exilic, and postexilic periods. The tremendous breadth of subject matter in the Psalms includes diverse topics, such as jubilation, war, peace, worship, judgment, messianic prophecy, praise, and lament. The Psalms were set to the accompaniment of stringed instruments and served as the temple hymnbook and devotional guide for the Jewish people.

The book of Psalms was gradually collected and originally unnamed, perhaps due to the great variety of material. It came to be known as Sepher Tehillim—”Book of Praises”—because almost every psalm contains some note of praise to God. The Septuagint uses the Greek word Psalmoi (ΨΑΛΜΟΙ) as its title for this book, meaning “Poems Sung to the Accompaniment of Musical Instruments.” It also calls it the Psalterium (“A Collection of Songs”), and this word is the basis for the term Psalter. The Latin title is Liber Psalmorum, “Book of Psalms.”


The Book of

PROVERBS

THE key word in Proverbs is wisdom, “the ability to live life skillfully.” A godly life in an ungodly world, however, is no simple assignment. Proverbs provides God’s detailed instructions for His people to deal successfully with the practical affairs of everyday life: how to relate to God, parents, children, neighbors, and government. Solomon, the principle author, uses a combination of poetry, parables, pithy questions, short stories, and wise maxims to give in strikingly memorable form the common sense and divine perspective necessary to handle life’s issues.

Because Solomon, the pinnacle of Israel’s wise men, was the principle contributor, the Hebrew title of this book is Mishle Shelomoh, “Proverbs of Solomon” (Proverbs 1:1). The Greek title is Paroimiai Salomontos, “Proverbs of Solomon.” The Latin title Liber Proverbiorum, “Book of Proverbs,” combines the words pro “for” and verba “words” to describe the way the proverbs concentrate many words into a few. The rabbinical writings called Proverbs Sepher Hokhmah, “Book of Wisdom.”


The Book of

ECCLESIASTES

THE key word in Ecclesiastes is vanity, “the futile emptiness of trying to be happy apart from God.” The Preacher (traditionally taken to be Solomon—Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12—the wisest, richest, most influential king in Israel’s history) looks at life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes  1:9) and, from the human perspective, declares it all to be empty. Power, popularity, prestige, pleasure—nothing can fill the God-shaped void in man’s life but God Himself! But once seen from God’s perspective, life takes on meaning and purpose, causing Solomon to exclaim, “Eat…drink…rejoice…do good…live joyfully…fear God…keep His commandments!” Skepticism and despair melt away when life is viewed as a daily gift from God.

The Hebrew title Qoheleth is a rare term, found only in Ecclesiastes (1:1, 2, 12; 7:27; 12:8-10). It comes from the word qahal, “to convoke an assembly, to assemble.” Thus, it means “One Who Addresses an Assembly,” “A Preacher.” The Septuagint used the Greek word Ekklesiastes as its title for this book. Derived from the word ekklesia, “assembly,” “congregation,” “church,” it simply means “Preacher.” The Latin Ecclesiastes means “Speaker Before an Assembly.”


The

SONG OF SOLOMON

THE Song of Solomon is a love song written by Solomon and abounding in metaphors and oriental imagery. Historically, it depicts the wooing and wedding of a shepherdess by King Solomon, and the joys and heartaches of wedded love.

Allegorically, it pictures Israel as God’s betrothed bride (Hosea 2:19, 20), and the church as the bride of Christ. As human life finds its highest fulfillment in the love of man and woman, so spiritual life finds its highest fulfillment in the love of God for His people and Christ for His church.

The book reads like scenes in a drama with three main speakers: the bride (Shulamite), the king (Solomon), and a chorus (daughters of Jerusalem).

The Hebrew title Shir Hashirim comes from Song of Solomon 1:1, “The song of songs.” This is in the superlative and speaks of Solomon’s most exquisite song. The Greek title Asma Asmaton and the Latin Canticum Canticorum also mean “Song of Songs” or “The Best Song.” The name Canticles (“Songs”) is derived from the Latin title. Because Solomon is mentioned in 1:1, the book is also known as the Song of Solomon.


The Book of

ISAIAH

ISAIAH is like a miniature Bible. The first thirty-nine chapters (like the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament) are filled with judgment upon immoral and idolatrous men. Judah has sinned; the surrounding nations have sinned; the whole world has sinned. Judgment must come, for God cannot allow such blatant sin to go unpunished forever. But the final twenty-seven chapters (like the twenty-seven books of the New Testament) declare a message of hope. The Messiah is coming as a Savior and a Sovereign to bear a cross and to wear a crown.

Isaiah’s prophetic ministry, spanning the reigns of four kings of Judah, covers at least forty years.

Yesha ‘yahu and its shortened form Yeshaiah mean “Yahweh is Salvation.” This name is an excellent summary of the contents of the book. The Greek form in the Septuagint is Hesaias, and the Latin form is Esaias or Isaias.


The Book of

JEREMIAH

THE book of Jeremiah is the prophecy of a man divinely called in his youth from the priest-city of Anathoth. A heartbroken prophet with a heartbreaking message, Jeremiah labors for more than forty years proclaiming a message of doom to the stiff-necked people of Judah. Despised and persecuted by his countrymen, Jeremiah bathes his harsh prophecies in tears of compassion. His broken heart causes him to write a broken book, which is difficult to arrange chronologically or topically. But through his sermons and signs he faithfully declares that surrender to God’s will is the only way to escape calamity.

Yirmeyahu or Yirmeyah literally means “Yahweh Throws,” perhaps in the sense of laying a foundation. It may effectively mean “Yahweh Establishes, Appoints, or Sends.” The Greek form of the Hebrew name in the Septuagint is Hieremias, and the Latin form is Jeremias.


The Book of

LAMENTATIONS

LAMENTATIONS describes the funeral of a city. It is a tearstained portrait of the once proud Jerusalem, now reduced to rubble by the invading Babylonian hordes. In a five-poem dirge, Jeremiah exposes his emotions. A death has occurred; Jerusalem lies barren.

Jeremiah writes his lament in acrostic or alphabetical fashion. Beginning each chapter with the first letter aleph, he progresses verse by verse through the Hebrew alphabet (every three verses in chapter three). In the midst of this terrible holocaust, Jeremiah triumphantly cries out, “Great is Your Faithfulness” (Lamentaions 3:23). In the face of death and destruction, with life seemingly coming apart, Jeremiah turns tragedy into a triumph of faith. God has never failed him in the past. God has promised to remain faithful in the future. In the light of the God he knows and loves, Jeremiah finds hope and comfort.

The Hebrew title of this book comes from the first word of chapters 1, 2, and 4: Ekah, “Ah, how!” Another Hebrew word Ginoth (“Elegies” or “Lamentations”) has also been used as the title because it better represents the contents of the book. The Greek title Threnoi means “Dirges” or “Laments,” and the Latin title Threni (“Tears” or “Lamentations”) was derived from this word. The subtitle in Jerome’s Vulgate reads: “Id est lamentationes Jeremiae prophetae,” and this became the basis for the English title “The Lamentations of Jeremiah.”


The Book of

EZEKIEL

EZEKIEL, a priest and a prophet, ministers during the darkest days of Judah’s history: the seventy-year period of Babylonian captivity. Carried to Babylon before the final assault on Jerusalem, Ezekiel uses prophecies, parables, signs, and symbols to dramatize God’s message to His exiled people. Though they are like dry bones in the sun, God will reassemble them and breathe life into the nation once again. Present judgment will be followed by future glory so that “you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 6:7).

The Hebrew name Yehezke’l means “God Strengthens” or “Strengthened by God.” Ezekiel is indeed strengthened by God for the prophetic ministry to which he is called (Ezekiel 3:8, 9). The name occurs twice in this book and nowhere else in the Old Testament. The Greek form in the Septuagint is Iezekiel and the Latin form in the Vulgate is Ezechiel.


The Book of

DANIEL

DANIEL’s life and ministry bridge the entire seventy-year period of Babylonian captivity. Deported to Babylon at the age of sixteen, and handpicked for government service, Daniel becomes God’s prophetic mouthpiece to the gentile and Jewish world declaring God’s present and eternal purpose. Nine of the twelve chapters in this book revolve around dreams, including God-given visions involving trees, animals, beasts, and images. In both his personal adventures and prophetic visions, Daniel shows God’s guidance, intervention, and power in the affairs of men.

The name Daniye’l or Dani’el means “God Is My Judge,” and the book is, of course, named after the author and principle character. The Greek form Daniel in the Septuagint is the basis for the Latin and English titles.


The Book of

HOSEA

HOSEA, whose name means “Salvation,” ministers to the northern kingdom of Israel (also called Ephraim, after its largest tribe). Outwardly the nation is enjoying a time of prosperity and growth; but inwardly, moral corruption and spiritual adultery permeate the people. Hosea, instructed by God to marry a woman named Gomer, finds his domestic life to be an accurate and tragic dramatization of the unfaithfulness of God’s people. During this half century of prophetic ministry, Hosea repeatedly echoes his threefold message: God abhors the sins of His people; judgment is certain; but God’s loyal love stands firm.

The names Hosea, Joshua, and Jesus are all derived from the same Hebrew root word. The word hoshea means “salvation,” but “Joshua” and “Jesus” include an additional idea: “Yahweh Is Salvation.” As God’s messenger, Hosea offers the possibility of salvation if only the nation will turn from idolatry back to God.

Israel’s last king, Hoshea, has the same name as the prophet even though the English Bible spells them differently. Hoshea in the Greek and Latin is Osee.


The Book of

JOEL

DISASTER strikes the southern kingdom of Judah without warning. An ominous black cloud descends upon the land—the dreaded locusts. In a matter of hours, every living green thing has been stripped bare. Joel, God’s spokesman during the reign of Joash (835-796 B.C.), seizes this occasion to proclaim God’s message. Although the locust plague has been a terrible judgment for sin, God’s future judgments during the day of the Lord will make that plague pale by comparison. In that day, God will destroy His enemies, but bring unparalleled blessing to those who faithfully obey Him.

The Hebrew name Yo’el means “Yahweh Is God.” This name is appropriate to the theme of the book, which emphasizes God’s sovereign work in history. The courses of nature and nations are in His hand. The Greek equivalent is Ioel, and the Latin is Joel.


The Book of

AMOS

AMOS prophesies during a period of national optimism in Israel. Business is booming and boundaries are bulging. But below the surface, greed and injustice are festering. Hypocritical religious motions have replaced true worship, creating a false sense of security and a growing callousness to God’s disciplining hand. Famine, drought, plagues, death, and destruction—nothing can force the people to their knees.

Amos, the farmer-turned-prophet, lashes out at sin unflinchingly, trying to visualize the nearness of God’s judgment and mobilize the nation to repentance. The nation, like a basket of rotting fruit, stands ripe for judgment because of its hypocrisy and spiritual indifference.

The name Amos is derived from the Hebrew root amas, “to lift a burden, to carry.” Thus, his name means “Burden” or “Burden-Bearer.” Amos lives up to the meaning of his name by bearing up under his divinely given burden of declaring judgment to rebellious Israel. The Greek and Latin titles are both transliterated in English as Amos.


The Book of

OBADIAH

A struggle that began in the womb between twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, eventuates in a struggle between their respective descendants, the Edomites and the Israelites. For the Edomites’ stubborn refusal to aid Israel, first during the time of wilderness wandering (Numbers 20:14-21) and later during a time of invasion, they are roundly condemned by Obadiah. This little-known prophet describes their crimes, tries their case, and pronounces their judgment: total destruction.

The Hebrew name Obadyah means “Worshiper of Yahweh” or “Servant of Yahweh.” The Greek title in the Septuagint is Obdiou, and the Latin title in the Vulgate is Abdias.


The Book of

JONAH

NINEVEH is northeast; Tarshish is west. When God calls Jonah to preach repentance to the wicked Ninevites, the prophet knows that God’s mercy may follow. He turns down the assignment and heads for Tarshish instead. But once God has dampened his spirits (by tossing him out of the boat and into the water) and has demonstrated His protection (by moving him out of the water and into the fish), Jonah realizes God is serious about His command. Nineveh must hear the word of the Lord; therefore Jonah goes. Although the preaching is a success, the preacher comes away angry and discouraged and he must learn firsthand of God’s compassion for sinful men.

Yonah is the Hebrew word for “dove.” The Septuagint hellenized this word into Ionas, and the Latin Vulgate used the title Jonas.


The Book of

MICAH

MICAH, called from his rustic home to be a prophet, leaves his familiar surroundings to deliver a stern message of judgment to the princes and people of Jerusalem. Burdened by the abusive treatment of the poor by the rich and influential, the prophet turns his verbal rebukes upon any who would use their social or political power for personal gain. One-third of Micah’s book exposes the sins of his countrymen; another third illustrates the punishment God is about to send; and the final third holds out the hope of restoration once that discipline has ended. Through it all, God’s righteous demands upon His people are clear: “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

The name Michayahu (“Who Is Like Yahweh?”) is shortened to Michaia. In Micah 7:18, Micah hints at his own name with the phrase “Who is a God like You?” The Greek and Latin titles of this book are Michaias and Micha.


The Book of

NAHUM

“FOR everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Nineveh had been given the privilege of knowing the one true God. Under Jonah’s preaching this great gentile city had repented, and God graciously strayed His judgment. However, a hundred years later, Nahum proclaims the downfall of this same city. The Assyrians have forgotten their revival and have returned to their habits of violence, idolatry, and arrogance. As a result, Babylon will so destroy the city that no trace of it will remain—a prophecy fulfilled in painful detail.

The Hebrew word nahum (“comfort,” “consolation”) is a shortened form of Nehemiah (“Comfort of Yahweh”). The destruction of the capital city of Assyria is a message of comfort and consolation to Judah and all who live in fear of the cruelty of the Assyrians. The title of this book in the Greek and Latin Bibles is Naoum and Nahum.


The Book of

HABAKKUK

HABAKKUK ministers during the “death throes” of the nation of Judah. Although repeatedly called to repentance, the nation stubbornly refuses to change her sinful ways. Habakkuk, knowing the hardheartedness of his countrymen, asks God how long this intolerable condition can continue. God replies that the Babylonians will be His chastening rod upon the nation—an announcement that sends the prophet to his knees. He acknowledges that the just in any generation shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4), not by site. Habakkuk concludes by praising God’s wisdom even though he does not fully understand God’s ways.

Habaqquq is an unusual Hebrew name derived from the verb habaq, “embrace.” Thus his name probably means “One Who Embraces” or “Clings.” At the end of his book this name becomes appropriate because Habakkuk chooses to cling firmly to God regardless of what happens to his nation (Habakkuk 3:16-19). The Greek title in the Septuagint is Ambakouk, and the Latin title in Jerome’s Vulgate is Habacuc.


The Book of

ZEPHANIAH

DURING Judah’s hectic political and religious history, reform comes from time to time. Zephaniah’s forceful prophecy may be a factor in the reform that occurs during Josiah’s reign—a “revival” that produces outward change, but does not fully remove the inward heart of corruption which characterizes the nation. Zephaniah hammers home his message repeatedly that the day of the Lord, Judgment Day, is coming when the malignancy of sin will be dealt with. Israel and her gentile neighbors will soon experience the crushing hand of God’s wrath. But after the chastening process is complete, blessing will come in the person of the Messiah, who will be the cause for praise and singing.

Tsephan-yah means “Yahweh Hides” or “Yahweh Has Hidden.” Zephaniah was evidently born during the latter part of the reign of King Manasseh. His name may mean that he was “hidden” from Manasseh’s atrocities. The Greek and Latin title is Sophonias.


The Book of

HAGGAI

WITH the Babylonian exile in the past, and a newly returned group of Jews back in the land, the work of rebuilding the temple can begin. However, sixteen years after the process is begun, the people have yet to finish the project, for their personal affairs have interfered with God’s business. Haggai preaches a fiery series of sermonettes designed to stir up the nation to finish the temple. He calls the builders to renewed courage in the Lord, renewed holiness of life, and renewed faith in God who controls the future.

The etymology and meaning of Haggay is uncertain, but it is probably derived from the Hebrew word hag, “festival.” It may also be an abbreviated form of haggiah, “festival of Yahweh.” Thus, Haggai’s name means “Festal” or “Festive,” possibly because he was born on the day of a major feast, such as Tabernacles (Haggai’s second message takes place during that feast, Haggai 2:1). The title in the Septuagint is Aggaios and in the Vulgate it is Aggaeus.


The Book of

ZECHARIAH

FOR a dozen years or more, the task of rebuilding the temple has been half completed. Zechariah is commissioned by God to encourage the people in their unfinished responsibility. Rather than exhorting them to action with strong words of rebuke, Zechariah seeks to encourage them to action by reminding them of the future importance of the temple. The temple must be built, for one day the Messiah’s glory will inhabit it. But future blessing is contingent upon present obedience. The people are not merely building a building; they are building the future. With that as their motivation, they can enter the building project with wholehearted zeal, for their Messiah is coming.

Zekar-yah means “Yahweh Remembers” or “Yahweh Has Remembered.” This theme dominates the whole book: Israel will be blessed because Yahweh remembers the covenant He made with the fathers. The Greek and Latin version of his name is Zacharias.


The Book of

MALACHI

MALACHI, a prophet in the days of Nehemiah, directs his message of judgment to a people plagued with corrupt priests, wicked practices, and a false sense of security in their privileged relationship with God. Using the question-and-answer method, Malachi probes deeply into their problems of hypocrisy, infidelity, mixed marriages, divorce, false worship, and arrogance. So sinful has the nation become that God’s words to the people no longer have any impact. For four hundred years after Malachi’s ringing condemnations, God remains silent. Only with the coming of John the Baptist (prophesied in Malachi 3:1) does God again communicate to His people through a prophet’s voice.

The meaning of the name Mal’aki (“My Messenger”) is probably a shortened form of Mal’akya, “Messenger of Yahweh,” and it is appropriate to the book which speaks of the coming of the “messenger of the covenant” (“messenger” is mentioned three times in Malachi 2:7 and Malachi 3:1). The Septuagint used the title Malachias even though it also translated it “by the hand of his messenger.” The Latin title is Maleachi.

👑 NEW TESTAMENT 👑

The Gospel According to

MATTHEW

If you’ve ever read the sequel to a novel without having read the original story, you’ll know that picking up the storyline without a transition can be difficult. The Gospel of Matthew serves as such a transition. It connects the story of the Old Testament with the story of the New Testament, helping us understand how the life and teaching of Jesus built upon what had come before.

Matthew is the gospel written by a Jew to Jews about a Jew. Matthew is the writer, this countrymen are the readers, and Jesus Christ is the subject. Matthew’s design is to present Jesus as the King of the Jews, the long-awaited Messiah. Through a carefully selected series of Old Testament quotations, Matthew documents Jesus Christ’s claim to be the Messiah. His genealogy, baptism, messages, and miracles all point to the same inescapable conclusion: Christ is King. Even in his death, seeming defeat is turned to victory by the Resurrection, and the message again echoes forth: the King of the Jews lives.

At an early date this gospel was given the title Kata Matthaion, “According to Matthew.” As this title suggests, other gospel accounts were known at that time (the word “Gospel” was added later). Matthew (“Gift of the Lord”) was also surnamed Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27).


The Gospel According to

MARK

THE message of Mark’s gospel is captured in a single verse: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Chapter by chapter, the book unfolds the dual focus of Christ’s life: service and sacrifice.

Mark portrays Jesus as a Servant on the move, instantly responsive to the will of the Father. By preaching, teaching, and healing, He ministers to the needs of others even to the point of death. After the Resurrection, He commissions His followers to continue His work in His power— servants follow in the steps of the perfect Servant.

The ancient title for this gospel was Kata Markon, “According to Mark.” The author is best known by his Latin name Marcus, but in Jewish circles he was called by his Hebrew name John. Acts 12:12, 25 refer to him as “John, whose surname was Mark.”


The Gospel According to

LUKE

LUKE, a physician, writes with the compassion and warmth of a family doctor as he carefully documents the perfect humanity of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. Luke emphasizes Jesus’ ancestry, birth, and early life before moving carefully and chronologically through His earthly ministry. Growing belief and growing opposition develop side by side. Those who believe are challenged to count the cost of discipleship. Those who oppose will not be satisfied until the Son of Man hangs lifeless on a cross. But the Resurrection insures that His purpose will be fulfilled: “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

Kata Loukan, “According to Luke,” is the ancient title that was added to this gospel at a very early date. The Greek name Luke appears only three times in the New Testament (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24)


The Gospel According to

JOHN

JUST as a coin has two sides, both valid, so Jesus Christ has two natures, both valid. Luke presents Christ in His humanity as the Son of Man; John portrays Him in His deity as the Son of God. John’s purpose is crystal clear; to set forth Christ in His deity in order to spark believing faith in his readers. John’s gospel is topical as well as chronological, and it revolves around seven miracles and seven “I am” statements of Christ.

Following an extended eyewitness description of the Upper Room meal and discourse, John records events leading up to the Resurrection, the final climactic proof that Jesus is who He claims to be—the Sons of God.

The title of the Fourth Gospel follows the same format as the titles of the synoptic Gospels: Kata Ioannen, “According to John.” As with the others, the word “Gospel” was added later. Ioannes is derived from the Hebrew name Johanan, “Yahweh Has Been Gracious.”


THE ACTS

of the Apostles

JESUS’ last recorded words on earth are a supplement to the Great Commission: “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Book of Acts, written by Luke, is the story of the men and women who took that commission seriously and began to spread the news of a risen Savior to the most remote corners of the known world.

Each section of the book (Acts 1-7; 8-12; 13-28) focuses on a particular audience, a key personality, and a significant phase in the expansion of the gospel message.

As the second volume in a two-part work by Luke, this book probably had no separate title. But all available Greek manuscripts designate it by the title Praxeis, “Acts,” or by an expanded title like “The Acts of the Apostles.” Praxeis was commonly used in Greek literature to summarize the accomplishments of outstanding men. While the apostles are mentioned collectively at several points, this book really records the acts of Peter (Acts 1-12) and of Paul (Acts 13-28).


The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the

ROMANS

ROMANS, Paul’s greatest work, is placed first among his thirteen epistles in the New Testament. While the four Gospels present the words and works of Jesus Christ, Romans explores the significance of His sacrificial death. Using a question-and-answer format, Paul records the most systematic presentation of doctrine in the Bible. Romans is more than a book of theology; it is also a book of practical exhortation. The good news of Jesus Christ is more than the facts to be believed; it is also a life to be lived—a life of righteousness befitting the person, “justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

Although some manuscripts omit “in Rome” in Romans 1:7, 15, the title Pros Romaious, “To the Romans,” has been associated with the epistle almost from the beginning.


The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the

CORINTHIANS

CORINTH, the most important city in Greece during Paul’s day, was a bustling hub of worldwide commerce, degraded culture, and idolatrous religion. There Paul founded a church (Acts 18:1-17), and two of his letters are addressed “To the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1).

First Corinthians reveals the problems, pressures, and struggles of a church called out of a pagan society. Paul addresses a variety of problems in the lifestyle of the Corinthian church: factions, lawsuits, immorality, questionable practices, abuse of the Lord’s Supper, and spiritual gifts. In addition to words of discipline, Paul shares words of counsel in answer to questions raised by the Corinthian believers.

The oldest recorded title of this epistle is Pros Korinthious A, in effect, the “First to the Corinthians.” The A was no doubt a later addition to distinguish this book from Second Corinthians.


The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the

CORINTHIANS

SINCE Paul’s first letter, the Corinthian church had been swayed by false teachers who stirred the people against Paul. They claimed he was fickle, proud, unimpressive in appearance and speech, dishonest, and unqualified as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul sent Titus to Corinth to deal with these difficulties, and upon his return, rejoiced to hear of the Corinthians’ change of heart. Paul wrote this letter to express his thanksgiving for the repentant majority and to appeal to the rebellious minority to accept his authority. Throughout the book he defends his conduct, character, and calling as an apostle of Jesus Christ.

To distinguish this epistle from First Corinthians, it was given the title Pros Korinthious B, the “Second to the Corinthians.” The A and B were probably later additions to Pros Korinthious.


The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the

GALATIANS

THE Galatians, having launched their Christian experience by faith, seem content to leave their voyage of faith and chart a new course based on works—a course Paul finds disturbing. His letter to the Galatians is a vigorous attack against the gospel of works and a defense of the gospel of faith.

Paul begins by setting forth his credentials as an apostle with a message from God: blessing comes from God on the basis of faith, not law. The law declares men guilty and imprisons them; faith sets men free to enjoy liberty in Christ. But liberty is not license. Freedom in Christ means freedom to produce the fruits of righteousness through a Spirit-led lifestyle.

The book is called Pros Galatas, “To the Galatians,” and it is the only letter of Paul that is specifically addressed to a number of churches (“to the churches of Galatia,” Galatians 1:2). The name of Galatians was given to this Celtic people because they originally lived in Gaul before their migration to Asia Minor.


The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the

EPHESIANS

EPHESIANS is addressed to a group of believers who are rich beyond measure in Jesus Christ, yet living as beggars, and only because they are ignorant of their wealth. Paul begins by describing in chapters 1-3 the contents of the Christian’s heavenly “bank account”: adoption, acceptance, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, inheritance, the seal of the Holy Spirit, life, grace, citizenship—in short every spiritual blessing. In chapters 4-6 the Christian learns a spiritual walk rooted in his spiritual wealth. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus [1-3] for good works … that we should walk in them [4-6]” (Ephesians 2:10).

The traditional title of this Epistle is Pros Ephesious, “To the Ephesians.” Many ancient manuscripts, however, omit en Epheso, “in Ephesus,” in Ephesians 1:1. This has led a number of scholars to challenge the traditional view that this message was directed specifically to the Ephesians. The encyclical theory proposes that it was a circular letter sent by Paul to the churches of Asia. It is argued that Ephesians is really a Christian treatise designed for general use: it involves no controversy and deals with no specific problems in any particular church. Some scholars accept an ancient tradition that Ephesians is Paul’s letter to the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16), but there is no way to be sure. If Ephesians began as a circular letter, it eventually became associated with Ephesus, the foremost of the Asian churches. Another plausible option is that this epistle was directly addressed the Ephesians, but written in such a way as to make it helpful for all the churches in Asia.


The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the

PHILIPPIANS

PAUL writes a thank-you note to the believers at Philippi for their help in his hour of need, and he uses the occasion to send along some instruction on Christian unity. His central thought is simple: Only in Christ are real unity and joy possible. With Christ as your model of humility and service, you can enjoy of oneness and purpose, attitude, goal, and labor—a truth which Paul illustrates from his own life, and one of the Philippians desperately need to hear. Within their own ranks, fellow workers in the Philippian church are at odds, hindering the work in proclaiming new life in Christ. Because of this, Paul exhorts the church in “stand fast … be of the same mind … rejoice in the Lord always … but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known … and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:1, 2, 4, 6, 7).

This epistle is called Pros Philippesious, “To the Philippians.” The church at Philippi was the first church that Paul founded in Macedonia.


The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the

COLOSSIANS

IF Ephesians can be labeled the epistle portraying the “church of Christ,” then Colossians must surely be the “Christ of the church.” Ephesians focuses on the body; Colossians focuses on the Head. Like Ephesians, the little book of Colossians divides neatly in half with the first portion doctrinal (Colossians 1 and 2) and the second practical (Colossians 3 and 4). Paul’s purpose is to show that Christ is preeminent—first and foremost in everything—and the Christian’s life should reflect that priority. Because believers are rooted in Him, alive in Him, hidden in Him, and complete in Him, it is utterly inconsistent for them to live life without Him. Clothed in His love, with His peace ruling in their hearts, they are equipped to make Christ first in every area of life.

This epistle became known as Pros Kolossaeis, “To the Colossians,” because of Colossians 1:2. Paul also wanted it to be read in the neighboring church at Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).


The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the

THESSALONIANS

PAUL has many pleasant memories of the days he spent with the infant Thessalonian church. Their faith, hope, love, and perseverance in the face of persecution are exemplary. Paul’s labors as a spiritual parent to the fledgling church have been richly rewarded, and his affection is visible in every line of his letter.

Paul encourages them to excel in their newfound faith, to increase in their love for one another, and to rejoice, pray, and give thanks always. He closes his letter with instruction regarding the return of the Lord, whose advent signifies hope and comfort for believers both living and dead.

Because this is the first of Paul’s two canonical letter’s to the church at Thessalonica, it received the title Pros Thessalonikeis A, the “First to the Thessalonians.”


The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the

THESSALONIANS

SINCE Paul’s first letter, the seeds of false doctrine have been sown among the Thessalonians, causing them to waiver in their faith. Paul removes these destructive seeds and again plants the seeds of truth. He begins by commending the believers on their faithfulness in the midst of persecution and encouraging them that present suffering will be repaid with future glory. Therefore, in the midst of persecution, expectation can be high.

Paul then deals with the central matter of his letter: a misunderstanding spawned by false teachers regarding the coming day of the Lord. Despite reports to the contrary, that Day has not yet come, and Paul recounts the events that must first take place. Laboring for the gospel, rather than lazy resignation, is the proper response.

As the second letter in Paul’s Thessalonian correspondence, this was entitled Pros Thessalonikeis B, the “Second to the Thessalonians.”


The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to

TIMOTHY

PAUL, the aged and experienced apostle, writes to the young pastor Timothy who is facing a heavy burden of responsibility in the church at Ephesus. The task is challenging: false doctrine must be erased, public worship safeguarded, and mature leadership developed. In addition to the conduct of the church, Paul talks pointedly about the conduct of the minister. Timothy must be on his guard lest his youthfulness become a liability, rather than an asset, to the gospel. He must be careful to avoid false teachers and greedy motives, pursuing instead righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and the gentleness that befits a man of God.

The Greek title for this letter is Pros Timotheon A, the “First to Timothy.” Timothy means “honoring God” or “honored by God,” and probably was given to him by his mother Eunice.


The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to

TIMOTHY

PRISON is the last place from which to expect a letter of encouragement, but that is where Paul’s second letter to Timothy originates. He begins by assuring Timothy of his continuing love and prayers, and reminds him of his spiritual heritage and responsibilities. Only the one who perseveres, whether as a soldier, athlete, farmer, or minister of Jesus Christ, will reap the reward. Paul warns Timothy that his teaching will come under attack as men desert the truth for ear-itching words ( 2 Timothy 4:3). But Timothy has Paul’s example to guide him and God’s Word to fortify him as he faces growing opposition and glowing opportunities in the last days.

Paul’s last epistle received the title Pros Timotheon B, the “Second to Timothy.” When Paul’s epistles were collected together the B was probably added to distinguish this letter from the first letter he wrote to Timothy.

This second Pastoral Epistle to Timothy was probably written a year or so after the first, and from Rome, where Paul was for a second time a prisoner, and was sent to Timothy by the hands of Tychicus. In it he entreats Timothy to come to him before winter, and to bring Mark with him (compare Philippians 2:22). He was anticipating that “the time of his departure was at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6), and he exhorts his “son Timothy” to all diligence and steadfastness, and to patience under persecution (2 Timothy 1:6-15), and to a faithful discharge of all the duties of his office (2 Timothy 4:1-5), with all the solemnity of one who was about to appear before the Judge of quick and dead.


The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to

TITUS

TITUS, a young pastor, faces the unenviable assignment of setting in order the church at Crete. Paul writes advising him to appoint elders, men of proven spiritual character in their homes and businesses, to oversee the work of the church. But elders are not the only individuals in the church who are required to excel spiritually. Men and women, young and old, each have their vital functions to fulfill in the church if they are to be living examples of the doctrine they profess. Throughout this letter to Titus, Paul stresses the necessary, practical working out of salvation in the daily lives of both the elders and the congregation. Good works are desirable and profitable for all believers.

This third Pastoral Epistle is simply titled Pros Titon, “To Titus.” Ironically, this was also the name of the Roman general who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and succeeded his father Vespasian as emperor.


The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to

PHILEMON

DOES Christian brotherly love really work, even in situations of extraordinary tension and difficulty? Will it work, for example, between a prominent slave owner and one of his runaway slaves? Paul has no doubt! He writes a “postcard” to Philemon, his beloved brother and fellow worker, on behalf of Onesimus—a deserter, thief, and formerly worthless slave, but now Philemon’s brother in Christ. With much tact and tenderness, Paul asks Philemon to receive Onesimus back with the same gentleness with which he would receive Paul himself. Any debt Onesimus owes, Paul promises to make good. Knowing Philemon, Paul is confident that brotherly love and forgiveness will carry the day.

Since this letter is addressed to Philemon in verse 1, it becomes known as Pros Philemona, “To Philemon.” Like First and Second Timothy and Titus, it is addressed to an individual, but unlike the Pastoral Epistles, Philemon is also addressed to a family and a church (Philemon 2).


The Epistle to the

HEBREWS

MANY Jewish believers, having stepped out of Judaism into Christianity, want to reverse their course in order to escape persecution by their countrymen. The writer of Hebrews exhorts them to “go on to perfection” (Hebrews 6:1). His appeal is based on the superiority of Christ over the Judaic system. Christ is better than the angels, for they worship Him. He is better than Moses, for He created him. He is better than the Aaronic priesthood, for His sacrifice was once for all time. He is better than the law, for He mediates a better covenant. In short, there is more to be gained in Christ then to be lost in Judaism. Pressing on in Christ produces tested faith, self-discipline, and a visible love seen in good works.

Although the King James Version uses the title “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews,” there is no early manuscript evidence to support it. The oldest and most reliable title is simply Pros Ebraious, “To Hebrews.”


The Epistle of

JAMES

FAITH without works cannot be called faith. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), and a dead faith is worse than no faith at all. Faith must work; it must produce; it must be visible. Verbal faith is not enough; mental faith is insufficient. Faith must be there, but it must be more. It must inspire action. Throughout his epistle to Jewish believers, James integrates true faith and everyday practical experience by stressing that true faith must manifest itself in works of faith.

Faith endures trials. Trials come and go, but a strong faith will face them head-on and develop endurance. Faith understands temptations. It will not allow us to consent to our lust and slide into sin. Faith obeys the Word. It will not merely hear and not do. Faith produces doers. Faith harbors no prejudice. For James, faith and favoritism cannot coexist. Faith displays itself in works. Faith is more than mere words; it is more than knowledge; it is demonstrated by obedience; and it overtly responds to the promises of God. Faith controls the tongue. This small but immensely powerful part of the body must be held in check. Faith can do it. Faith acts wisely. It gives us the ability to choose wisdom that is heavenly and to shun wisdom that is earthly. Faith produces separation from the world and submission to God. It provides us with the ability to resist the Devil and humbly draw near to God. Finally, faith waits patiently for the coming of the Lord. Through trouble and trial it stifles complaining.

The name Iakobos (James) in James 1:1 is the basis for the early title Iakobou Epistole, “Epistle of James.” Iakobos is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Jacob, a Jewish name common in the first century.


The First Epistle of

PETER

PERSECUTION can cause either growth or bitterness in the Christian life. Response determines the result. In writing to Jewish believers struggling in the midst of persecution, Peter encourages them to conduct themselves courageously for the Person and program of Christ. Both their character and conduct must be above reproach. Having been born again to a living hope, they are to imitate the Holy One who has called them. The fruit of that character will be conduct rooted in submission: citizens to government, servants to masters, wives to husbands, husbands to wives and Christians to one another. Only after submission is fully understood does Peter deal with the difficult area of suffering. The Christians are not to think it “strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12), but are to rejoice as partakers of the suffering of Christ. That response to life is truly the climax of one’s submission to the good hand of God.

This epistle begins with the phrase Petros apostolos Iesou Christou, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.” This is the basis of the early title Petrou A, the “First of Peter.”


The Second Epistle of

PETER

FIRST Peter deals with problems from the outside; Second Peter deals with problems from the inside. Peter writes to warn the believers about the false teachers who are peddling damaging doctrine. He begins by urging them to keep close watch on their personal lives. The Christian life demands diligence in pursuing moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and selfless love. By contrast, the false teachers are sensual, arrogant, greedy, and covetous. They scoff at the thought of future judgment and live their lives as if the present would be the pattern for the future. Peter reminds them that although God may be longsuffering in sending judgment, ultimately it will come. In view of that fact, believers should live lives of godliness, blamelessness, and steadfastness.

The statement of authorship in 2 Peter 1:1 is very clear: “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ.” To distinguish this epistle from the first by Peter it was given the Greek title Petrou B, the “Second of Peter.”


The First Epistle of

JOHN

GOD is light; God is love; and God is life. John is enjoying a delightful fellowship with that God of light, love, and life, and he desperately desires that his spiritual children enjoy the same fellowship.

God is light. Therefore, to engage in fellowship with Him we must walk in light and not in darkness. As we walk in the light, we will regularly confess our sins, allowing the blood of Christ to continually cleanse us. Two major roadblocks to hinder this walk will be falling in love with the world and falling for the alluring lies of false teachers.

God is love. Since we are His children we must walk in love. In fact, John says that if we do not love, we do not know God. Love is more than just words; it is actions. Love is giving, not getting. Biblical love is unconditional in its nature. Christ’s love fulfilled those qualities and when that brand of love characterizes us, we will be free of self-condemnation and experience confidence before God.

God is life. Those who fellowship with Him must possess His quality of life. Spiritual life begins with spiritual birth which occurs through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ infuses us with God’s life—eternal life.

Although the apostle John’s name is not found in this book, it was given the title Ioannou A, the “First of John.”


The Second Epistle of

JOHN

“LET him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). These words of the apostle Paul could well stand as a subtitle for John’s little epistle. The recipients, a chosen lady and her children [or the church God has chosen and its members], were obviously standing. They were walking in truth, remaining faithful to the commandments they had received from the Father. John is deeply pleased to be able to commend them. But he takes nothing for granted. Realizing that standing is just one step removed from falling, he hesitates not at all to issue a reminder: “love one another” (2 John 5). The apostle admits that this is not new revelation, but he views it sufficiently important to repeat. Loving one another, he stresses, is equivalent to walking according to God’s commandments.

John indicates, however, that this love must be discerning. It is not a naive, unthinking, open to anything and anyone kind of love. Biblical love is a matter of choice; it is dangerous and foolish to float through life with undiscerning love. False teachers abound who do not acknowledge Christ as having come in the flesh. It is false charity to open the door to false teaching. We must have fellowship with God. We must have fellowship with Christians. But we must not have fellowship with false teachers.

The “elder” of verse 1 has been traditionally identified with the apostle John, resulting in the Greek title Ioannou B, the “Second of John.”


The Third Epistle of

JOHN

IN Third John the apostle encourages fellowship with Christian brothers.  Following his expression of love for Gaius, John assures him of his prayers for his health and voices his joy over Gaius’s persistent walk in truth and for the manner in which he shows hospitality and support for missionaries who have come to his church.

But not everyone in the church feels the same way.  Diotrephes’ heart is one hundred and eighty degrees removed from Gaius’s heart.  He is no longer living in love.  Pride has taken precedence in his life.  He has refused a letter John has written for the church, fearing that his authority might be superseded by that of the apostle.  He also has accused John of evil words and refused to accept missionaries.  He forbids others to do so and even expels them from the church if they disobey him.  John uses this negative example as an opportunity to encourage Gaius to continue his hospitality.  Demetrius has a good testimony and may even be one of those turned away by Diotrephes.  He is widely known for his good character and his loyalty to the truth.  Here he is well commended by John and stands as a positive example for Gaius.

The Greek titles of First, Second, and Third John are Ioannou A, B, and G. The G is gamma, the third letter of the Greek alphabet; Ioannou G means the “Third of John.”


The Epistle of

JUDE

FIGHT! Contend! Do battle! When apostasy arises, when false teachers emerge, when the truth of God is attacked, it is time to fight for the faith. Only believers who are spiritually “in shape” can answer the summons.  At the beginning of his letter Jude focuses on the believers’ common salvation, but then feels compelled to challenge them to contend for the faith. The danger is real.  False teachers have crept into the church, turning God’s grace into unbound license to do as they please.  Jude reminds such men of God’s past dealings with unbelieving Israel, disobedient angels, and wicked Sodom and Gomorrah. In the face of such danger Christians should not be caught off guard. The challenge is great, but so is the God who is able to keep them from stumbling.

The Greek title Iouda, “Of Jude,” comes from the name Ioudas which appears in verse 1. This name, which can be translated Jude or Judas, was popular in the first century because of Judas Maccabaeus (died 160 B.C.), a leader of the Jewish resistance against Syria during the Maccabean revolt.


THE REVELATION

of Jesus Christ

JUST as Genesis is the book of beginnings, Revelation is the book of consummation. In it, the divine program of redemption is brought to fruition, and the holy name of God is vindicated before all creation. Although there are numerous prophecies in the Gospels and Epistles, Revelation is the only New Testament book that focuses primarily on prophetic events. Its title means “unveiling” or “disclosure.” Thus, the book is an unveiling of the character and program of God. Penned by John during his exile on the island of Patmos, Revelation centers around visions and symbols of the resurrected Christ, who alone has the authority to judge the earth, to remake it, and to rule it in righteousness.

The title of this book in the Greek text is Apokalypsis Ioannou, “Revelation of John.” It is also known as the Apocalypse, a transliteration of the word apokalypsis, meaning “unveiling,” “disclosure,” or “revelation.” Thus, the book is an unveiling of that which otherwise could not be known. A better title comes from the first verse: Apokalypsis Iesou Christou, “Revelation of Jesus Christ.” This could be taken as a revelation which came from Christ or as a revelation which is about Christ—both are appropriate. Because of the unified contents of this book, it should not be called Revelations.

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