The main purpose in producing this was to form as complete a picture as possible of the message or messages of the entire collection we call the Bible.
The Bible has or had several functions, among them:
|A record of God's dealings with humans|
|Explanations of how and why things are as they are|
|A history of the Jewish people (Old Testament)|
|A history of the early church (New Testament)|
|A law book|
|Guidance and wisdom for life|
|Guidance for all aspects of religious and spiritual life|
The Bible contains 66 books, some of them quite long and complex. Had this summary been any shorter there would have been little point in it. I have tried to include the most outstanding stories and dominant themes, but inevitably some famous stories and significant ideas will be missing. I have also chosen to include notable or otherwise significant details. Within the limits of space, this is as faithful as I could make it to the complete Bible.
The summary is aimed at an entirely secular readership with no prior knowledge of the terms used or of the cultural background. Religious jargon is therefore avoided, as it is so often misunderstood or meaningless to most people.
I have striven to present this without comment and with minimal explanation. In other words, this is what I think it says, not what I think about what it says. It cannot be perfectly neutral but a more selective approach to what to include would have risked giving a more biassed presentation.
Throughout the Bible, you will find many ideas and principles that seem obvious or familiar: this is not because they were self evident at the time but because our own culture has thoroughly absorbed them as ideals and guidelines (although often doesn't follow them!).
At the end of the summary of each book I have provided quotations: those I have chosen are famous quotations, or contain the origin of a cultural reference, or typify the book. The four appendices contain further quotations, to give some idea of key teachings and themes. For these I have chosen to use the King James translation because it is the best known: many of the quotations are very famous in this form (occasionally a word has changed its meaning since translation and needs explanation). However, the grammar has been modernised. The exception to this is the selection from the book of Proverbs: these are taken from Today's English Version (Good News Bible).
Note: The reference system of chapters and verses was added for convenience long after the books of the Bible were written, and chapter endings do not always fall in the most logical place in the text.
There are a few revisions to the original version. Thanks to my mother for her suggestions and to Dave Baughman for pointing out two footnote errors.
The Old Testament
The New Testament
The spread and development of the message of Jesus
Acts of the Apostles
Letters (Epistles) from Paul the Apostle to the Christians in different towns
A Letter to Jewish Christians
The vision given to John
Introduction and Index Books of Moses Books about the time of the Judges History of the Era of the Kings The Exile in Babylon Songs and Wisdom The Major Prophets The Minor Prophets The Gospels Acts of the Apostles Letters (Epistles) from Paul the Apostle Letters (Epistles) from Other People Revelation Ten Commandments Selection From Psalms Selection From Proverbs Jesus's teachings and sayings