General Epistles Hebrews – Jude

FACTS ON HEBREWS

Author

The author is not identified.  The epistle has been ascribed to Paul, but Hebrews 2:3 presents a
major problem for this viewpoint.  Suggestions include: Barnabas, Apollos, Clement of Rome,
Luke Silas, Philip, Priscilla, and John Mark.  Origin confessed, “Who the author of Hebrews is,
God truly knows.”

Readers

The ancient title designates the readers as “Hebrews,” but the letter does not mention the
readers as either Jews or Gentiles.  Internal evidence suggests that they were Hebrew
Christians, perhaps at Rome (13:24).

Date of Writing

A date of writing in the sixties accords well with the available data.  The epistle may have been
written before the Neronian persecution which began in July of A.D. 64 (12:4).

Historical Setting

Although they had been Christians for some time, the readers were making no spiritual progress
(5:11-12).  They had failed to grow in the Lord, and this was reflected in their Christian conduct
(10:25, 13:2-17).  These Hebrew Christians were looking backward to their Jewish ways instead
of forward to Christ (12:2).  In the face of the hardships of the Christian faith they were in danger
of drifting away (2:1) from the substance, Christ, to the shadows of the OT sacrificial system (10:
1).

Purpose

The purpose of Hebrews is (1) teach concerning the superiority of Christ, (2) warn against
drifting to sin and disobedience, and (3) exhort the readers to move on to maturity in Christ.

Theme

“Christ’s Person and work–the believer’s incentive to maturity and service.”

Outline

I.  Teaching About Christ (person 1-7); (work 8:1-10:18)
II. Exhortations to Maturity  10:19-13:24

FACTS ON JAMES

Author

The author of the epistle identifies himself as “James, bond-servant of God and of the Lord
Jesus Christ.”  Four men by the name of James are mentioned in the NT: James the father of
Judas (not Iscariot), James the son of Zebedee, James the son of Alphaeus, and James the half-
brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55, Gal. 1:19).  The traditional view from Eusebius on is that the
epistle was authored by James the half-brother of Jesus.  This James was an important leader in
the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17, 15:13-21, 21:8) and needed no further identification.

Readers

The letter is addressed to believing Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire (1:1-2).  Their
scattering was probably the result of persecution which broke out in Jerusalem after the stoning
of Stephen (Acts 8:1, 12:1-23).

Date of Writing

The lack of reference to the Judaizing controversy addressed by the Jerusalem council seems to
indicate a date prior to A.D. 49.  If so, James was the first New Testament epistle.

Historical Setting

The letter indicates that the readers were suffering persecution and trials (1:2-4,12, 2:6, 5:4).
They were also lacking in fervor for good works and the practical application of truth to Christian
living.

Purpose

James insists that saving faith is a working faith, proving its genuineness by what it does.  He
writes to exhort his readers to live out the ethical implications of their faith.

Theme

Tests of a living faith (1:3).

Outline

The epistle of James is difficult to outline because the variety of topics presented do not seem to
follow in specific logical order.  Like Proverbs and other wisdom literature, James sets forth a
variety of practical exhortations on various topics.  The following outline is adapted from the
article by D. Edmond Hiebert, “The Unifying Theme of the Epistle of James,” Bibliotheca Sacra
135 (July-September 1978), pp. 221-24.

I. Faith tested by its response to trial  1:1-18
II.  Faith tested by its response to the Word of God  1:19-27
III. Faith tested by its reaction to partiality  2:1-13
IV. Faith tested by its production of good works  2:14-26
V. Faith tested by its production of self-control  3:1-12
VI Faith tested by its appropriation of true wisdom  3:13-18
VII. Faith tested by its reaction to worldliness  4:1-10
VIII. Faith tested by its avoidance of slander  4:11-12
IX. Faith tested by its avoidance of presumptuous planning  4:13-17
X. Faith tested by its reaction to injustice  5:1-11
XI. Faith tested by its consistence honesty  5:12
XII. Faith tested by its resort to prayer  5:13-18
XIII. Faith tested by its correcting the errant  5:19-20

FACTS ON FIRST PETER

Author

The writer demonstrates an intimate acquaintance with the life and teachings of Jesus (2:19-24,
3:18, 4:1, 5:1,5).  There are remarkable similarities between Peter’s speeches in Acts and his
words in this epistle (Acts 2:32-36 with 1 Peter 1:21).  All evidence points to the Apostle Peter as
author of the letter.

Readers

The epistle is addressed to the believers scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1:1).  Most of the readers were of Gentile background, although
some may have been Hebrew Christians (2:10,12, 4:3).

Date of Writing

The contents of the epistle reflect a concern for impending persecution.  This suggests that the
epistle was written not long before Peter’s death (A.D. 64).  Peter arrived in Rome in A.D. 62 and
probably wrote this letter in A.D. 63 or early 64.

Historical Setting

Prominent in the background of 1 Peter is the theme of suffering due to persecution (1:6-7, 2:11-
20, 3:13-17, 4:3-5,12-19, 5:8-10).  Some believe that the sufferings and persecutions were those
which began due to Nero in A.D. 64.  It is more probable that the sufferings of these readers
were of a general nature which were common to first century Christians.

Peter, probably in Rome (5:13, cf. Rev. 17:5,9, 18:2,10,21), was anticipating more intense
persecution, and wrote to the believers in the provinces to encourage them in their present
struggle.

Purpose

The epistle was written to exhort the readers to conduct themselves in accordance with their
living hope.  The letter confirmed their knowledge of salvation and encouraged them in their
submission to authority and joyful response to suffering.

Theme

Suffering as a Christian and how to endure it triumphantly.

Outline

I. Salvation in Christ 1:1-2:12
II. Submission to Authority   2:11-3:12
III. Suffering for Righteousness   3:13-419
IV. Supervision by Elders  5:1-14

FACTS ON SECOND PETER

Author

Differences in style between 1 and 2 Peter and the lack of external evidence for Petrine
authorship have led to questions regarding the authenticity of this epistle.  But there is no doubt
that the author intended to identify himself as the Apostle Peter.  He refers to himself as “Simon
Peter” (1:1).  He writes of his approaching death (1:14) which was predicted by Jesus (Jn. 21:18-
19).  He claims to be a witness of Jesus’ transfiguration (1:16-17) as was Peter (Matt. 17:1-4).
The evidence points to this epistle being a genuine work of the Apostle Peter.

Readers

The readers are of the epistle are believers (1:1).  They are apparently the same group of
Christians addressed in 1 Peter (2 Pet. 3:1).  Most were of Gentile background, though some
may have been Hebrew Christians.

Date of Writing

When Peter wrote this letter, he believed his death to be imminent (1:14-15).  Since Peter died in
Rome during the Neronian persecution which began after Rome’s burning (July 18, A.D. 64), the
epistle was probably written shortly before Peter’s death in the summer of A.D. 64.

Setting

The problem facing the readers of Second Peter was false teaching.  There were false teachers
within the church who had apostatized from sound doctrine (2:1,21). These false teachers were
advocating a complete abandonment of moral standards (2:10). One of their major doctrinal
deviations was a denial of Christ’s second coming (3:4). Peter devotes most of his third chapter
to this problem.

Purpose

Peter writes to warn his readers against false teachers (2:1-2, 3:17).  Peter intends the letter to
stir the readers to remember the orthodox teachings, and thus encourage growth in true
knowledge of the Lord Jesus (3:1-2,18).

Theme

Growing in the knowledge of Christ (3:18).

Outline

I.  The Nature of True Knowledge  1
II.  The Peril of False Teaching  2
III.  The Coming of the Lord  3

FACTS ON FIRST JOHN

Author

Although the epistle is anonymous, both internal and external evidence support the view that the
author is John the Apostle and author of the Fourth Gospel.  Most scholars recognize the
similarity in thought, vocabulary and style between the Gospel of John and 1 John.

Readers

The readers are believers of Gentile background 3:1-2, 5:21).  Since John spent his later years
at Ephesus, it is likely that the epistle was written from that city to a nearby group of Asian
churches with whom John was personally acquainted.

Date of Writing

The epistle was probably written after the Fourth Gospel since the author seems to assume an
acquaintance on the part of his readers with the facts of the gospel.  The absence of any
reference to suffering would indicate that the letter was written before the persecution of
Domitian around A.D. 95.  Most scholars date the epistle around A.D. 90.

Historical Setting

First John is written to churches in which false prophets had appeared (4:1) who were drawing
Christians from fellowship with the true believers (2:19).  The false teachers claimed a special
illumination by the Spirit (2:20,27) and claimed to have reached a state of moral perfection (1:8-
10).

The chief theological error tempting the readers was a denial of the incarnation of Jesus (2:22, 4:
2).  John combats this error by claiming to have been an eyewitness to the life and ministry of
Christ (1:1-4,8, 2:2, 3:16, 4:10).

Purpose

In his epistle, John combats false teaching with a clear presentation of the truth.  The primary
purpose in writing is to promote fellowship in the body of God (1:3).

Theme

Fellowship in the family of God (1:3).

Outline

I.  Walking in the light 1-2
II.  Abiding in Love  3-4
III. Overcoming by Faith  5

FACTS ON SECOND JOHN

Author

Both internal evidence and early church tradition indicate that this letter was written by the
Apostle John. However, the reference to the author as “the elder” (v. 1) has led some to
conclude that the epistle was written by someone else. Yet the title “elder” would have been a
fitting designation for John since he was advanced in years at the time of writing. Since the letter
bears a close resemblance in language and thought with First John, it is clear that Second John
was also authored by the Apostle.

Readers

John addressed his second letter to the “elect lady.” Scholars have debated whether this refers
to an individual or a church. The use of the second person plural, rather than the singular in
verses 8,19, and 12, may suggest that a community of believers is in mind. The personification of
the church as a lady may be consisted with the idea of the church as the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:
19-32). However, it may be best to interpret “lady” in the simplest, most literal manner as
referring to a Christian lady. Perhaps a local body of believers meeting in her home would also
benefit from the letter.

Date of Writing

The false teaching mentioned in the letter links it closely with the circumstances of First John.
Second John was probably written after First John had been sent, perhaps around A.D. 90.

Historical Setting

While living in Ephesus late in his life, John had apparently become acquainted with the children
of a Christian lady and was pleased to find them believing and living the God’s truth. It may have
been from them that John learned of the false teachers who were denying the humanity of Jesus
(v. 7). These false teachers were traveling among the churches taking advantage of the
hospitality offered by Christian people (verses 10-11). John warns of such men and their ideas
(verses 7, 9), instructing the believers how to respond to such deceivers.

Purpose

The purpose of the letter is to warn the readers of the dangerous error infiltrating their
community by setting by presenting in clear terms the nature of the false teachers and their
doctrine.

Theme

The theme of the epistle is “walking in truth” (v. 4).

Outline

I. The Salutation  1-3
II. The Instruction  4-11
III. The Conclusion 12-13

FACTS ON THIRD JOHN

Author

Although the author of the epistle is not named, he refers to himself as “the elder” and this would
indicate that the same individual authored who authored Second John. The vocabulary and style
also unite it with Second John and point to the Apostle John as the author. Both writers rejoice
over those who are “walking in truth.” We may be confident that the Apostle John authored all
three of the letters which are associated with him.

Reader

The addressee of the epistle is the “beloved Gaius.” Although three other men in the New
Testament are know by this name (Rom. 16:23, 1 Cor. 1:14, Acts 19:29, 20:4,5), it is not likely
that this Gaius should be identified with any other. The Gaius in this letter was a consistent
Christian (3), known for his generous hospitality (5), and a well loved friend of the Apostle John.
The letter was apparently intended to be shared with others in the church community (14).

Date of Writing

Although Third John does refer to a previous letter (v. 9), this does not appear to be a reference
to either First or Second John, so no sequence of communication can be established. The
epistle was probably written about the same time as Second John, around A.D. 90.

Historical Setting

John the Apostle had received a report from those who had visited the community where Gaius
lived (3). John had learned of the faithful character and hospitality demonstrated by Gaius (3,5)
as well as the problem with Diotrephes (9-10) who had usurped authority and was abusing the
brethren. John urges his readers not to imitate the evil actions of Diotrephes.

The Apostle enlists the help of Gaius to assure a welcome and support for the co-workers who
had been rebuffed by Diotrephes (5-8). John expresses his desire to visit Gaius soon and to deal
with the troublemaker in person (10). Demetrius, who is so highly commended in verse 12, may
have served as the carrier of the letter.

Purpose

John writes to commend Gauis for walking in the truth and to encourage the practice of
hospitality so that the messengers from John might receive a proper  welcome when they visit the
congregation. The letter is also intended to censure the conduct of Diotrephes and reveal John’s
plans to deal with the situation in person.

Theme

The theme of Third and Third John is the same,  “walking in truth” (3).

Outline

I.  Commendation of Gaius 1-8
II.  Condemnation of Diotrephes 9-11
III. Commendation of Demetrius 12-14

FACTS ON JUDE

Author

The author identifies himself as “Jude [Gk. Judas], a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of
James.”  It is unlikely that the author was Judas the apostle (Lk. 6:16), for he seems to
distinguish himself from the apostles (Jude 17).  Both internal evidence and the testimony of the
church fathers indicate that the epistle was written by Jude (or Judas), the half-brother of Jesus
(Matt. 13:55, Mk. 6:3), who came to faith after the resurrection (Jn. 7:5, Acts 1:14).

Readers

Jude wrote to believers (v. 1), but gives no indication as to their specific location.  They had
heard of the words of the apostles and were acquainted with the teachings of Paul (18,19).  They
apparently had some knowledge of Jewish inter-testamental and apocryphal literature, but this
does not demand a Jewish setting.  It is probable that the readers were Palestinian Christians,
both Jews and Gentiles.

Date of Writing

Jude appears to have been written after 2 Peter (A.D. 64) and before the destruction of
Jerusalem (A.D. 70).  The letter was probably written not long after A.D. 64 when the error Peter
had predicted had come to fruition.  The book may be dated around A.D. 65-68.

Historical Setting

Jude writes to deal with an outbreak of false teaching (3-4).  He addresses himself to the same
problem which concerned Peter (2 Pet. 2:1-2,10), and encourages the readers to contend
earnestly for orthodox Christianity (v. 3).  The false teachers were denying Christ and perverting
the doctrine of grace.  They were ruled by their passions (vv. 4,16) and scoffed at the accepted
Christian way (v. 17).

Purpose

The purpose of the letter is to encourage the readers to contend for Christian orthodoxy (v. 3),
to remind them of God’s judgment on the ungodly (v. 5), and to instruct the readers how to offset
the evil effects of the false teachers (17-23).

Theme

Contending for the faith in the face of apostasy.

Outline

I.  Introduction  1-4
II.  Examples of Judgment  5-7
III.  Character of False Teachers  8-16
IV.  Response of Believers  17-23
V.  Benediction  24-25

Paul’s Epistles Romans – Philemon

FACTS ON ROMANS

Author

The Pauline authorship of Romans is almost universally accepted on the basis of internal evidence
(1:1, 15:25, 16:3) and the testimony of the church fathers.  The actual writing was done by Tertius,
Paul’s amanuensis (16:22).

Readers

The letter is addressed to the believers in Rome (1:7).  The church at Rome was predominately
Gentile but with a sizable Jewish minority.

Date of Writing

The epistle was written by Paul toward the end of this third missionary journey in the winter of A.D.
56/57.

Historical Setting

After Paul’s three year ministry in Ephesus, he departed for Greece where he spent the next three
months (Acts 20:3).  Paul spent a good part of that time in Corinth and wrote Romans from that city
(cf. Romans 16:23, 1 Cor. 1:14).  Phoebe, from Cenchrea (Romans 16:1), the eastern seaport of
Corinth, probably carried Paul’s letter to Rome.

Purpose

Paul wrote the epistle to pave the way for his anticipated visit (1:11-13) and to present the Gospel as
he understood and proclaimed it (1:15,16).  His goal was to show the implications of the gospel and
preserve harmony between Jewish and Gentile Christians.

Theme

The theme of Romans is “justification by faith” for all who believe in Jesus (1:16,17).

Outline

I.  The Doctrine of Salvation  1-8
II.  The Unbelief of Israel  9-11
III.  The Conduct of Believers  12-16

FACTS ON FIRST CORINTHIANS

Author

The Pauline authorship of the epistle is clear from 1:1 and 16:21 and is practically uncontested.

Readers

Paul addressed His epistle to believers at Corinth (1:2).  Corinth was a great trade center
strategically situated on the isthmus which links the Peloponnesus with mainland Greece. The city
had two fine ports: Cenchreae on the Aegean Sea to the east, and Lechaeum on the Adriatic Sea to
the west. As a commercial center, Corinth was known for its wealth, indulgence, and immorality. It was
a worship center for Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Date of Writing

Paul wrote his epistle to the Corinthians from Ephesus (16:8) towards the end of his ministry there
during his third missionary journey (Spring 53 to May 57). The epistle was probably written around
the spring of A.D. 56.

Historical Setting

Paul first visited Corinth in A.D. 51 on his second missionary journey after his ministry in Athens (Acts
18:1). There he met Aquila and Priscilla and joined them in the trade of tent making to provide
financial support while he evangelized the city.  Paul was later joined by Silas and Timothy (Acts
18:5) and the team engaged in a very successful ministry for a year and a half (Acts 18:8,11).

The immediate occasion of Paul’s writing was that he had received a letter (16:17) from the church
inquiring concerning certain problem issues (7:1,25, 8:1, 12:1, 16:1).  First Corinthians constitutes
Paul’s reply.

Purpose

Paul wrote the epistle to correct the disorders within the church and reply to certain questions raised
by the Corinthians.

Theme

The life and conduct of believers.

Outline

I.  Reproofs of the Corinthians  1-6
II.  Replies to the Corinthians  7-16

FACTS ON 2ND CORINTHIANS

Author
The Pauline authorship of Second Corinthians is clearly evidenced in the salutation (1:1) and
throughout the epistle.  The authorship and authenticity of the epistle are practically uncontested.

Readers

The letter is addressed to the believers at Corinth and those scattered throughout Achaia, the
Roman province which included all of the Peloponnesus and much of central Greece.  These would
have included the believers at Athens (Acts 17:34) and Cenchrea (Romans 16:1).

Date of Writing

Second Corinthians was written during Paul’s third missionary journey (spring A.D. 53 – May A.D.
57).  The epistle must have been written in the fall of A.D. 56, a few months before Paul’s anticipated
visit to Corinth (2 Cor. 12:14, 13:1).

Historical Setting

Paul wrote First Corinthians from Ephesus in the spring of A.D. 56.  A riot in the city forced him to
leave Asia for Macedonia (2 Cor. 7:5).  While laboring there he was met by Titus who brought a
favorable report concerning the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 7:6-7,13-15).  With this encouragement
Paul penned his second canonical epistle to the believers at Corinth.

Purpose

The primary purpose of Second Corinthians was to prepare the believers at Corinth for Paul’s third
visit (2 Cor. 12:14, 13:1).  The letter was designed to cement Paul’s bond of love with the Corinthians
and to warn those who persisted in doubting his apostleship.

Theme

“Paul’s pastoral ministry under the New Covenant.”

Outline

I.  The Reconciliation with the Corinthians  1-7
II.  Giving from the Heart  8-9.
III.  Vindicating Paul’s Apostleship  10-13

FACTS ON GALATIANS

Author

The Pauline authorship of the book is confirmed both by internal evidence (1:1, 5:2) and testimony of
the early church.

Readers

Was Galatians written to the churches in the south of the province which Paul and Barnabas
evangelized on their first journey (Acts 13-14)?  Or was the epistle written to a group of churches in
north Galatia which were founded on the second and third journeys (Acts 16:6,19:1)?

The omission of any reference to the decision of the Jerusalem Council in favor of Gentile freedom
from the Mosaic Law (Acts 15) would suggest that Galatians was written before the Council met,
when Paul had visited only the churches of South Galatia.   See the following notes for details on this
view.

Date of Writing

Paul completed his first missionary journey in September of A.D. 49 and probably wrote Galatians
from Antioch in the autumn of that year, just before attending the Jerusalem Council.

Historical Setting

Among the Galatian believers were those who insisted on a Judaistic model for Christianity (1:7,
4:17, 5:10).  They argued full justification could not be experienced apart from the law.

Purpose

Paul’s purpose in writing is to refute the teachings of the Judaizers and defend the gospel of
justification by faith apart from Jewish legalism.

Theme

“Christian freedom from the law” (2:16, 5:1).

Outline

I.  Introduction  1:1-10
II.  The Revelation of the Gospel  1:10-2:21
III.  The Vindication of the Gospel  3-4
IV.  The Application of the Gospel  5:1-6:10
V.  The Conclusion  6:11-18

FACTS ON EPHESIANS

Author

The Pauline authorship of Ephesians is attested both by internal evidence (1:1, 3:1) and writings of
the church fathers.

Readers

The words “at Ephesus” are absent from the oldest Greek manuscripts.  “Ephesians” may have been
addressed to a single church but was later adapted for general reading by deleting the name.  Or it
was written for general publication, and one particular copy was addressed to the church at
Ephesus.  The letter may have been an encyclical, intended to be read by a circle of Christian
communities.

Date

Paul wrote Ephesians during his imprisonment (3:1, 4:1) in Rome (February, A.D. 60 to March, A.D.
62).  This was probably the first of the prison epistles and was written in Rome during the autumn of
A.D. 60.

Historical Setting

Paul first visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19).  During his third journey,
Paul spent about three years ministering in Ephesus.  For two of those years Paul taught His
disciples in the school of Tyrannus (Acts 19:8-10, 20:31).

Ephesus ranked with Alexandria and Antioch of Syria as one of the most important cities of the
eastern Mediterranean Roman world.  It was not only an important commercially, but was the worship
center for the Greek goddess Artemis (Diana) whose image was housed in a temple, the Artemsion,
four times the size of the Parthenon.

Purpose

Ephesians sets forth the kind of conduct which is consistent with the believer’s position in Christ.

Theme

“Christian conduct” (4:1)

Outline

I.  SIT: Position in Christ  1-3
II.  WALK: Walk in the World  4:1-6:9
III.  STAND: Stand against the Devil  6:10-24

FACTS ON PHILIPPIANS

Author

The Pauline authorship of Philippians is attested by internal evidence (1:1) and the testimony of
church fathers.

Readers

The church at Philippi may have been largely Gentile for there was apparently no synagogue there
when Paul first visited the city (Acts 16:13,20-21).  The city, named after Philip of Macedon, was
strategically located as the gateway to Europe.  It was situated ten miles north of Neapolis, its port
and terminus of the Ignatian Way.  Philippi commanded the fertile plain through which the Egnatian
way passed.

Date

Philippians was written during Paul’s imprisonment at Rome (1:7,13,17).  Since he is anticipating his
release (1:19, 2:24), the letter was probably written late in his imprisonment, around early spring of
AD 62.

Historical Setting

Paul first visited Philippi on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:11-40).  The immediate occasion
of this letter was the return of Epaphroditus to Philippi following his illness in Rome (2:25-30).  Paul
took the opportunity to commend his fellow-worker and to write the Philippian saints about a variety
of matters.

Philippi was a Roman colony (Acts 16:22) and the people there were recognized as Roman citizens
with the same legal position and privileges as those living in Rome itself.

Purpose

Paul wrote to encourage joy and unity among the believers.  In addition, Paul provided news of his
own circumstances (1:12-26); warned against the influence of the Judaizers (3:2-11); and to
expressed appreciation for the Philippians’ gift (4:10-20).

Theme

“Rejoicing in the Lord in all circumstances” (4:4).

Outline

I. The Progress of the Gospel  1:1-26
II. The Conduct of the Christians  1:27-2:30
III. The Testimony of Paul  3:1-21
IV. The Admonitions to the Philippians  4:1-9
V. Paul’s Appreciation of the Gift  4:10-23

FACTS ON COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON

Author

The Pauline authorship of Colossians and Philemon is clearly indicated by these letters (Col. 1:1,
4:18, Philemon (1,9,19).

Readers

Paul wrote Colossians to believers at Colossae (1:2), but he intended that the Laodiceans also read
the epistle (4:16).  Colossae was located about 10 miles up the Lycus Valley from Laodicea on the
main road to Ephesus, 120 miles to the east.

The letter to Philemon, while being personal in content, is also addressed to the church [at Colossae]
which met at Philemon’s house (2).

Date

The close connection of Philemon with Colossians indicates that they belong to the same period.  It is
probable that Tychicus accompanied by Onesimus carried the letters to Colossae at the same time.
The letters were probably written in the early spring of AD 62, shortly before Paul’s release from
prison.

Historical Setting

The gospel was introduced to Colossae during Paul’s long ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:10,26), but
Paul had apparently not visited the church (1:4, 2:1).  The occasion of writing was the arrival of
Epaphras from Colossae (1:7-9, 4:12) who brought news of theological error circulating in the
church.  The primary problem was a deficient view of Christ and His work.  Paul immediately sent
Tychicus back to Colossae with a letter for the church and a letter for Philemon, the master of
Onesimus, a runaway slave who had been converted under Paul’s ministry (4:7-9, Philemon 10).

Purpose

Colossians: to extinguish the Colossian error by presenting the truth of Christ and His work.
Philemon: to encourage the reconciliation between Onesimus and his master, Philemon.

Theme

Colossians:  “The preeminence of Christ”

Philemon:    “Reconciliation through a mediator”

Outline

Colossians:        I. The Person of Christ  1:1-23
II. The Ministry of Paul  1:24-2:7
III. The Problem at Colossae  2:8-3:4
IV. The Conduct of the Christian  3:5-4:6
V. The Concluding Personal Note  4:7-18

Philemon:           I. Paul’s Prayer for Philemon  1-7
II. Paul’s Petition for Onesimus  8-20
III. Paul’s Plea for Himself  21-25

FACTS ON FIRST THESSALONIANS

Author

The Pauline authorship of the 1 Thessalonians is attested by internal evidence (1:1) and confirmed
by the early church.

Readers

The letter was written to the believers at Thessalonica.  Located on an excellent harbor at the
northeastern corner of the Thermaic Gulf, Thessalonica was an important commercial center.

Date

Paul visited Thessalonica on his second missionary journey (April 50 – Sept. 52).  The epistle was
written about six months after Paul left Thessalonica, in the early summer of A.D. 51.

Historical Setting

Paul ministered in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-10), but a plot
against his life forced him to flee.  The missionary team journeyed by night to Berea.  Later the Jews
of Thessalonica brought opposition to Berea forcing Paul to depart.  Silas and Timothy stayed to
finish the work in Berea while Paul went on to Athens where the missionary team was reunited
(3:1-2).  Paul wanted to return to Thessalonica, but his plans were thwarted and he had to send
Timothy instead.

While Paul was ministering in Corinth, Timothy returned with a good report about the church.
Encouraged by this report, Paul wrote the Thessalonians, commending their progress and
encouraging them to go on in the faith.

Purpose

The letter is designed to commend the Thessalonians for their steadfastness in the face of conflicts
(2:14) and encourage them to go on in the faith (4:1).  The letter also served to correct certain
errors which had been reported by Timothy.

Theme

“The need for holy living in light of Christ’s coming.”

Outline

I.  Relations with the Thessalonians  1-3
II.  Instructions to the Thessalonians  4-5

FACTS ON SECOND THESSALONIANS

Author

Paul claims to have authored the epistle (1:1, 3:17) and the authenticity of the letter was recognized
by the early church.

Readers

The epistle is addressed to the “church of the Thessalonians” (1:1).  In Paul’s day, Thessalonica was
a teeming metropolis–the largest city of Macedonia.

Date of Writing

Second Thessalonians was written from Corinth perhaps two or three months after Paul wrote First
Thessalonians.  Second Thessalonians should be dated in the summer of A.D. 51.

Historical Setting

The immediate occasion of the writing of the second letter was a report which Paul received
concerning the Thessalonian believers, brought to him perhaps by those who had delivered the first
epistle.

Apparently false teachers at Thessalonica who claimed to have Paul’s teaching had persuaded the
believers that they were living in “the Day of the Lord” (2:2).  In response to this teaching some had
given up their work and were idly waiting for the Lord’s return (3:6-12).  Paul wrote the believers to
deal with their misunderstandings concerning the Day of the Lord.

Purpose

The letter was intended to commend the believers’ growth in faith and love (1:3) and to encourage
their steadfastness under severe persecution (1:4-12).  Paul’s primary purpose, however, was to
correct their misconception that the Day of the Lord had arrived.

Theme

“Corrections concerning the Day of the Lord.”

Outline

I.  Consolation in Affliction  1
II.  Corrected Chronology for the D.L. 2
III.  Requests for Prayer and Discipline  3

FACTS ON FIRST TIMOTHY

Author

Although the Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles has been contested in recent times, Paul
claims to be the author of each (1:1) and this view was accepted by the early church.

Reader

The letter is addressed to Timothy, the young man who had joined Paul on the second journey when
revisited Derbe and Lystra (Acts 16:1-3).  Timothy was probably converted under Paul’s ministry
during the first journey (1 Tim. 1:2).  Timothy accompanied Paul on his third missionary journey (Acts
19:22, 20:4) and was with Paul in Rome during his imprisonment (Phil. 1:1, 2:19-24).  Timothy was
appointed to guide the church at Ephesus while Paul went on to Macedonia (1 Tim. 1:3).

Date of Writing

First Timothy was written soon after Paul’s release from prison, but after his visit to Ephesus.  Paul
wrote the letter from Macedonia, probably in the autumn of AD 62.

Historical Setting

Timothy was ministering as Paul’s representative at the church at Ephesus.  Paul had traveled to
Macedonia (1:3) and there was the possibility of his return to Ephesus being delayed (3:14-15).
Paul recognized Timothy’s need for some instruction on matters of church polity and practice.  The
letter was intended to help Timothy to exercise leadership in these areas.

Purpose

Paul wrote to inform Timothy on matters of church polity and practice, and to back up his leadership
with Paul’s apostolic authority.

Theme

“The polity and practice of the NT church.

Outline

I.  Doctrine of the Church  1
II.  Worship in the Church  2
III.  Leaders in the Church  3
IV.  Teaching in the Church  5
V.  Members of the Church  5:1-6:2
IV.  Charge to Timothy  6:3-21

FACTS ON SECOND TIMOTHY

Author

The apostle Paul claims to have authored Second Timothy (1:1) and the autobiographical remarks
(3:10-11, 4:10-11,19-20) fit his life.

Reader

The letter is addressed to Timothy, Paul’s young associate.  Timothy was from Lystra (Acts 16:1-3).
His father was a Greek and his mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois) were devout in their Jewish
faith.  Timothy joined with Paul on his second and third missionary journeys and was with Paul in
Rome during his imprisonment.  Timothy ministered as Paul’s representative in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3)
and may have been with the apostle during the last days of his final imprisonment (2 Tim. 4:1,21).

Date

Second Timothy was written by Paul shortly before his death (4:6-8).  Since Paul died in the spring of
AD 68, the epistle was probably written in the autumn of AD 67.

Historical Setting

During Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome he was able to have his own rented quarters and receive
visitors.  His second imprisonment was quite different.  Paul was in prison, having been arrested as a
criminal (2:9).  His death was imminent (4:6-8).  Some of his fellow-workers had deserted him (4:16).
Paul wrote Timothy, who was still in Ephesus, to bring Mark and join him before winter (A.D. 67/68).
Paul was sending Tychicus to replace Timothy at Ephesus (4:12).

Purpose

Second Timothy was written to encourage Timothy in the ministry and outline the course of Christ’s
servant during a time of doctrinal declension.

Theme

“Defending the faith in a time of doctrinal defection.”

Outline

I.  Encouragement for Ministry  1
II.  Directives for Service  2
III.  Warning Concerning Apostasy  3
IV.  Charge of the Apostle  4

FACTS ON PHILEMON

See notes on Colossians (above).

Acts of the Apostles

FACTS ON ACTS

Author

Although the author of Acts is not named, the evidence points to Luke, the
historian, physician, writer and missionary.  The medical vocabulary used in Acts
supports the view that the book was authored by “Luke, the beloved physician” (Col.
4:14).  Luke joined Paul at Troas (16:11) and includes himself in the “we” sections
(16:10-17, 20:5-21:18, 27:1-28:16).
Readers

Acts was written for a prominent individual named Theophilus (1:1).  The
reference to Theophilus is really a dedication characteristic of Graeco-Roman
literature.  The universal scope of Acts indicates that it was written for the church in
general.

Date of Writing

The Book of Acts was probably written in Rome during or after Paul’s first
imprisonment (A.D. 60-62).  Luke wrote his gospel around A.D. 60 and Acts about A.D.
63.

Historical Setting

Acts covers the period from the ascension of Jesus (May 14, A.D. 33)
through Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome (A.D. 60-62).  The book describes the
expansion of the church in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the Mediterranean world.

Purpose

Luke intends his books (Luke and Acts) to present an accurate and orderly
account of the origins and development of the Christian faith.  His first volume presents
the record of Jesus’ Person and work.  Acts traces the advance and development of the
kingdom of God (1:3, 28:31) through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Theme

The advance of the church and expansion of God’s kingdom.

Outline

I.  Introduction  1:1-2:4
II.  Witness in Jerusalem  2:5-8:3
III.  Witness in Palestine  8:4-12:25
IV.  Witness in the Mediterranean World  13:1-28:31

The Gospels

FACTS ON MATTHEW

Author

The gospel is anonymous, but from a very early period the author has been identified as Matthew
(Levi) the Galilean tax collector who became one of Jesus’ disciples.

Readers

Matthew appears to have been written primarily for Jews who had not yet accepted Jesus as Israel’s
Messiah.

Date of Writing

Scholars are divided as to whether Matthew or Mark wrote first.  Early tradition, however, indicates that
Matthew’s gospel was the first gospel.  Matthew was probably written around A.D. 70 to meet the
needs of the Jewish people in Judea and those dispersed around the Roman Empire.

Historical Setting

Matthew begins his gospel with an account of Jesus birth in the winter of 5/4 B.C.  He reports on the
life and ministry of Jesus, including His crucifixion, April 3, A.D. 33, and events of his forty-day post
resurrection ministry.

Purpose

The purpose of Matthew is to demonstrate and convince Jews everywhere that Jesus of Nazareth is
the promised Messiah of Old Testament prophecy.

Theme

The theme of Matthew is found in the inscription on Jesus’ cross, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”
(27:37).

Outline

I.  The Introduction of the King  1:1-4:11
II.  The Proclamation of the King  4:12-7:29
III.  The Authentication of the King  8-10
IV.  The Controversy over the King  11:11-14:12
V.  The Instruction by the King  14:13-20:34
VI.  The Presentation of the King  21-23
VII.  The Predictions of the King  24-25
VIII.  The Rejection of the King  26-27
IX.  The Resurrection of the King  28

FACTS ON MARK

Author

Mark’s gospel is anonymous, but the testimony of the early Church Fathers–including Irenaeus,
Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Jerome–indicates that John Mark wrote the book. John Mark was
the son of a certain Mary in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10).

Readers

Both internal and external evidence suggests that Mark addressed his gospel to Roman readers.
According to Clement of Alexandria, Mark recorded Peter’s words for the benefit of Roman inquirers
(Eusebius Historia Ecclesiastica 2:15).

Date of Writing

There is no explicit statement in Mark as to the date of writing. Many scholars believe that Mark was
written around A.D. 50 and was used by Matthew and Luke in writing their gospels. However, it was the
view of the early church that the gospels with the genealogies were written first (Eusebius H.E. 6:14).
Mark would have been written after Matthew (A.D. 50) and Luke (A.D. 60), probably between A.D. 65
and 70.

Historical Setting

Mark’s record begins with the commencement of Christ’s public ministry at His baptism (summer or
autumn of A.D. 29) and concludes with the account of his death (April 3, A.D. 33) and resurrection.
Mark records the ministry of Christ in Galilee (1:14-9:50), Perea (10:1-52), and Judea (11:1-13:37).

Purpose

The abundance of miracles in Mark provide insight into the purpose. Mark writes to present the
Person and work of Christ as God’s Servant attested by His mighty works. These miracles
authenticate Christ’s Person as Servant and God’s Son. Mark’s purpose is ultimately evangelistic. He
presents the dynamic Son of God, eliciting faith in Him.

Theme

“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).

Outline

I.     The Introduction of the Servant  1:1-13
II.    The Proclamation of the Servant  1:14-20
III.    The Authentication of the Servant  1:21-3:5
IV.   The Controversy Over the Servant  3:6-6:29
V.    The Instruction of the Servant  6:30-10:52
VI.   The Presentation of the Servant  11-12
VII.   The Predictions of the Servant  13
VIII.  The Rejection of the Servant  14-15
IX.    TThe Resurrection of the Servant  16

FACTS ON LUKE

Author

Although the Gospel of Luke is anonymous, both internal and external evidence point to Luke, the
Gentile physician (Col. 4:14) and companion of the Apostle Paul as the author. Internal confirmation of
Lukan authorship is seen by the close relationship between the Gospel and Acts. Both books were
addressed to the same man, Theophilus (Lk. 1:3, Acts 1:1) and both use medical terminology. The
writings of the early church fathers (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement, Origen, Jerome, and Eusebius)
confirm that Luke wrote the Third Gospel.

Luke  was a Gentile convert (Col. 4:10-14), possibly from Syrian Antioch, as stated by Jerome and
Eusebius. Luke joined Paul at Troas (Acts 16:10) during his second missionary journey and
accompanied him to Philippi. Luke later traveled with Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 20:5-21:15) and finally to
Rome (Acts 27:1-28:15). Luke was affectionately  referred to by Paul as “the beloved physician” (Col.
4:14, Philemon 24), and was Paul’s last friend to remain with him during his second imprisonment (2
Tim. 4:11). Luke was an able historian, physician, writer and missionary.

Readers

The Gospel of Luke was written for a certain prominent individual named “Theophilus” (1:3). This
reference is really a dedication to Theophilus who may have financed the publication and distribution
of the Luke’s book. The work was clearly written for the benefit of Gentiles in general and for Greeks
in particular.

As a result of Paul’s travels, the good news about Jesus spread through the Greek world. Soon there
arose a need for a record of the life and teachings of Jesus that would speak to the Greek mind. The
Greek nature of the book is seen in the fact that the genealogy is traced to Adam, the father of the
human race, rather than Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation.  Luke also avoids the use of
Jewish terminology like “rabbi” and instead uses “master” or “teacher.” Luke places less emphasis on
the fulfillment of prophecy and substitutes Greek names for Hebrew names (Mark 3:18/Luke 6:16, and
Luke 23:33). This evidence suggests that Luke had  Greek Gentiles in mind as he wrote his gospel.

Date of Writing

The Gospel was written before Acts (see Acts 1:1) and after Christianity had developed to the point
where it would attract the attention of a Gentile inquirer like Theophilus. The abrupt ending of Acts
indicates that Luke concluded his writing at the end of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome in A.D. 62. The
Gospel was composed prior to that, probably about A.D. 60.

Historical Setting

The historical setting of the Gospel is the period of the life of Christ, winter 5/4 B.C. to April 3, A.D. 33,
and the period of His resurrection ministry.

Purpose

The purpose of the Gospel is clearly stated by the author (Lk. 1:1-4). Luke intends to present an
accurate record of the events of the life of Christ in order that Theophilus and other Greek Gentiles
might receive careful instruction.  In his gospel Luke presents Christ as the perfect Son of Man who
came to save lost humanity.

Theme

The doctrine of salvation is central to Luke.  He uses the word “to save” 18 times, more than any other
gospel writer. The theme of the Gospel is captured in Luke 19:10, “for the Son of Man came to seek
and to save that which was lost.”

Outline

I.  The Arrival of the Son of Man   1-2
II.  The Introduction of the Son of Man   3:1-4:13
III.  The Ministry of the Son of Man   4:14-9:50
IV.  The Mission of the Son of Man   9:51-19:27
V.  The Presentation of the Son of Man   19:28-21:4
VI.  The Predictions of the Son of Man    21:5-38
VII.  The Rejection of the Son of Man    22-23
VIII.  The Resurrection of the Son of Man   24

FACTS ON JOHN

Author

Although the Fourth Gospel is anonymous, both internal and external evidence point to John the
apostle, the son of Zebedee, as the author.

Date of Writing

Most conservatives argue for a date of around A.D. 85-90.  But based on evidence from John 5:2 and
18:1, some scholars believe that the gospel should be dated before A.D. 70.

Historical Setting

According to Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3.1.1), the gospel was written at Ephesus, John’s residence
and place of burial.  He had been ministering in Ephesus for 20-25 years, and the elders of the Asian
churches may have requested a written record of his teaching before he died.  Ephesus was ranked
with Alexandria and Syrian Antioch as one of the three greatest cities of the east.  It was the political
center for Roman administration of the province of Asia and the guardian of the temple of Artemis and
her sacred image.

John emphasizes the Judean ministry of Jesus while the Synoptics present more about His Galilean
ministry.  John records Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (2, 4:3, 6, 21), Samaria (4) and Judea and Jerusalem
(5, 7-20).

Purpose

The purpose of John’s Gospel is set forth in 20:30-31.  John has presented a record of the miraculous
signs performed by Jesus in order to inspire faith and life in Him.  The Fourth Gospel supplements the
Synoptics, presenting the truth of the Person and work of Christ.

Theme

The theme is “belief in Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God.”

Theology

John’s Gospel is known as the “Gospel of Belief.” The word “believe” (pisteuo) is used 98 times and
essentially means “to trust.”  It never means mere intellectual assent to a proposition, but involves a
personal response and commitment.   Belief is equated with “receiving” Jesus (1:12), “obeying” the
Son (3:36), and “abiding” in Him (15:1-10).

Outline and Argument

I.  THE PROLOGUE  1:1-18
II.  THE BEGINNINGS OF BELIEF  1:19-4:54
III.  THE DEVELOPMENT OF UNBELIEF  5-12
IV.  STRENGTHENING OF BELIEF  13-17
V.  CONSUMMATION OF UNBELIEF  18-19
VI. CULMINATION OF BELIEF  20
VII.  THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF BELIEF  21

Minor Prophets (Hosea – Malachi)

FACTS ON HOSEA

Author

The book was written by Hosea, whose name means “salvation” or “deliverance.” The author is not mentioned outside this book which bears his name.

Date of Writing

Hosea began his ministry in the reign of Israel’s king Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.) and continued into the reign of Hezekiah (728-686 B.C.).  Since the fall of Samaria is not mentioned as an accomplished fact, the prophecy was probably recorded around 725 B.C.

Historical Setting

Hosea began his prophetic ministry in Israel during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II. Internationally, Assyria was in the ascendency and moving west.  The Assyrian kings were soon nibbling away at the northern territories of Israel.  Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

Spiritually, the kingdom of Israel was at an all-time low during Hosea’s ministry.  The priests were corrupt.  Idolatry and temple prostitution was rampant.  Amos, Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries of the prophet Hosea.

Purpose

Hosea seeks to convince the inhabitants of Israel that they need to repent and return to God so that judgment might be averted.

Theme

Israel’s apostasy and God’s unceasing love for the nation.

Theology

Hosea teaches a great lesson concerning the nature of God’s loyal-love (hesed).  This term denotes the love and loyalty operative within the covenant relationship into which Yahweh and Israel entered at Mt. Sinai.  Loyal-love was Yahweh’s delight (6:6), yet this was lacking in
Hosea’s day (4:1, 6:7).

Outline

I.  Israel’s Unfaithfulness Illustrated  1-3
II.  Prosecution Against the Unfaithful Nation  4-13
III.  The Pardoning Power of Loyal Love  14

 

FACTS ON JOEL

Author

The author of the book is Joel whose name means “Yahweh is God.”   He lived and prophesied in Judah and Jerusalem (1:9, 2:15-17,23,32, 3:1).

Date of Writing

The book does not mention any reigning king or otherwise datable event. The allusion to the neighboring nations as Judah’s foes, rather than Assyria, Babylon, or Persia, points to an early date for the book.  Internal considerations suggest that the book was written early in the reign of Joash (835-796 B. C.), in the time of Jehoiada the high priest, around 835 B.C.

Historical Setting

Sometime during the early reign of young king Joash, an unprecedented and devastating locust swarm invaded Judah.  This great catastrophe sounded the alarm for a call to repentance in view of the greater judgment to come, the “Day of the Lord.”

Purpose

The book of Joel was designed to call the nation to repentance on the basis of the calamity of the locust plague.  The prophecy also served to comfort the nation with promises of future salvation and blessings in the coming Day of the Lord.

Theme

In Joel, history, poetry and prophecy unite to focus on a common theme, “the Day of the Lord.”

Outline

I.  The Devastation of the Locust Plague  1
II.  The Coming Day of the Lord  2
III.  The Judgment on the Nations  3:1-17
IV.  The Promise of Kingdom Blessing  3:18-21

 

FACTS ON AMOS

Author

The book was written by Amos, whose name means “burden” or “burden bearer.”  He lived in Tekoa, a village five miles SE of Bethlehem.

Date of Writing

The prophecy is dated to the reigns of king Uzziah (791-739 B.C.) and king Jeroboam II (793- 753 B.C.).  The reigns of the two kings as sole regents overlap between 767 and 753.  The book is dated around 760 B.C.

Historical Setting

Amos prophesied at the height of prosperity for both the Northern and Southern kingdoms. Religiously, the period was marked by moral and spiritual corruption.  Amos denounces Israel and Judah for their sinful self-security, violence, wanton luxury, and injustice.

Purpose

Amos records prophetic judgment on the Northern Kingdom for their social injustices, moral degeneracy, and spiritual apostasy.  The prophet intends to remind God’s people of their accountability to the covenant obligations, both in letter and spirit.  External religion apart from righteous ethical conduct is unacceptable to God.

Theme

The righteous judgment of God on His apostate people.

Theology

Amos teaches that Israel’s privileged position as an elect nation (2:9-11, 3:2) did not give the people immunity from divine judgment on sin and apostasy (5:18-20).  Great privilege is accompanied by corresponding responsibility.

Outline

I.  Prophecies Against the Nations  1-2
II.  Sermons Against Israel  3-6
III.  Visions of Judgment  7:1-9:10
IV.  Promises of Restoration  9:11-15

 

FACTS ON OBADIAH

Author

The book was authored by Obadiah, whose name means: “servant of Yahweh.”

Date of Writing

The date of Obadiah can be determined only by relating vv. 11-14 to a specific occasion in Israelite history.  The two  possibilities are (1) 845  B.C. during the reign of Jehoram, and (2) 586 B.C. after the destruction of Jerusalem which the Edomites applauded (Psa. 137:7, Lam. 4:21, Ezek. 25:12, 35:10).

Historical Setting

Obadiah records another chapter in the long story of enmity which existed between the descendants of Esau and Jacob (Gen. 25:29-34, Num. 20:14-21, 1 Sam. 14:47, Psa. 137:7). After Edom revolted against Judah and set up their own king (2 Chron. 21:8-10), Judah was invaded by the Philistines and Arabs (2 Chron. 21:16-17).  The Edomites applauded this invasion, persecuting their Israelite kinsmen instead of protecting them.

Purpose

The book of Obadiah is designed to show God’s faithfulness to Israel and illustrate His sovereignty over the nations.  Obadiah also intends his prophecy to comfort Judah through God’s promise of future restoration.

Theme

The divine judgment and destruction of Edom and all nations which rage against Israel (Gen. 12:1-3).

Theology

Obadiah teaches an important lesson concerning divine retribution.  Verse 15 states this concisely, “As you have done, it will be done to you” (cf. Rom. 2:5-6). The book also instructs concerning the “Day of the Lord” which will be characterized both by judgment and blessing (vv. 15-21).

Outline

I.  The Prediction of Edom’s Destruction  1-9
II.  The Reason for Edom’s Destruction  10-14
III.  Judgment and Restoration in the Day of the Lord  15-21

 

FACTS ON JONAH

Author

The book was written by Jonah, whose name means “dove.”

Date of Writing

Jonah lived and ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.) who ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 14:25).  His experience as a missionary to Nineveh was probably recorded in the latter part of his career, around 760 B.C.

Historical Setting

The site of Nineveh is located just east of the Tigris River in northern Mesopotamia.  According to ancient mythology, Nineveh was founded by a fish-god.  Hence, the name “Nineveh” means “fish” or “fish town.”  Although Nineveh was the largest Assyrian city in the time of Jonah, it
was not the capital city.  At the time of Jonah’s visit, the capital of Assyria was at Calah, about 25 miles SE of Nineveh. The moral corruptness of the city is attested by the prophet Nahum.

Purpose

The book is intended to demonstrate that Yahweh is a God of universal judgment and universal grace.  He judges wickedness and responds to repentance in all spheres.

Theme

God’s mercy and compassion extend even to the heathen nations on the condition of repentance.

Theology

Jonah teaches that Yahweh is a God of grace, compassion and loyal-love (Jonah 4:2). He is slow to anger, and responds to repentance by withholding judgment.

Outline

I.  Jonah’s First Commissioning  1-2
II.  Jonah’s Second Commissioning  3-4

 

FACTS ON MICAH

Author

The book was written by the prophet Micah, whose name means “Who is like Yahweh.”  Micah was a native of Moresheth, a city in the vicinity of Gath.  His writing ministry is directed to both the Northern and Southern kingdoms (1:1).

Date of Writing

Micah carried out his ministry during the reigns of Jotham (750-731 B.C.), Ahaz (743-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (728-686 B.C.).  His writing ministry can be dated between 735 and 700  B.C.

Historical Setting

Micah ministered in the days of the Assyrian menace. The moral and spiritual situation in both kingdoms was at a low point.  Religion was a matter of mere form (6:6-8) and the religious establishment was corrupt (3:11).  Idolatry (1:3,7), injustice (3:1) and avarice (3:2-3) was widespread.  Micah addressed himself to these wrongs, championing the cause of the
oppressed (3:8).  His contemporaries were Hosea, Amos and Isaiah.

Purpose

Micah was designed to encourage repentance by threats of judgment and assurances that God’s purposes for His people will finally prevail.

Theme

The approaching judgment on both kingdoms and the ultimate deliverance through the coming Messiah.

Theology

Micah teaches that true religion is not a matter of outward conformity to external ritual, but a life lived according to principles of justice, loyalty, and humility (6:6-8).

Outline

Note the key word, “hear” (1:2, 3:1, 6:1), introducing each message.

I.  Rebellion Punished  1-2
II.  Leadership Corrected  3-5
III.  Rebellion Punished  6-7

 

FACTS ON NAHUM

Author

The book was written by the prophet Nahum, whose name means comfort or consolation. Nothing is known about the prophet except that he was a native of Elkosh, a city of uncertain location.

Date of Writing

Internal evidence indicates that the earliest possible date would be the capture of Thebes or “No-amon” (3:8) by Assyria in 663 B.C.  The latest possible date would be the destruction of Nineveh, 612 B.C., which Nahum predicts.  The book was probably written while Nineveh was still in its glory around 650 B.C.

Historical Setting

Nahum prophesied during the long reign of wicked king Manasseh (697-642 B.C.).  Assyria was at its apex of power.  Judah had witnessed a succession of cruel Assyrian invaders.  Nineveh, the proud capital of Assyria, seemed invulnerable.  It was Nineveh’s attitude and aggression
that God condemned and judged.  The prophesied judgment on Nineveh was fulfilled in 612 B.C. when the city fell to the Median and Babylonian armies.

Purpose

Nahum is intended to comfort Judah by its announcement of judgment on wicked Nineveh.  The book demonstrates that the God of Israel is sovereign over the destinies of all nations.

Theme

The divine judgment and destruction of Nineveh.

Theology

Nahum teaches that persistent wickedness will be judged by divine wrath (1:2).  Although Yahweh is long-suffering (1:3) and good (1:7), there comes a point where He must execute justice in a manner consistent with His holy character.

Outline

I.  The Prediction of Nineveh’s Destruction  1
II.  The Destruction of Nineveh  2
III.  The Cause and Certainty of Nineveh’s Destruction 3

 

FACTS ON HABAKKUK

Author

The book was written by the prophet Habakkuk whose name means “embrace” or “embracer.” Habakkuk was a contemporary of the prophets Zephaniah and Jeremiah.  Little is known of his life or circumstances.

Date of Writing

The only clear historical reference in the book is in 1:6, probably referring to the Chaldean threat to Judah which was realized after the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.   The book may be dated to the reign of Jehoiakim (609-597 B.C.), probably around 607-606 B.C.

Historical Setting

After the death of Josiah king (609 B.C.), the spiritual conditions of the people in Judah rapidly degenerated.  Wickedness, injustice, and disregard of the law (1:3-4) came to characterize the moral attitudes and actions of the Judeans.

Although Egypt’s Pharaoh Necho challenged the ascendancy of the Babylonians, he was defeated at Carchemish in 605 B.C.  Nebuchadnezzar then advance against Palestine to secure the newly won territory of Judah.  His destruction of Jerusalem and exile of the people fulfilled the predictions of Jeremiah and Habakkuk.

Purpose

Habakkuk is intended to provide comfort and hope during one of the darkest periods of Israel’s history.  Although God would judge, He would “remember mercy” (3:2).  The book also deals with the moral dilemma of how a holy God could allow a wicked enemy nation to punish a people more righteous than itself (1:13).

Theme

The holiness of God in judging Judah.

Theology

Habakkuk sets forth the principle of faith righteousness, a theme developed in the NT (Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38).

Outline

I.  Habakkuk’s Perplexity  1-2
II.  Habakkuk’s Prayer  3

 

FACTS ON ZEPHANIAH

Author

The book was written by the prophet Zephaniah, whose name means “hidden of Yahweh,” suggesting that God hides or protects.  Zephaniah was a distant relative of Josiah, under whose reign he prophesied.  His contemporaries were Nahum and Jeremiah.

Date of Writing

Zephaniah ministered in the days of Josiah king of Judah (640-609 B.C.).  The moral and religious conditions described by the prophet (1:3-12, 3:1-7) suggest that the book was written before Josiah’s reforms of 621 B.C..  The book should be dated between 640 and 621 B.C.

Historical Setting

The spiritual condition of the kingdom of Judah progressively worsened from the death of Hezekiah (728-686 B.C.) until the reform of Josiah (621 B.C.).  Josiah, the greatest of the reformers of Judah, inherited a kingdom plagued with ruinous spiritual and moral problems.  He instituted vast religious reform in Judah and Jerusalem, a movement no doubt influence by
Zephaniah and his contemporaries.  During the period in which Zephaniah ministered, Judah was free from foreign intervention, but facing a growing Babylonian threat.

Purpose

Zephaniah is intended to warn of the impending universal judgment of the Day of the Lord and to call the remnant of God’s people to repent (2:3) and be protected.

Theme

The coming Day of the Lord and judgment on Judah.

Theology

Like Joel, Zephaniah makes a major contribution regarding the Day of the Lord–a day of wrath on sin and redemption for God’s people as they are purified through chastisement.

Outline

I.  The Announcement of Judgment  1
II.  The Call to Repentance  2
III.  Destruction and Deliverance  3

 

FACTS ON HAGGAI

Author

The book was authored by the prophet Haggai, whose name means “festal” or “my feast.” Haggai was probably born in Babylon and returned to Judah with the first group of returning exiles under Sheshbazzar (Ezra 5:14) in 537 B.C.

Date of Writing

The oracles of Haggai are precisely dated in the second year of the reign of Darius (522-486 B. C.).  All four messages of the book were given within a four month period during 520 B.C.

Historical Setting

After Babylon fell to the armies of Persia in 539 B.C., Cyrus gave permission for the Jews to return to their homeland in Judah (Ezra 1:1-4).  The first group returned in 537 B.C. under the leadership of Sheshbazzar.  The foundation of the temple was laid, but the builders soon met with opposition.  Work on the temple stopped and did not begin again until the time of Haggai. Haggai and his contemporary, Zechariah, exhorted the people that if they were to enjoy God’s blessing, they must recognize their spiritual priorities.

Purpose

The purpose of Haggai is to stimulate the lethargic leaders and people of Judah to recognize their spiritual priorities and rise up and rebuild the temple.

Theme

“Rise up and rebuild the temple!”

Theology

Haggai teaches a great truth concerning God’s presence among His people.  The promise, “I am with you” (1:13, 2:4) has its ultimate fulfillment in Christ, our Immanuel (cf. Matt. 28:20).

Outline

I.  An Exhortation to Rebuild  1:1-15
II.  A Word of Encouragement  2:1-9
III.  A Promise of Blessing  2:10-19
IV.  A Messianic Prophecy  2:20-23

 

FACTS ON ZECHARIAH

Author

The book was authored by the prophet Zechariah, whose name means “Yahweh Remembers.” Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai who ministered with him in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.

Date of Writing

The text states that Zechariah commenced his prophetic ministry in the second year of Darius (522-486 B.C.) or 520 B.C. (1:1).  The book was probably completed around 500 B.C.

Historical Setting

Zechariah lived and ministered in Jerusalem during the restoration period that followed the Babylonian Exile.  He began his prophetic ministry just 2 months after Haggai’s first message (Hag. 1:1, Zech. 1:1).  Conditions in Judah were disheartening.  The temple was lying neglected and the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins.  The people were experiencing drought and adversity because of their sinful neglect.

Purpose

Zechariah was intended to challenge the exiles to turn from their sins and to the Lord for cleansing and blessing (1:3).  The book also provides encouragement by revealing future glories, the overthrow of Israel’s enemies, and the universal reign of the Messiah.

Theme

The theme of Zechariah is the restoration of God’s people through the redeeming and delivering work of Messiah.

Theology

Zechariah teaches a great deal concerning the first and second advents of the Messiah.  In addition, the book provides great insight into the prophetic events of the Day of the Lord.

Outline

I.   A Call to Repentance  1:1-6
II.  Eight Night Visions  1:7-6:15
III. The Question of Fasting  7:1-8:23
IV.  Two Oracles Concerning the Future  9:1-14:21

 

FACTS ON MALACHI

Author

The book was authored by the prophet Malachi, whose name means “My messenger.”  Malachi lived in Jerusalem late in the Restoration Period.

Date of Writing

The book is not dated, yet internal evidence indicates a post-exilic date.  Close agreement between the sins which Malachi denounced and those which Nehemiah sought to correct (priestly laxity, neglect of tithes, and intermarriage with idolatrous women) suggests that Malachi ministered in Jerusalem between the first and second governorships of Nehemiah.  A
probable date for the book is 432-431 B.C.

Historical Setting

Malachi prophesied about seventy-five years after the temple had been completed (515 B.C.). The Jews had been home from Babylon for about one hundred years.  Although cured of idolatry, they had lost their enthusiasm over God and worship.  They had succumbed to religious indifference and moral laxity.  The priesthood was corrupt and the people were
wearying God with their hypocrisy.

Purpose

Malachi was intended to restore the Jewish people to a right relationship with God by exposing the causes of their spiritual declension and setting forth the steps for renewal.

Theme

The necessity of genuine repentance to assure God’s blessing and avert His judgment.

Theology

Malachi makes a unique contribution to OT theology by promising the coming of Elijah as Messiah’s forerunner (4:5-6).

Outline

I.  God’s Love For Israel  1:1-5
II.  The Corruption of the Priests & People 1:6-2:16
III.  The Coming of Divine Judgment  2:17-4:3
IV.  The Concluding Exhortation and Promise  4:4-6

The Major Prophets Isaiah – Daniel

FACTS ON ISAIAH

Author

The book was written by Isaiah, whose name means “Yahweh saves.” Critical scholarship denies the unity of Isaiah and rejects the Isaianic authorship of chapters 40-66, assigning them to an unknown author or authors living near the close of the Babylonian exile.  The NT quotes the prophet 21 times and indicates that both sections were written by Isaiah.

Date of Writing

The superscription records that Isaiah ministered in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, a period extending from 739 to 686 B.C.  The book was written sometime after 701 B.C., the date of Sennacherib’s invasion.

Historical Setting

The first half of Isaiah (ch. 1-39) is set against an Assyrian background and is principally concerned with rebuking and condemning the people and leaders of Judah and predicting the overthrow of the kingdom.  The second half (ch. 40-66) is written from the viewpoint of the Babylonian exile of 586 B.C. In these chapters Isaiah addresses prophetically the Jews of the captivity.  Spiritually, Isaiah ministered during a period of degeneracy and apostasy, especially during the reigns of Ahaz and Manasseh.

Purpose

Isaiah writes to condemn and to comfort.  He announces inescapable judgment for the world and promises comfort and deliverance to the righteous remnant.

Theme

God must judge sin and apostasy, but He delights in deliverance and redemption.

Theology

Isaiah reveals the great doctrines of God (41), man (1:3-15), salvation (55) and last things (58-66). The book abounds in Messianic prophecies (7, 9,11, 53).

Outline

I.    Condemnation of Judah and the Nations 1-35
II.   Historical Parenthesis on Hezekiah  36-39
III.  Comfort After Captivity  40-66

 

FACTS ON JEREMIAH

Author

The book was authored by the prophet Jeremiah, whose name means “Yahweh establishes.” The actual writing was done by Jeremiah’s secretary (36:4,32) and who may have edited the collection and added the historical appendix (chap. 52).

Date of Writing

Jeremiah began his ministry in 627 B.C. and continued until after the fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.). Since Jeremiah records the release of Jehoiachin in the 37th year of his exile (52:31-34), the book was probably completed after 560 BC.

Historical Setting

Jeremiah ministered in the kingdom of Judah during the reigns of the last five kings of Judah. Jeremiah would have witnessed such events as the revival under Josiah, the captivity of Daniel, the deportation of Jehoiachin and ten thousand Judeans, the siege of Jerusalem, and the burning of the
temple.  Prophets contemporary with Jeremiah include Zephaniah and Habakkuk in Judah, and Ezekiel and Daniel in Babylon.

Purpose

The book records the warnings, rebukes, and exhortations of Jeremiah to the unrepentant people of Judah.  The book is intended to show the exiles the reasons for their captivity and to encourage them with promises of restoration.

Theme

The theme of Jeremiah is God’s judgment on unrepentant Judah for unfaithfulness to God and His covenant.

Theology

Jeremiah makes a distinctive contribution to OT theology with his promise of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). The New Covenant amplifies and confirms the blessing promises of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3).

Arrangement

Jeremiah begins with his call (1), records many prophecies (1-51), and concludes with an appendix (52).  Beyond this, the structure and arrangement of the book is greatly debated.

 

LAMENTATIONS

Author

Although the author is not named, the book has traditionally been attributed to Jeremiah. In matters of style and phraseology there are numerous and striking similarities between Jeremiah and
Lamentations. The scenes described in the book require an eyewitness, and no other possibility is known besides Jeremiah.

Date of Writing

Lamentations records Jeremiah’s lament over the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The book was probably written shortly afterwards, probably no later than 570 B.C.

Historical Setting

The siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (588-586 B.C.) ended with the destruction of the city and burning of the temple. The citizens, except for the poorest of the land, were exiled to Babylon (2 Kings 25:11-12) and Gedaliah was appointed governor to administer the land under Babylonian authority. Jeremiah remained in Judah until Gedaliah’s assassination when he was taken by the rebels to Egypt.

Purpose

It was customary in ancient times to commemorate the fall of a great city, and the author of Lamentations stood in this ancient literary tradition. The sight of a ruined and deserted Jerusalem compelled him to write his lament over the city. The purpose of Lamentations is to commemorate the
destruction of Jerusalem. The book records how completely Jeremiah’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilled. Lamentations also presents God’s faithfulness and compassion (3:19-39) as a
basis for future hope.

Theme

The theme of Lamentations is the prophet’s grief over the destruction of  Jerusalem.

Outline

I.  The Lamentable State of the City of Zion  1
II.  The Divine Source of Zion’s Sorrows  2
III.  The Consolation in God’s Faithfulness  3
IV.  The Horrors of Zion’s Calamity  4
V.  The Lament and Petition for Restoration  5

FACTS ON EZEKIEL

Author

The book was authored by the prophet Ezekiel, whose name means “God strengthens.”  Ezekiel was a contemporary of Daniel in Babylon and Jeremiah who prophesied in Jerusalem.

Date of Writing

Ezekiel began his ministry in the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile or 593 B.C.  His last dated prophecy was in 570 B.C.

Historical Setting

Ezekiel, the son of a Zadokite priest, was deported to Babylon with king Jehoachin and ten thousand other captives in 597 B.C.  He lived in Babylonia among a colony of Jews at a place called Tel-abib, located 50 miles south of Babylon. From 593 to 586 B.C. Ezekiel’s ministry consisted primarily of
preaching judgment against Judah.  After the fall of Jerusalem, he ministered consolation, predicting the future restoration of the nation with its temple.

Purpose

The prophecy of Ezekiel was intended to show that Jerusalem’s destruction was on account of the sins of the nation.  This discipline was designed to bring them to the knowledge that Yahweh is God (6:7,10,13).  The prophecy also intended to comfort the people through God’s promise of future
restoration and blessing.

Theme  

The theme of Ezekiel is the destruction and future restoration of Jerusalem and the temple.

Theology

Ezekiel makes a distinctive contribution to theology by emphasizing the glory of Yahweh.  The vision which introduces Ezekiel’s call left him with an abiding sense of God’s glory (1:28, 3:23, 8:4, 10:4, 11:22).

Outline

I.  God’s Glory and Man’s Rebellion  1-8
II.  Departed Glory  9-39
III.  Returned Glory  40-48

 

FACTS ON DANIEL

Author

Internal evidence indicates that the author of the book is Daniel whose name means “God is my judge.”  The predictive elements in the book have led some scholars suggest that the book was written by someone who simply used Daniel’s name. However, the Danielic authorship of the book is confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 24:15.

Date of Writing

The date of writing is bound up with the question of authorship.  If Danielic authorship is accepted, the book was probably completed by 530 B.C.

Historical Setting

Daniel was taken into captivity in 605  B.C.  This was the first of three deportations to Babylon.  Daniel served as a court prophet under Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Cyrus [Darius].  He was a
contemporary of Ezekiel who ministered to the colony of exiles.

Purpose

The book of Daniel was designed to encourage the Jews in Babylon who were spiritually weary from the exile and needed to be reminded that God was in control of their destiny.  The book also provided the example of Daniel and his friends who remained faithful to God in a pagan culture and
environment.

Theme

The theme of Daniel is the sovereignty of God over the affairs of the nations.  The key verse is Daniel 4:17.

Theology

The book of Daniel teaches a great deal about God’s dealings with Israel.  Daniel reveals that God has not abandoned the people of Israel and has a future for the nation.

Outline

I.  The Preparation of Daniel  1
II.  The Service of Daniel  2-6
III.  The Visions of Daniel  7-12

Historical Books Joshua – Esther

FACTS ON JOSHUA

Author

While Joshua is an anonymous work, it is reasonable to conclude that is was
composed by Joshua.  (1) There are intimate biographical details given which only Joshua could have known.  (2)  The first person plural occurs in 5:1,6 which indicates that the author was an eyewitness who had participated in the events.  (3)  Joshua wrote his own farewell address (24:26), and this would indicate that he probably wrote the whole book as well.

Later editorial work, probably by Eleazar the High Priest or his son
Phinehas, is evidenced by the inclusion of events which occurred after Joshua’s death (24:29-31, 15:13-17, 19:47).

Date of Writing

The archaic names of the Canaanite cities (15:9,13,49) and references to Sidon (13:4-6, 19:28) are evidences for a very early date of composition.  If Joshua was about the age of Caleb, who was 40 years old at the time of the spy mission into Canaan (1445 B.C.), then he would have died about 1375 B.C. being 110 years old (24:29).  The book was probably written just prior to Joshua’s death, and edited shortly thereafter.

Historical Setting

The events of the book cover about 31 years from the beginning of the conquest (1406 B.C.) to the death of Joshua about 1375 B.C.  The crossing of the Jordan took place in the spring of the year (3:15), 1406 B.C.

The conquest of Canaan took approximately seven years to accomplish.  Caleb was 40 at the time the spies were sent into the land (1445 B.C.) and 85 at the time of Joshua’s division of the land (14:7-10).  So the final division was around 1400 B.C., 6 or 7 years after the 1406 B.C. entrance into the land.  The elders of Israel ruled the land until around 1375 B.C. (Josh. 24:31).

Purpose

Joshua records how the Israelites ultimately conquered and occupied the
Promised Land, thus demonstrating God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises (Deut. 9:5).

Theme        The venture and victory of faith.

Outline

I.  THE CONQUEST OF THE LAND  1-12
II.  DIVIDING THE INHERITANCE  13-22
III.  THE FINAL CHARGE OF JOSHUA  23-24

 

FACTS ON JUDGES

Author

While internal evidence is lacking, Jewish tradition attributes the book to
Samuel Internal indicators suggest that the writing was done by a  contemporary of Samuel.

Date of Writing

The following evidences suggest a date of writing sometime during the early monarchy:  (1) The Jebusites were still living in Jerusalem, 1:21, cf. 2 Sam. 5:4-7; (2) The Canaanites were still living in Gezer, 1:29, cf. 1 Kings 9:16; (3) Sidon, rather than Tyre, was the chief city of Phoenicia, 3:3; and (4) the references to the absence of a king (17:6, 18:1, 21:25) point to a time when the monarchy was still regarded as a blessing.

Historical Setting

After the death of Joshua (c. 1375 B.C.), Israel was without a national leader.
Life in Israel became increasingly chaotic due to the failure to drive out the
Canaanites, the people’s involvement in Canaanite worship, and the attacks of foreign oppressors.  In response to their prayers for deliverance, God raised up judges to function in both a military and supervisory role in Israel (2:16, 3:9,15).

The period of the judges was characterized by religious, political, and moral
chaos, as indicated by the key verse, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6, 21:25).

If all the terms of service performed by the judges are totaled, they amount to 410 years.  This is about 85 years too long when one seeks to fit the period between the conquest and the monarchy.  It appears that some of the judges were contemporaneous (10:1-5,7).  The period of the judges covers about 325 years, from 1375 to 1050 B.C.

Purpose

Judges records the history of Israel’s failure, thus demonstrating why
the nation was not blessed by God during this period.

Theme    Apostasy and idolatry are inevitably followed by judgment from the Lord.

Outline

I.  THE CAUSES OF ISRAEL’S APOSTASY  1:1-3:4
II.  THE CYCLES OF ISRAEL’S APOSTASY  3:5-16:31
III.  THE CULMINATION OF ISRAEL’S APOSTASY  17-21

 

FACTS ON RUTH

Author

Talmudic tradition attributes the book to Samuel (Baba Bathra 14b).  This,
however, is unlikely in that the concluding genealogy implies that David was well known at the time of writing.  The book is anonymous and its author unknown.

Date of Writing

The book appears to have been written during David’s reign (1010-970
B.C.).  It could not have been written earlier than the time of king David since he is mentioned by name (4:22), unless the genealogy was added later.  Had the book been written after the time of David, his famous son Solomon would have probably been listed among Ruth’s descendants.

Historical Setting

The events of the book transpired sometime during the period of the judges
(1375-1050 B.C.).  This was a time of political, religious, and moral chaos (Judg. 21:25).  The political chaos is seen in the seven cycles of apostasy which resulted in Israelite oppression by foreign powers.  The religious chaos is seen in the person of Micah who set up his own house priest instead of going to worship at Shiloh (Judges 17).  The moral chaos is illustrated in the homosexuality, degeneracy, and abuse of the Levite’s concubine recorded in Judges.  The book of Ruth is an oasis of fidelity in a time of idolatry, sin, and infidelity.

Purpose

The book relates an episode in the ancestry of David which accounted for the non-Israelite in his family line.  The theological purpose of the book is to show the place of the spirit of the law over the letter of the law, illustrating that the exception of the law is based on faith and loyalty to God.

Theme        Redemption requires a kinsman-redeemer.

Outline

I.  RUTH’S CHOICE FOR NAOMI  1
II.  RUTH’S CHANCE TO GLEAN  2
III.  RUTH’S CLAIM ON A KINSMAN  3
IV.  RUTH’S CONCEPTION OF OBED  4

 

FACTS ON 1 & 2 SAMUEL

Title

The two-fold division of the book was first introduced into the Hebrew text by the Venetian printer, Daniel Bomberg, in his first edition of the Hebrew Bible, dated 1516. The book is named for Samuel, the principal character of the early narratives.

Author

Talmudic tradition attributes 1 Sam. 1-25 to Samuel. The rest of the book
may have been composed by Nathan and Gad, as perhaps indicated in 1 Chron. 29:29.

Date of Writing

There are indications that parts of the book would have been written after the death of Samuel (1 Sam. 25:1, 28:13) and after the division of the kingdom (1 Sam. 27:6).  The author seems to be ignorant of the fall of Samaria, and so it is reasonable to date the book between 931 and 722 B.C.

Historical Setting

The events of the books of Samuel cover the period from the ministry of Eli to the close of David’s reign.  Taking 931 B.C. as the date of the division of the kingdom, the following dates for Israel’s first three kings may be calculated:

Saul                 40 years (Acts 13:21)                1050-1010 B.C.
David               40 years (2 Sam. 5:4)                1010-970  B.C.
Solomon          40 years (1 Kings 11:42)              970-931 B.C.

Samuel’s date of birth may be determined by the fact that he had sons old enough to be judges in Beersheba (1 Sam. 8:1-2) before Saul began to reign in 1050 B.C.  This places Samuel’s birth around 1100 B.C., just prior to the outbreak of Ammonite and Philistine oppression and the birth of Samson.

Purpose

The book provides an official account of the ministry of Samuel along with the rise and development of the monarchy.  The book is intended to show the sovereignty of God as He raises up, removes, and commands the rulers of Israel.

Theme   “The establishment of the kingdom of Israel.”

Resource  J. Carl Laney, First and Second Samuel.  Moody Press, 1982.

Outline of 1 Samuel                                        Outline of 2 Samuel

I.  THE MINISTRY OF SAMUEL  1-7              I.  THE TRIUMPHS OF DAVID 1-10
II.  THE REIGN OF SAUL  8-15                     II.  THE TROUBLES OF DAVID 11-20
III.  THE RISE OF DAVID  16-31                   III.  THE APPENDIX TO DAVID’S

 

FACTS ON 1 & 2 kINGS

Author

Jewish tradition asserts that Jeremiah was the author of Kings (Baba
Bathra 15a).  Since the author writes from a consistently prophetic standpoint and is a man of literary ability, it is possible that Jeremiah or his contemporary authored the book.

Date of Writing

The author relied upon sources dating from as early as the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41).  The final composition took place after the fall of Jerusalem, probably early in the exilic period (586-580 B.C.).  On the other hand, the frequently recurring phrase, “unto this day” (1 Kings 8:8) may suggest a pre-exilic perspective.

Historical Setting

Kings contains a record of the kings of Israel and Judah from the death of David (970 B.C.) to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

The early part of this period is paralleled by the growth of the great Neo-
Assyrian Empire (c. 900-612 B.C).  With the decline of the Assyrian Empire, Babylon inherited most of the Assyrian territory.  The Babylonian Empire commenced with the alliance of the Medes and the Babylonians in 626 B.C. and ended in 539 B.C. when Cyrus captured the city of Babylon.

Religiously, the period began with the construction of the Solomonic temple, but idolatry soon became prominent among both rulers and people.  Judah had 19 kings, 8 of which were evil.  Israel had 19 kings also, but all of them were evil!

Purpose

The purpose of Kings is (1) to record the history of the kingdom from Solomon to the Babylonian captivity, and (2) to show how each ruler functioned in relationship to his covenant responsibilities.

Theme  The blessings of obedience and cursings of disobedience.

Outline

I.  The United Kingdom Under Solomon  1 Kings 1-11
II.  The Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah  1 K 12 – 2 K 17
III.  The Solitary Kingdom of Judah  2 Kings 18-25

 

FACT ON 1 & 2 CHRONICLES

Author

Talmudic tradition assigns the book to Ezra.  As a scribe (Ezra 7:6) and
spiritual leader during the Restoration, no one would be more qualified to write the
book.

Date of Writing

Internal evidence points to a period between 450 and 425 B.C. as the date of
writing.  The close relationship between Chronicles and Ezra, both of which recount the decree of Cyrus, seems to indicate that the two books were one consecutive history (cf. 2 Chron. 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-3), composed after 450 B.C.

Historical Setting

The Books of Chronicles comprise a history of the Hebrew people from Adam to the time of Cyrus providing material paralleling Genesis through Kings with the first two verses of Ezra forming the conclusion to Chronicles.  The historical period covered by the books extends from the death of Saul (1010 B.C.) until the decree of Cyrus (538 B.C.).

The religious community under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah between 450 and 425 B.C. is the background of the book.  Nehemiah 8-10 records how the Feast of Tabernacles was observed in an unprecedented manner in Jerusalem.  It may have been at that or a similar occasion that Ezra provided the people with an account of their past which gave them a religious and political background for the re-established Jewish state.

Purpose

The purpose of Chronicles is to review the history of the nation of Israel showing God’s blessing on obedience and judgment on disobedience.  This record is designed to give the Jewish remnant a spiritual foundation on which to rebuild the nation.

Theme

The blessings of obedience and cursings of disobedience.

Outline

I.  THE GENEALOGIES FROM ADAM TO DAVID  1 Chron. 1-9
ii.  THE HISTORY OF DAVID’S REIGN  10-29
iii.  THE HISTORY OF SOLOMON’S REIGN  2 Chron. 1-9
IV. THE HISTORY OF THE KINGS OF JUDAH  10-36

 

FACTS ON EZRA

Author

Ezra the priest and scribe compiled and authored the book of Ezra as indicated by his use of the first person (7:28-9:15).  The style and approach, as well as the verbal link between Chronicles and Ezra indicates that these two works were authored by the same person.

Date of Writing

Ezra ministered during the reign of Artaxerxes I Longimanus, king of Persia
(464-424 B.C.).  The book of Ezra was completed before Chronicles, probably between 450 and 430 B.C.

Historical Setting

As the Old Testament prophets had predicted the captivity, so they predicted the return to the land.  Jeremiah prophesied that the nation would serve seventy years of captivity in the land of Babylon (Jer. 25:11-12, 29:10).  After Babylon fell to Persia (539 B.C.) through God’s sovereign use of His servant Cyrus, the way was prepared for the restoration of the Jews.

In 538 B.C., Cyrus issued a decree providing for a renewal of the worship of
Yahweh in Jerusalem and the return of the exiles to Judah (Ezra 1:1-4).  In 537 B.C. a group of Jews returned under the leadership of the prince of Judah, Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:8).  The temple was eventually rebuilt and completed in 515 B.C.  The following chart provides a brief summary of the Restoration Period:

1st        537 B.C.        Sheshbazzar           To build the temple          Ezra 1-6

2nd       458 B.C.        Ezra                        To establish worship        Ezra 7-10

3rd        444 B.C.        Nehemiah               To rebuild the walls          Nehemiah

Purpose

Ezra was written to record the events of the first and second return of the Jews to Judah in fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11, 29:10).

Theme        The faithfulness of Yahweh to fulfill His promises.

Resource        J. Carl Laney, Ezra-Nehemiah, Moody Press, 1982.

Outline

I.  THE FIRST RETURN UNDER SHESHBAZZAR  1-6

II.  THE SECOND RETURN UNDER EZRA  7-10

 

FACTS ON NEHEMIAH

Author

The author of the book was Nehemiah, as indicated by the use of the first person throughout the narrative.  There is little reason not to regard this work as the authentic memoirs of Nehemiah, the renowned civil leader of Judea during the Restoration.

Date of Writing

Nehemiah ministered during the reign of Artaxerxes I (464-424 B.C.).  His later reforms (13:4-31) came after a brief stay in Babylon in 432 B.C. (13:6) and his memoirs were probably written shortly thereafter, around 430 to 425 B.C.

Historical Setting

The book of Nehemiah covers a period of about fifteen years from 444 B.C. to around 430 B.C. when Nehemiah returned from Persia for his second governorship. Nehemiah was the cup-bearer for Artaxerxes, king of Persia (464-424 B.C.) and received the king’s permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls (Neh. 2:1-8). The third return of the exiles under Nehemiah took place in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (Neh. 2:1) or 432.

Nehemiah is reported to have left Jerusalem to visit Artaxerxes in Babylon
during the thirty-second year of his reign (Neh. 13:6) or 432 B.C.  It was probably during Nehemiah’s absence that Malachi prophesied, for many of the evils he denounced are found to be prominent in the later reforms of Nehemiah (13:4-31).

Nehemiah’s primary achievements include rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (6:15), and bringing about civil and religious reform (13:4-31).

Purpose

The book was written to record the events of the third return under Nehemiah, and to give the date of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (444 B.C.) which marks the beginning of Daniel’s seventy weeks (Dan. 9:25).

Theme     The rebuilding of the wall and renewing of the covenant.

Resource  J. Carl Laney, Ezra-Nehemiah, Moody Press, 1982.

Outline

I.  THE RESTORATION OF THE CITY WALLS  1-7
II.  THE REFORMATION OF THE PEOPLE  8-13

 

FACTS ON ESTHER

Author

The book of Esther is an anonymous work.  It was attributed by the Talmud to the men of the Great Synagogue (Baba Bathra 15a).  Josephus, on the other hand, held that Mordecai authored the book (Antiquities. XI. 184-303, cf. Esther 9:20,23). The author demonstrates an intimate knowledge of Persian customs and was probably an eyewitness of the events recorded.

Date of Writing

Internal evidence (10:1-2) indicates that Ahasuerus died before the book was written.  The earliest date for the writing would be the death of Xerxes I (464 B.C.) and the latest date would be 330 B.C. for there is no trace of Greek language or thought in the book.  The book of Esther was probably compiled between 450 and 350 B.C.

Historical Setting

The events of Esther took place during the reign of king Ahasuerus of Persia
who is commonly associated with Xerxes I (486-464 B.C.).  More specifically, the events of the narrative cover a ten year period dating from the third year of Ahasuerus (483 B.C.) to the Feast of Purim in the twelfth year of the king (473 B.C.).  Sixteen years after the Feast of Purim (458 B.C.) Ezra led his expedition back to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:8-9).  Thus, the events of the book best fit between Ezra 6 and 7.

The events recorded in Esther took place in the city of Susa (Shushan)
located at the foot of the Zagros mountains 150 miles north of the Perisan Gulf.  Susa became the winter capital of the Persian kings after the rule of Cyrus.  The city is noted for its royal palace begun by Darius I and enlarged and adorned by later kings.

Purpose

The primary purpose of the book is to relate the origin of the Feast of Purim
(3:7, 9:24,26).  It was also intended to encourage the Jewish people by illustrating the providence of God in delivering and preserving His people in dispersion.

Theme

The sovereignty of God in preserving His people (Psa. 121:4).

Outline

I.  THE REMOVAL OF VASHTI  1
II.  THE SELECTION OF ESTHER  2
III.  THE PLOT OF HAMAN  3
IV.  THE DECISION OF ESTHER  4
V.  THE INTERCESSION OF ESTHER  5-7
VI.  THE EDICT OF DELIVERANCE  8
VII.  THE INSTITUTION OF PURIM  9
VIII.  THE GREATNESS OF THE KING AND MORDECAI  10

The Torah

FACTS ON GENESIS

Author

While Genesis is an anonymous work, it has traditionally been attributed to
Moses.  Evidence for Mosaic authorship includes the testimony of New Testament writers (Jn. 1:17, Matt. 9:7, Mk. 1:44, 7:10, 10:3, 12:26, Lk. 5:14, Acts 3:22, and 1 Cor. 9:9) and Jesus (compare Gen. 17:12 with Jn. 7:22-23).  Affirming Mosaic authorship does not preclude the possibility that he drew from other ancient sources.

Date of Writing

Moses probably wrote Genesis early during the wilderness sojourn (1446-
1406 B.C.).

Historical Setting

The book includes events from creation to the death of Joseph in Egypt (1805 B.C.).  Geographically, the events of the narrative took place in the fertile crescent which includes the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia, the land of Canaan, and the fertile region along the Nile River.

Taking 931 B.C. as the date of the division of the Monarchy, the birth of
Abraham took place about 2166 B.C. The following dates for the patriarchs may be determined from the biblical data:

Abraham           2166-1991                        Lived 175 years
Isaac                 2066-1886                        Lived 180 years
Jacob                2006-1859                        Lived 147 years
Joseph              1915-1805                        Lived 110 years

Purpose

The purpose of Genesis is to preserve an accurate record of the beginnings of the human race and the Hebrew nation.  In addition, the book tells of man’s initial rebellion against God and the beginnings of His redemptive program through
Israel.

Theme

The sovereignty of God over His creation (Gen. 50:20).

Outline

I.  THE BEGINNINGS OF THE HUMAN RACE   1-11

A.  The Creation  1-2
B.  The Fall  3:1-6:4
C.  The Flood  6:5-11:32
D.  The New Beginning  8:15-11:32

II.  THE BEGINNINGS OF THE HEBREW NATION  12-50

A.  The Life of Abraham  12:1-25:18
B.  The Life of Isaac  25:19-26:35
C.  The Life of Jacob  27-36
D.  The Life of Joseph  37-50

 

FACTS ON EXODUS

Authorship

Exodus has traditionally been attributed to Moses who names himself
several times in connection with the Lord’s command to write (17:14, 24:4, 34:27). Mosaic authorship of Exodus is confirmed by the fact that Jesus ascribed texts from the book to Moses (Mark 7:10, 12:26).

Date of Writing

Exodus was probably written shortly after Genesis during Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness (1446-1406 B.C.).

Historical Setting

The date of the exodus is crucial to the historical setting of the book.  According to 1 Kings 6:1 Solomon began to build the temple in the 4th year of his reign (966 B.C.), 480 years after the exodus.  Thus, the date of the exodus may be calculated at 1446 B.C. (966 + 480).  Although greatly debated, this date has been confirmed by biblical and archaeological
evidence.

The Hebrews sojourned in Egypt 430 years after Jacob’s entrance into the
land in 1876 B.C. (Exod. 12:40).  For 200 years after Joseph’s death (1805 B.C.) the Israelites lived in relative peace and prosperity.  Then there arose a pharaoh who “knew not Joseph” (Exod. 1:8).  Oppressive measures began to be carried out againstthe Hebrews (Exod. 1:22).

Purpose

The purpose of Exodus is to recount the birth of the nation of Israel which
resulted from the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai.

Theme

The salvation of Yahweh (Exod. 15:2).

Outline

I.  The Exodus  1-18
II.  The Law  19-24
III.  The Tabernacle  25-40

 

FACTS ON LEVITICUS

Author

The author of Leviticus is not named.  But the Lord repeatedly addresses
Moses (1:1, 4:1, 6:1,8,19,24, 7:22) and he is the most likely person to have
recorded these words.  Jesus affirms the Mosaic authorship of Leviticus when He refers to the laws concerning cleansing from leprosy (Lev. 14:2-32) as that which “Moses commanded” (Matt. 8:4, Mk. 1:44).

Date of Writing

Leviticus was probably written shortly after Exodus during Israel’s
wilderness wanderings (1446-1406 B.C.)

Historical Setting

The events and legislation of Leviticus have their geographical setting in the wilderness at the foot of Mount Sinai.  The time period extends from the setting up of the Tabernacle (Nisan 1, 1445 B.C.) to the departure from Sinai (Iyyar 20, 1445 B.C.) about one month and twenty days later (Exod. 40:17, Num. 10:11).

Purpose

The purpose of Leviticus is to show that the way of access to God is by
sacrifice, and that the way of fellowship with God is by separation.

Theme

The holiness of Yahweh.  The theme actually takes two directions: (1)
the removal of defilement which separates people from a holy God, and (2) the regulation of fellowship between God and man.

Theology

The concept of holiness as derived from the Hebrew qodesh has the basic
meaning of “separation” (Lev. 20:26).  Holiness is the opposite of hol
(“profane”), meaning “not separate” or “common.”  That which is holy is marked off, separated, and withdrawn from ordinary use.  When holiness means separation to God, a morally righteous being, the concept takes on the implication of moral purity–conformity to God’s righteous standards and statutes (Lev. 20:7-8).

Outline

I.  The Sacrificial Means of Approaching God  1-17
II.  The Separation of the People of God  18-27

 

FACTS ON NUMBERS

Author

Only in Numbers 33:2 is literary activity ascribed to Moses in relationship to the material of this book.  There are, however, many references to that fact that God spoke these words to Moses (1:1, 2:1, 3:5,14,40), and it is most likely that Moses himself recorded this revelation.  Local color, authentic wilderness background, and antiquity of the material lends support to the Mosaic authorship of Numbers.

Date of Writing

Numbers was written or at least completed after the death of Aaron (20:28)
which took place on the first of Ab (July-August) on the 40th year after the
exodus (33:38-39), 1407 B.C.

Historical Setting

At Sinai.  The book begins with the numbering of the people at Sinai just one
month after the completion of the Tabernacle (Num. 1:1, Exod. 40:17), Iyyar (April-May) 1, 1445 B.C.

To Kadesh-barnea.  Twenty days later Israel broke camp (10:11) and began
following the pillar of cloud north in the direction of Canaan to Kadesh-barnea (13:26).

In the Wilderness.  The refusal of Israel to enter the land (13-14) resulted in the judgment of 37 1/2 years of fruitless wandering in the Sinai desert (15-19).

To Transjordan.  After the old generation had died off, the children of Israel
journeyed to the plains of Moab near the Jordan River where they received the final instruction from Moses before their entrance into the land.

Purpose

The purpose of Numbers is twofold: (1) to give an account of the wilderness
experience of Israel, and (2) to demonstrate that Yahweh’s love for His people did not preclude severe wrath upon sin, apostasy, and rebellion.

Theme      The wrath of Yahweh.

Outline

I.   Israel’s Preparation at Sinai  1-10
II.  Israel’s Wandering in the Wilderness  11-20
III. Israel’s Advance to the Land  21-36

 

FACTS ON DEUTERONOMY

Author

The Mosaic authorship is affirmed by Deut. 31:9 which states, “Moses wrote this law.”  The Jews of Jesus’ day held to the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy (Matt. 22:24, Mark 10:3-4, 12:19), and Jesus Himself refers to Deut. 24:1-4 as the teaching of Moses (Matt. 19:7-8).  Chapter 34, the account of Moses’ death, was probably written by Joshua.

Date of Writing

Deuteronomy was written by Moses in the 40th year after the exodus from
Egypt.  The work was completed just before the entrance of the second generation into the land and Moses’ death on Mount Nebo (1406 B.C.)

Historical Setting

Deuteronomy contains a restatement of the law for the generation of Israelites who were children at Mt. Sinai.  It was given by Moses in the plains of Moab across the Jordan River from Jericho (Deut. 1:5, Num. 36:13).  The giving of the law by Moses was followed by his death and thirty days of mourning for the great leader.  The book covers the period from the first of Shebat (Jan.-Feb.; Deut. 1:3) to thirty days after Moses’ death (Deut. 34:8), a period of about sixty days (Josh. 4:19).

Purpose

Deuteronomy is intended to (1) remind the second generation of their
redemption out of Egypt and of God’s discipline in the wilderness, (2) restate the law for the benefit of the new generation, and (3) call God’s people to obedience to the covenant, emphasizing the blessings of obedience and cursings for disobedience.

Theme

The theme of Deuteronomy is the restatement of the law.  Its theological
emphasis is the love of Yahweh for Israel.

Outline

I.  The Preamble  1:1-5
II.  The Historical Prologue  1:6-4:49
III.  The Stipulations of the Covenant  5-26
IV.  The Ratification of the Covenant  27-30
V.  The Perpetuation of the Covenant Relationship  31-34

How to Create a Teaching/Preaching Outline That Reflects the Message of the Text

We read in Ezra 7:10 that Ezra “set his heart to seek the Torah of Yahweh, to practice it, and to teach His statues and ordinances in Israel.” As teachers and preachers, our goal is to “seek” to understand the message God has placed in the biblical text and then to teach His truth and the relevant application to His people. The following are suggestions on how to create an outline of the biblical text which reflects the message which the Spirit of God placed there for us. We are creating a textual, expository outline, not a topical outline which is often used to “proof text” the thoughts and ideas
of the preacher rather than the divinely imbedded message.